Sunday, March 14th, 2010
Thanks to volunteer Matt Orcutt, we have a video of the Daraja girls singing the school anthem. Written by the inaugural class of 26 girls, they performed it on camera for all the world to see how much the school means to them. And they’re great singers too!
Monday, February 22nd, 2010
I’m pleased to introduce the new layout for the Official Blog of the Daraja Academy! Sorry for the down time and inconvenience… We lost some of the photos in the process but this should be fixed in the next few days.
As always, you can use our secure Paypal button in the side bar on the right to make a donation!
In the meantime, you can visit our Flickr Gallery!
Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Daraja Academy now has an official football team (Kenyans refer to soccer as “football”)! Martin Husum Mikkelsen, a famous football trainer in his hometown Viborg (Denmark), agreed to volunteer at Daraja during his winter break. He has created a team of Daraja students interested in playing football and managed to build a strong squad for upcoming school tournaments.
Coach Mikkelsen has used students from MS Kenya, a Danish NGO on campus, to provide scrimmages against the girls. The first official match, however, is scheduled for Friday, February 5th against Nanyuki Secondary School.
We have footage of the first official Daraja pre-game press conference held by coach Mikkelsen and Relina, the team captain. Here is a clip:
Are you satisfied with the scores of your preparation games?
Coach: Totally! After a draw in our first game, we won our second game 2-1. It was awesome!
How did you find the team did during the games?
Captain Relina: The team was good! All players were doing their best.
But what will you have to improve to win your first official game on Friday?
Captain Relina: Every time we train we learn new things. We get better everyday; we will be better on Friday than last weekend.
What will be the team configuration on Friday?
Coach: This is top secret! But if you know me well, you can imagine that we will play safe, with 4 defenders.
The players seemed tired after the last game. Do you believe to be in a good enough shape?
Captain Relina: Yeah. You know, we gave everything during the game. But we will run a little for warm-up on Friday, it will be all right.
You have two amazing goalkeepers with Everlyne and Mary. Who will be on the field on Friday?
Coach: I haven’t taken any decision yet. But having each of them play a half of the game is definitely an option.
Captain Relina, what will you tell your teammates before entering the field?
Captain Relina: I will tell them to be good, to do their best! This way, we will win.
A prediction about the final score?
Coach: 3-0 for us!
Captain Relina: I think 3-1 for Daraja.
We will be sending a journalist on the field to provide exciting game updates so stay tuned!
Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
The students being back on Campus, Teacher Catherine took the chance to do a composition exercice in her English class, asking the girls to write about the most memorable day of their time at home. Here are a few extracts that they agreed to share with us!
“(…)On our way, we found a group of boys. We greated them and continued, but they told us to wait for them. We were 4 girls and they were 10 boys. We knew 2 of them. They joined us and we went to church, we sang, and at 1am they told us to come to their houses. We refused to go with them.(…) Another boy came and took us to our home. The next day we heard that 10 boys raped 5 girsl and got caught. We did not tell anybody about our story. I will never forget it until the Indian Ocean comes dry.”
“It was on a vacation in the year 2009. My mum had promised me that we would visit my cousin in Nairobi. I couldn’t wait to see her. Days past and they turned into weeks. The day came and I was so excited because I knew I would have so much fun. We started our journey from Nanyuki town. We got into a bus going express to Nairobi. On the way, I saw many features that we had learnt in Geography like the valleys, mountains, hills and major rivers. It took two hours for us to arrive. We met my cousin, anxiously waiting for us at the bus station. I was so excited to see her that tears of joy fell down my visage. We had a good time and celebrated together…”
“(…)There were loud screams from the people living in the center. My uncle left me there and ran very fast towards the center without minding of what could happen to him. As he was running, there were other energetic young boys following him, also going to see what was happening.(…) I was worried of what could happen and ran helter skelter towards the center, because I knew that without my uncle, there would not be life again.(…) I could not believe what I saw, my mouth was wide open like a gap and my feeble legs shook when I discovered my uncle lying down while bleeding severely. I quickly called men passing by to help me to take my uncle to a nearby dispensary. Fortunately, he was helped by kind-hearted doctors and recovered after a week. Surely, this is a day that I will remember in my life…”
“The day turned out very well. It was the year 2009’s Christmas, which is a very important day to christians, especially me. I gave my blankets two kicks that left them sprawling on the ground. (…) My Aunt had sent me a Christmas dress which I longed to wear. (…) When I went outside everybody was staring at me as if I had a plastic nose. My mother showered me with praises saying that I looked like an angel. My mother had called a photographer and it was a surprise for me. When I started to smile, I was suprised to see flashes from different points. This made me as happy as a barren woman who recently gave birth to a bouncy baby girl with a golden spoon in the mouth.”
Monday, January 25th, 2010
They returned in one mad rush of excitement, hugs and cheer. One year older, a little bit wiser and beating the odds, Daraja Academy’s 1st class of girls returned to the campus as FORM 2’s (sophomores).
* Daraja Academy held it’s first democratic election. Girls ran for the positions of Dining Hall Prefect, Dorm Prefect, Sports Prefect and Head Prefect. I cannot stress just how much work and responsibility falls on the prefect’s shoulders. Often they rise before their classmates, overseeing cleaning, delegating responsibilities to classmates who don’t always want them, and coordinating activities and chores with Daraja teachers and staff. I am proud to announce that for the second year in a row Mary K. will act as Dining Hall Prefect, Catherine will serve as Sports Prefect, Betty won a very close three-way race and will be Dorm Prefect and Marylene will oversee everything in 2010 as the Head Prefect. To me the most exciting aspect of the election process was the fact that our students truly voted for the girl they felt would represent them best, rather than allowing the election to become a popularity contest.
* Daraja has been very lucky to host 3 wonderful volunteers from Denmark. Unlike the Danish students who prepare with MS Kenya for their 3-month placements across the continent at our school, these volunteers all chose to give their time specifically to Daraja Academy. Signe, a life long Girl Scout worked with the Daraja scouts (about 8 girls) on skills, scout philosophy and team building, while also working on the school garden. Anne Marie has been incredibly helpful in many aspects of campus life. She has been assisting in the office creating a database for the Daraja Academy 2010 applicants, helping in the kitchen and working with the girls. And then there was Martin… a member of the Danish military; Martin chose to give Daraja Academy his well-earned vacation. To the girls he has become a football (soccer) God. Martin has worked the girls into a pretty formidable team, often barking at them the way I did with the guys on my American football teams back home. “COME ON GIRLS, RUN!” and “RELINA MOVE YOUR DEFENSE UP!! COME ON!” can often be heard roaring through campus with a Danish lilt in the afternoon. As I type, boxes of gear and uniforms are in transit, generously donated by Martin’s father in Jutland.
* New teacher Mr. Wycliffe had a fantastic opportunity to bring his teaching into the World, when a solar eclipse occurred during his Geography class. It was tangible teaching as its best as the girls felt the temperature drop and continue dropping, as it got darker and darker. Mr. Wycliffe, along with Mr. Mwambura and Ms. Caroline, Daraja Academy’s new teachers, have been accepted and embraced by the students and staff.
* University of San Diego professors Nancy and Peggy visited campus and made an unforgettable impact. It amazes me when visitors seamlessly become part of our little community, genuinely interacting with the students and staff. Nancy is the super hero who took on Daraja’s water worries as her own. This was essentially a fact-finding mission her providing her with the info she needs to approach groups in the USA requesting their assistance. She also spent a lot of time talking with our teachers and often 1 on 1 with students. Several times actually, I saw both Nancy and Peggy slowly walking or sitting in a quiet corner of campus with a Daraja girl, talking and more importantly… listening. Both women actually helped with our first set of interviews for the upcoming year, about 10 girls from our closets villages. Peggy was a whirlwind during her stay at Daraja. At one point utilizing her background in counseling she spent several hours with the students discussing issues, reading poetry and just talking about matters they generally don’t get the chance to. She was up at 6am to watch the sunrise over Mt. Kenya and continued buzzing around campus until long after it set in the west. We look forward to their return.
So it is 2010, the girls are back and the World is right. Signe, Nancy and Peggy drove off campus, heading home this morning, after many hugs and very few dry eyes.
Every Monday and Friday Daraja Academy students and staff assemble around the flagpole. The scouts raise the flag, we sing the Kenyan national anthem and the teachers or I speak to the students. Kenya is a very religious country and the students have set up a sort of “prayer rotation.” One day the Baptist girls will prepare a song, another time the Muslim students will read a passage from the Koran and explain what it means to them personally and so on.
Today Mary P. read an excerpt from the book of Ecclesiastes, if she had tried, I don’t think she could have picked a more poignant passage to be read on a day when three of our new friends were leaving. Standing under the Kenyan flag she read:
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”
And I thought, how lucky are we that this is working. How lucky am I, and for me it was both a time to laugh and a time to weep.
Thank you so much for taking the time to catch up with news from Daraja Academy.
Friday, August 21st, 2009
I am always blown away when I get to witness Daraja Academy an its environs through a visitors eyes – when that visitor is family, it becomes that much more meaningful. Maggie Gaughran is my 22 year old cousin, she was named after my maternal grandmother Margaret Higgins Doherty, who like many Kenyan women worked too hard and died too young. She is the daughter of my fathers younger sister. Her mother Kathleen and father Steve have been instrumental in the launching of Daraja Academy, their loving support is part of the reason the school was able to open in 2009 as opposed to 2010.
Though I was proud of the contribution that Maggie was making to the local community and a sucker for any cause that helps our battalion of 3 foot tall, smiling, snot covered balls of happiness – I was totally unaware of the impact she was making until I started eavesdropping on the conversations of my staff. “Maggie is doing God’s work,” Ruth told the other cooks as she paid special attention to her breakfast plate. “When I returned to the village after work yesterday, my neighbors all thanked me for bringing Maggie to Mara Moja,” Rhoda bragged to me before paying her one of the biggest compliments possible, “she is like a twin sister to Olivia.” (Volunteer Olivia Capra left campus over 1 month ago, but the marks she made upon it and all of our hearts are indelible.)
Enjoy Maggie’s account of her outreach to the special children of Pastor John’s orphanage. Though incredible, it is only a fraction of the impact she has made while at Daraja, in a few days please read about the 2 day American Heart Association “Heart Saver” clinic she taught to all 26 Daraja Academy students – C.P.R. dummies, certification card and all!
Enjoy, Jason Doherty
Maggie with the children at the Mara Moja Orphanage
Since arriving in Africa, I have found that the most memorable experience have been the unplanned. I knew when I got here that there would be a two week period when the girls would be away from Daraja Academy. I had planned on volunteering at a clinic or hospital while they were gone. Medicine is my passion, so it seemed the logical place to go. It was not until I crossed paths with the “pants less boy” that I realized what it was I really needed to do here. I saw him standing at the Daraja rock, a 3 foot high rock with “DARAJA ACADEMY” painted in big blue letters over a white background. This little boy was wearing a very dirty, faded red sweater and no pants. That night I dreamt about him and some of the other village children I had seen, covered in dust, with bugs crawling on their faces, I saw them every time I closed my eyes. I could not stop thinking about this child, so dirty, seemingly helpless. But to my surprise he screamed, “How are you” as we drove by. He was genuinely happy.
I decided maybe I should try volunteering at an orphanage. Someone mentioned that there was one only minutes from Daraja, so we made the calls and set up a time to meet. As Jenni and I walked up to the compound, we could see children running around. There were twenty-six children, between the ages of three and twenty-two. The orphanage is run by a man known as Pastor John. He and his wife take care of all the children, six who are his own. I was so impressed by his selflessness; I knew this was where I would want to spend my time.
The next morning I woke up early and tried to prepare myself. I was nervous to go alone, but I tried to remind myself that this was not about me. As I walked alone to Mara Moja Orphanage, I felt as if I was about to go on a first date. What if they didn’t like me? What if they didn’t want my help? My silly fears were squashed the moment I arrived. The children came to greet me, and immediately put me to work. First I helped to wash the breakfast dishes. The cooking is done completely with fire, and most of the pots were black with soot. I scrubbed as hard as I could but it still took hours. Then they told me to hop up on a donkey so we could go fetch water from the river. I thought they were joking, but they were not. So I hopped up on that donkey and got on my way. I was shocked that these children were going to drink water directly from the river, but they insisted that their bodies had adapted.
The most memorable moment came when a three year old girl was examining my hands. She looks so confused, and I asked someone to tell me what she was saying in Swahili. She said “why are your hands so clean and ours so dirty”. My heart sank down to my stomach, but at that moment another little girl bent down to grab some dirt. She proceeded to take the dirt and rub it all over my legs. She took a step back to admire her work, and a huge smile spread across her face. Situation rectified.
I had originally planned on staying for two to three hours, but eight hours later I found myself still rolling chapatti. I kept thinking that I could leave whenever I wanted. I could go back to my clean drinking water and warm bed, but these children had to stay. Everyday they worked this hard, so I told myself to suck it up. It is clear to me that my heart is no longer all my own. I have given a part of it to Africa, and I would never take it back.