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Daraja students learn about Sexual Assault and create “Traveling Postcards”

Part of being a WISH woman for Daraja students (a Woman of Integrity, Strength, and Hope) is learning about issues that impact their world. As global citizens and leaders in their communities, learning about issues that affect themselves and their communities is vital. During the month of July, Daraja students learned about the importance of Self Defense.

“The techniques are useful to many girls who may meet problems and then they are able to protect themselves from unwanted sex, HIV, and pregnancies,” Winnie, Form 1, explained in regards to Self Defense.

To expand their knowledge about issues around unwanted intimacy and violence, Forms 1 and 2 attended a workshop this past weekend to learn about sexual assault and domestic violence. Volunteer, Jordin, who works at Community Violence Solutions in California as a Sexual Assault Counselor ran the awareness based program here on campus.

In the workshop, the girls debunked myths about sexual assault, learned about the different types of assault, including domestic, and recited various response actions among other activities. After the educational and awareness-focused portion of the workshop, girls were given the opportunity to make their own Traveling Postcards.

A traveling postcard is a unique, hand-made artistic postcard with words of compassion and solidarity. The cards that the Daraja students made will be delivered to survivors of assault and violence in San Francisco, California later this year. Writing these postcards gave the girls an opportunity to take what they learned in the workshop and do something to help those who are directly affected by sexual and domestic violence.

When making these postcards the girls considered, what kind words would I need, if I had gone through something like this? They used their creativity and compassion to create 40 distinctive cards.

Daraja girls have created Traveling Postcards in the past as well. Photographs of postcards made by Forms 3 and 4 can be found in the Daraja Gallery on the Traveling Postcards website.

Through this workshop, Forms 1 and 2 gained insight that learning is not only about gaining knowledge about a subject, but it is also about putting that gained knowledge into creative and effective action that can help a community.

“I think my card will go to someone who really needs it, and make them smile,” reflected Evalyn (F1).

Students are ready to make Term 3 their best Term yet!

After a short break and our very first graduation event, the girls began classes for Term 3 today.

Term 3 will be filled with excitement like the KCSE testing for Form 4’s and Prefect Elections. The upcoming testing and other excitements of the term can put pressure on the Daraja girls at times, so Karen Mwangi from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission visited to speak to the girls about managing this pressure.

“Human beings have a nature that has a need to be reenergized and strengthened every day,” she began. “The pressure of exams can sometimes lead to conflict, and women of integrity need to have the tools to manage conflict in their lives as they go out into the world.”

Girls remained engrossed in her words throughout the talk. Karen prepared them with tips such as utilizing self-reflection, keeping a positive outlook, and focusing on the present moment to maintain a warm environment on campus during stressful times such as testing.

When Karen’s talk was finished, Teacher Carol shared a parable about a donkey that had fallen into a well. “Townspeople began to bury the donkey,” Teacher Carol explained, “but with each shovel load, the donkey brushed off the dirt and stepped on it. Soon, the donkey and the townspeople had built a mound so high underneath the donkey that it was able to walk out of the well.”

“Any nerves or anxiety that this term throws onto you,” she advised, “you must brush it off, step on it, and walk it off!”

Soon, every Daraja student was shouting and acting out this sentiment. “BRUSH IT OFF,” they shook, “STEP ON IT,” they stomped, “AND WALK IT OFF” the marched.

“I really do feel ready for Term 3 and my KCSE testing,” Mercy F4 reflected, “I am thankful for all these tips.”

Internship Profile: Cate at Ol Girgiri Primary

With internships having come to a close for the transition girls, Cate feels that her Daraja experience has come full-circle. For her internship, Cate taught at Ol Girgiri Primary, a local school that is only a few kilometers from Daraja’s campus. What makes this extra special is that Cate actually attended this school as a student.

“Cate was the second girl from this school to attend secondary school,” reported Dixon, principal of Ol Girgiri Primary, “we are very thankful for Daraja.”

James, a full-time teacher at Ol Girgiri, attended our Community Event on August 2nd. “I taught Cate as a child, and I am humbled to have her teaching alongside me now,” James said.

As a primary school teacher, Cate is teaching all subjects including English, Science, History, and more. She primarily teaches to the older primary school students, like classes 6, 7 or 8 (grades 6-8).

Cate2“I am really enjoying my internship as a teacher,” Cate explains, “even though I have many exams to grade!”

During the month of July, teachers in Kenyan public schools were on strike, and schools were closed. Since our four teacher interns, including Cate, are Daraja girls, they held classes for students while schools were closed in empty classrooms and churches, and sometimes even outside under a tree.

“My favorite part about teaching is spreading education across my country,” reflects Cate, “education is power.”

Daraja graduates: Where are they headed?

So, the first Daraja graduates have been welcomed into the world, but where to? Many girls are attending University, many are applying to enroll in college courses, and many plan to search for jobs and bring their gained knowledge and skills back to their communities.

Everlyne and Christine (Tina) will be attending Moi University, where Tina will be specializing in Education. Monicah and Betty will be at the University of Nairobi. Faith will attend Kenyatta University while Leila will be attending Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology- her very first choice! Emily will be attending University of Eldoret and Marylene will be joining Rongo University and they will each be studying education.

The rest of the graduates have taken time during the Transition Program to find themselves and decide what they want the next few years of their life to look like. Florence hopes to start a salon business, while Mercy and Caroline hope to enroll in college courses focusing on tourism. Nasibo and Mary K. hope to enroll in nursing courses, and nearly all the graduates have expressed interest in learning how to drive.

“I am sad to leave Daraja,” Leila confessed, “but I cannot wait to go to University. My life is really changing fast.”

Regardless of where the graduates are headed, one thing is very clear: they are incredibly excited to bring their skills, knowledge, and passions back to their home communities. They are excited to teach their siblings and the youth in their communities about the importance of education. Many girls plan to volunteer by teaching in primary schools back home and helping out with orphanages, dispensaries, and churches.

Jason, founder, gave this advice to the girls during the graduation ceremony: “Find your passion. You will fall sometimes, but what will help you get up is passion.”

Congratulations Daraja Class of 2012: We cannot wait to watch you find your passions and change the world!

Daraja’s First Ever Graduation Ceremony!

On Friday, August 23 Daraja held our first ever graduation ceremony. The ceremony celebrated Daraja’s class of 2012 after their four years of secondary school curriculum at Daraja Academy, KCSE testing, and Transition Program this spring.

As Daraja’s campus filled with guests including families of the graduates and staff from Laikipia County’s education office, the 25 graduates got dressed in bright blue graduation caps and gowns. Many girls reported a mixture of excitement and nerves going into the ceremony.

“I am happy, but I am mostly nervous,” reported Faith, who gave a speech during the event as the class salutatorian.

The event began with Kenya’s National Anthem and a march by the graduates to the traditional pomp and circumstance tune. Many speakers took the stage including between the administration, educational officers for Laikipia County, and graduates.

“It was amazing to see our young adults work, I wish all of them excellence,” Carol, head of the Transition Program began the ceremony.

“This class is leaving a legacy,” reflected Jenni, co-founder, her voice shaking, “They have set the bar, and I am so grateful for them.”

Charles, the Dean of Academics encouraged the graduates to go back to improve communities while Principal Victoria spoke about the significance of the Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope class. “You are here because you believed you could, you can go the distance,” assured Victoria.

Betty and Faith, the top two girls in Daraja’s graduating class and Laikipia East District, gave remarks to their fellow graduates. Faith expressed:

“Today I am honored to stand before you and express my gratitude to Daraja Academy for watching me grow together with my 24 sisters to the extent that we have today. You have watched us grow from humble grounds. Right now we assure you that we have grown wings and we will fly even higher than you expect.”

The District Education Officer spoke as well. When addressing the graduates, he said, “What sets you apart from people not here [at Daraja] is that you have the right tools. When you leave, we expect you to enable others to face life’s challenges differently.” To the guests, he said, “We are seeing the transformation of part of a generation and it makes me very proud. “

Then came remarks from Jason, co-founder, where he advised graduates to find their passions. “You will fall, but what will help you get up is passion.” Next, the girls presented the administration and some staff with gifts of appreciation, and each crossed the stage to receive their certificates of completion of the Daraja curriculum and program.

With an atmosphere of pride and excitement, girls then moved their tassels and tossed their caps into the air as the first official Daraja Academy graduates.

The entire campus was involved in preparation for the ceremony, including even the herder for the campus cows, who herded the cows all night so they would be fed and quiet during the ceremony. Most of all, the hard work and undying passion of Daraja’s 25 graduates made the day a success.

See more photos from the event at:

Graduate Mary K. reflects on her Daraja experience

“I think that the biggest lesson I learned was that I really can do good work and make decisions on my own,” Mary K. reflected.

The Transition girls have now left campus, and are headed out on their respective journeys to begin their post-Daraja lives.

“Daraja is still my home,” assured Mary, “but I am excited to go out and do good in my community.”

Mary has grown significantly through her time here at Daraja Academy, and now presents herself as a confident woman of integrity, strength, and hope. After completing Forms 1 through 4, she came back to campus for the Transition Program, which began in April.

“My favorite part of the transition program was the internship, it gave me the chance to apply everything I have ever learned.”

Mary interned at Daraja Academy as the Volunteer Coordinator for 6 weeks from the end of June to the start of August.

“I feel so honored that I got to be Volunteer Coordinator. I was so lucky to have a supervisor who challenged me,” Mary reflected.

Although Mary is nervous about the next steps she will take in her life, she is confident that she has great opportunities ahead of her. When asked during the Daraja Quest activity to choose an object in nature to represent this stage of her life, Mary chose a stalk from an Aloe Vera plant.

“The spikes represent my ability to defend against challenges that I will soon face. The aloe inside the stalk is a cure to many diseases, and I believe I can be a cure to my community. The stalk is flexible, and I am flexible because I am young. I can do anything.”

Head of Program, Carol reflects on Transition Program

“I feel confident that these girls will go into the world and flourish,” Carol says, referring to Daraja’s first graduating class. Daraja’s first Transition Program will conclude at the end of this week, a five-month preparation program for Daraja graduates’ futures.

The first part of the program revolved around community service and life skills such as opening a bank account and obtaining an ID in Kenya. For the second part, transition participants worked in 6-week internships around Laikipia County. Some girls taught in local primary schools, while some worked with organizations such as Ol Pejeta Conservancy, The Red Cross, Mpala Research Centre, and many more. The third and final aspect of the program, entitled ‘The Next Steps’ allows girls to focus on themselves and what they want out of their future.

“At first I was very nervous,” says Carol, “no one had ever done a program like this before. I had nothing to compare my work to.”

“Because of the number of girls, I was able to make the program very individualized as they matured.” Carol says, referring to a class size of 25 participants. “First I learned that I needed to treat them all like adults, because that’s how they proved themselves right away.”

Carol also explained how many of the girls grew during the internships. “They realized the importance of becoming life-long learners, I think. Many of the teaching interns didn’t realize how much they’d love teaching until they tried it. And Faith, at the Red Cross, has gained a deeper understand of community issues. Tina, at Mpala, now wants to teach and create awareness about conversation among youth. All the girls excelled.”

The girls are now in their final stage of the program: ‘The Next Steps.’

“I am feeling a little sad,” says Carol, “I will miss them so much. They have shaped me, and I have shaped them. We have learned together.”

After the last stage of the program, girls will have a better understand of who they are and where they want their lives to go. “They are realizing that they are in control of their own future,” explains Carol, “it’s just so great. I feel confident that these girls will go into the world and flourish.

When asked about her favorite part of the program, Carol concludes, “My favorite part is that my heart never grew tired. I was physically exhausted and I experienced sleepless nights thinking about these girls, but my heart never grew tired. Not one single moment.”

Transition students embark on a Daraja Quest!

As part of the third portion of the Transition Program, transition students participated in an activity entitled Daraja Quest over the course of the weekend starting on August 9.

Mark Stefanski, a board member for Daraja, visited campus and collaborated with Carol, the head of the Transition Program for this activity.


The objective of the Daraja Quest was to get the girls thinking about who they are in order to plan and set goals for their future. “The girls take a journey inward, in order to help guide the outward journey that they are facing,” explained Mark.

There were three phases to this quest: first was the preparation for separation. Each student prepared for the next phase by reflecting on how they feel in their life currently and recognizing their own merits and skills. One exercise during this portion was to find an object in nature that represents who a student is in this stage of her life. Faith chose an unripe fruit, and explained that the ripening is comparable to her life journey. She went on to describe she is the fruit of her family and the seeds inside symbolize the inspiration and knowledge that she has planted in her life during her time at Daraja.

The next phase of the quest was alone time. Each girl found a place that they enjoyed outdoors where they spent 3 hours alone, continuing this inward journey. Girls chose spots such as a bench under a tree, the football (soccer) field, among tall grasses near the classrooms on campus, and more. During these three hours, girls had time to focus on questions such as “Who am I?” and “Where do I want to go after Daraja?” and most notably, “What are my hopes and fears about graduating from Daraja Academy?”


After three hours, girls completed the last phase of the quest, the return. The return phase was an opportunity for the girls to share their experience and insights from alone time. This was important to cultivate the community among our soon-to-be graduates as they are making their own personal journeys.

The Daraja Quest activity is important for girls to begin to prepare for their departure from Daraja. It provides ample time for girls to reflect on their personal identity, values, passions and interests.

“I’ve watched the girls begin to realize that they have the ability to make decisions for themselves. They have the power to create their future,” reflects Carol.

Next stop: Graduation Day!

Environmental Responsibility on Daraja’s campus

With environmental responsibility being an integral aspect of Daraja’s educational model, sustainability is incredibly important on campus! Daraja students are regularly learning and doing projects to improve environmental sustainability.

In July, two volunteers, Leigh and Amelia, did a water project on campus where they measured the amount of water that was being used daily, weekly, and monthly by students, volunteers, and staff on campus. They also surveyed the community about how much water they think they use. Collecting this data was important so that the Daraja community has an idea of how much more water can be conserved.

Although the girls consume more water than they had predicted, they had a lot of great ideas about how to conserve more. Some ideas were to wash clothes in groups to use less water, or to hold an awareness meeting a few times each term to keep conversations on the minds of students. Thanks to this water project, Daraja has established a new prefect position, the water prefect, who will be responsible for conservation and awareness of water use on campus.

“Conservation is completely dependent on education,” Amelia says, “the more people around the world learn about their water source, their consumption rates are guaranteed to go down.”

Last Sunday, August 4th, Daraja students learned about composting. With a food compost system running smoothly in the campus shamba (farm), the girls learned about a new composting technique to create nitrogen-rich soil. The project was spearheaded by co-founder, Jason and visiting board member, Mark. Students spent the afternoon building the compost pile, and we will see some new soil in the coming months thanks to this project!


During the day, solar panels generate electricity for the Internet connection and outlets in the Biology Lab and Administrative Office. Volunteers on campus have also donated solar lamps to be charged by day and used by night.

Daraja is committed to teaching and exemplifying environmental stewardship. “These methods that we’re teaching can be used at home, too,” Jason explained to the girls, “they can be very helpful in your communities.”

Daraja’s Pathways Program

At the end of each term, students and staff gather together at a closing meeting the night before students depart from campus for their breaks. Housekeeping items such as cleaning and packing and transportation are addressed in this meeting, in addition to the announcement of end of term scores.

The top ten girls in each form, in terms of scores, are announced, and then the top five most improved girls. This term, Franca (F2) ranked high in her form’s most improved list. Franca improved her scores by 126 marks, an incredible feat, many thanks to Daraja’s Pathways Program.

The Pathways Program is designed to keep Daraja students on track with their top academic performances. Any time a student holds a C- or below, they remain on campus for one third of the expected break in order to work closely with teachers, get more individualized help, and be in a quiet, focused study environment.

“I am really proud of my work this term,” reflected Franca, “The Pathways Program last break helped me focus on my studies even more.”

The program after term two will only run four days long, since the break is less than two weeks, and there are only ten girls in the program after term two scores.

“I am going to take this time to work really hard,” said Mary N (F3), who is currently participating in the program, “I want my marks to improve.”

All Daraja girls are exceptionally great academic performers, and the Pathways Program is a way to foster their performances.

“We want to help you all stay on your path to a brighter future,” Jason, co-founder, explained at the closing meeting, “this is a great opportunity for you.”