Daraja Blog


Natural Helpers Club Leads Lecture at Ol Gir Gir

On Friday, October 30th, the Natural Helpers Club visited Ol Gir Gir Primary School to organize a series of lectures. Nurse Lydia explains:

“We will be doing a training at old Giri Giri Primary School about family issues that affect academics. The reason we chose this topic is because some of our girls come from that primary school, and they have expressed their struggles with certain issues impeding on their ability to focus in school. Some of the points include: family attitudes towards education, family’s background, like poverty, cultural beliefs, long-term illnesses in the family and financial constraints. Those will be some of the topics we will speak about with the boys and girls”

The students in the Natural Helpers club facilitated 100% of the lectures and discussions, where the girls had an opportunity to practice public speaking skills, leadership and community outreach. What’s even better is that the Daraja girls had a chance to help out their local community. Many of the Daraja students live in Naibor, the closest town to Daraja, and have experienced first-hand the difficulty of furthering their education. As they offer support to their peers, they can promote education and equality, and show the local community that their Daraja family supports them.

The Natural Helpers club is founded on social responsibility, as they combine missions and visions to serve their communities. Abdia Form 2 notes, “a mission is a specific goal, but a vision is a look into the future. You cannot have one without the other.”


Mashujaa Day Brings Inspiration for Daraja

On Tuesday, Daraja along with the whole of Kenya celebrated Mashujaa Day, or Heroes Day. Celebrated annually on October 20th, the Daraja students had the day off, in celebration for the Kenyan heroes. More specifically, this day honors those who fought for Kenya’s Independence in 1963. Formally known as Kenyatta Day, the holiday reflects back and honors those who fought to give Kenya it’s right to independence; it is a special, celebratory day and on campus, there was a spirit throughout all the students.

As the television program was streamed in the Dining Hall, the girls recall special moments from the speeches. Lavender Form 3 recalls a quote from President Kenyatta’s speech: “History tells us that a nation that does not reflect on its past, fails in charting a steady and sustainable future for itself. It is only in facing history straight on, and having the courage to reflect, that we can ensure a bright future.” Lavender comments on his strength, saying that he is an inspiration for herself. As she speaks the Dining Hall erupts in cheers, supporting the President’s words.

As the girls took time off of class, they were asked to think of their personal heroes. Who inspires them? Who do they look up to? Ruth, Form 3, says that her hero is Wangari Mathaii, an activist committed to nature conservation in Kenya. Mathaii planted trees in Kenya in an effort to raise awareness about conservation, resulting in a Nobel Peace Prize award in 2004. Ruth says she finds strength in Mathaii because, “of the influence she has given to women. She has shown us that as a woman you can rise up and influence the world, as she did with planting trees.”

Mashujaa Day is a day for Kenya, but for the girls of Daraja, it is a reminder to look to others for inspiration, learn from history as President Kenyatta states, and make changes based on reflection.



Daraja Celebrates The Day of the Girl

Sunday Daraja celebrated the UN’s International Day of the Girl, and to honor this special day, Daraja held a celebration in the Dining Hall. All the students gathered together to watch a TED talk by Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist responsible for leading a women’s peace movement that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. She spoke about her years working towards peace and the young girls she met through her work. Each girl she spoke about had endured so much, domestic abuse, immense poverty, but all pleaded to Leymah for a chance to go to school. She spoke about creating safe places within a community to give girls the power to “unlock their intelligence, passion and greatness of girls.” Leymah’s message is one that Daraja fully understands, and upon reflecting, the Daraja students were inspired to help out their fellow sister.

Each Daraja girl wrote a letter to her fellow Daraja student; this letter was a letter of encouragement, praise, and gratitude. It was a way for the Daraja girls to take time and be thankful for their support system at Daraja, and to give encouragement to another student. Each girl began the letter; “Dear Sister” and the letters will be handed out at random to each student this week.

After the TED talk and the letter writing, the girls gathered to create the shape of the universal sign of the woman. This photo was captured up at the founder’s patio, creating this powerful image and message: “We are many but we are one”.


Daraja’s Take on the Teacher’s Strike

Throughout Kenya, there has been a teacher strike on the basis of salary raises. The teachers have banded together requesting a 50-60% salary increase, and though the request may be valid, it has had huge consequences for public school students right now, specifically Class 8 and Form 4 who are preparing for the K.C.P.E and K.C.S.E tests. These tests are cumulative that range from two to six week testing periods. Without these teachers helping to prep the students, there is fear that these students wont be prepared for the test. With 1.4 million public students expected to take these tests, this is strike is affecting many.

The Form 2 English class read an article outlining the issue and then engaged in a discussion about well-formed opinions. After reading the article and identifying key issues, they set out to write one-paragraph responses to the article. Below are some of the Form 2s opinions on the situations:

“My opinion about the Teacher’s Strike is that the government should try their best to add salaries to the teachers, because teachers are doing one of the greatest jobs on earth. Teachers are mentors and molders to the students’ lives and they are shoulders to lean on. It’s hurtful to see the teachers struggle as they shape someone’s life. From my perspective, I believe we should consider the teachers’ request and act responsibly to their needs.” Maureen, Form 2.

“The teacher’s strike is affecting the public school students, who have now been home for a month. It is very possible that in that time the students could have engaged in very many unproductive things while away from school. The government should pay the teachers, even thought they are requesting very much. If not, the government should maybe employe new teachers.” Faith, Form 2.

Though the Daraja students acknowledge the gravity of their scholarships in times like this, all the Form 2s recognized this has lasting impact on their communities. From friends to family and other community members who have been working to study, this is one issue we are hoping is resolved quickly.

Daraja’s First Cultural Day

On October 3rd, something new is happening on Daraja’s campus. Thanks for the unbelievable admin team, Daraja will be hosting it’s first-ever open-campus event, the inaugural Cultural Day.

This idea stemmed from principal Victoria’s mind, as she wanted to give Kenyans an opportunity to get to know Daraja in an informal Open House. Founder Jason Doherty tells Kibambo TV that, “We’ve been trying to keep ourselves a secret a little bit, but it’s time for Kenya to know that Daraja Academy is out here.”

The Daraja Cultural Day is an event geared towards tolerance. One of the things Daraja is most proud of is its cultural diversity. With tribal conflicts still a huge problem in Kenya, Daraja’s peaceful environment despite having 32 of the 42 tribes represented on campus is impressive. These students are embodying diversity in their day-to-day lives, while also holding strong to their personal tribe identities. In our Cultural Day event, we have encouraged the students to showcase their tribe’s heritage in a song or dance, and the product has been astonishing. Dean of Students, Charles, congratulated the girls on their hard work practicing as he said, “This product of effort and dedication in this room is what will change the world. I believe that whatever you have just displayed is a representation of your power. If you are able to show that power in a dance, then what can you do if you are entrusted to a larger goal?”

Daraja’s Cultural Day will include performances by students, speeches by the admin team, information booths about all things Daraja, a multi-cultural-inspired lunch and free time to get to know the amazing Daraja girls.

Cultural Day will be held on Daraja’s campus, on Naibor and Dol Dol Road from 10am-2pm. If you have any questions about the event, feel free to call our campus at (0726-041-454) or email education@daraja-academy.org.

The Luo tribe practices their tribal songs in preparation for Cultural Day

The Luo tribe practices their tribal songs in preparation for Cultural Day


Turning Sisterhood into Action

As Daraja girls learn skills to prepare for the KCSE exams, and prepare them for a university education, they are also empowered to seek change in their communities and in their world. As the second term came to a close, Daraja Academy opened it classrooms to partner with the women of G.R.O.O.T.S (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood). The members of the Peace Club and the GROOTS club on campus gathered to begin a discussion on creating positive change in their local communities. With the three-week fall break just around the corner, students volunteered to stand up and discuss what plans they had to work with their community, based on skills they had learned from GROOTS seminars.

Each girl touched on problems in their communities with a desire to change; they spoke about ADSC_0311nti-FGM  campaigns, solutions to early marriages and youth pregnancy, all with the real passion to make change in their communities. The GROOTS women recognized the Daraja students for their passion, but pushed the students to think more in-depth about the exact organizations to target to make real change. The students were asked to think strategically, considering stakeholders in their communities, and ways to address community organizations. As each girl brainstormed different techniques, speaker Fridah empowered the girls saying, “When we do something collectively, we have a bigger voice.”

Though these seminars are casual in nature, the lessons learned are not. The students are given a sounding board to work on practical problem solving by empowered women of GROOTS. One of the women on the panel, Rebecca, is a student at university and has been sponsored by the GROOTS organization in her dream of higher education. When speaking with the girls Rebecca spoke about the ‘bottom up’ strategy for creating change, which starts with local action, and works up to global action. They left the girls with strong inspiration and the notion that, “The idea you have today can change you, your community and you leadership skills.”


Amazing Maasai Marathon: Daraja Runs for a Cause

DSC_0264 (1)On a brisk Saturday morning, while most of us are asleep, nine of Daraja Academy’s student athletes whizz by a finish line, proud to have completed a 21-kilometer race. These Daraja students traveled two hours to Kimanjo to run in the annual Amazing Maasai Marathon. As they awoke at 5am, ready to begin this journey, they were motivated to do more than just run; they were running alongside supporters of girls’ education. Community members, families and spectators cheered on every athlete, with festive music and pop-up shops, the celebration of girls empowerment was felt by every person in attendance.

The Amazing Maasai Marathon started in 2010 when “Ultra-Marathoners” Sarah and Molly teamed up with the local community in Laikipia to create an endurance race for a cause. Soon after the founding of the race, Sarah and Molly created the Amazing Maasai Girls Project (AMGP) to give empowerment to Maasai women through the means of education. With all proceeds raised at the Amazing Maasai Marathon going directly to girl’s education, AMGP is happy to report that, “after an in-depth selection process, a total of 38 girls have been awarded four-year scholarships to one of 3 high schools in the local area to the race, with more to start in 2015” (Amazing Maasai Marathon).

This is certainly a cause the Daraja girls can get behind, and being that many of the girls supported by AMGP are from local areas around Laikipia, Daraja Academy is proud to stand with AMGP in their work to bring awareness. Not only are we proud to stand with them, we’re proud to give them a little friendly competition as well! Becky, form 4, came in third place for the women’s half-marathon! She was called up and recognized by the Amazing Maasai Marathon and when asked about next year she said, “I want to get second place!”

We are thankful for events like this, which bring communities together, give a voice to change, and promote women working and learning together.






Transition Student Irene Meets President Obama

Dear Daraja Family,

I grew up in a place called Muramati, near Nanyuki, where very few people were educated since not many people in our area believe in the power of education and especially a girl’s education. A girl’s education was not valued. Traditions dictated kitchen as the women’s place. My parents, Mr. & Mrs. Mwangi, are casual laborers and struggled to educate me. They could not get any support from the community. They were viewed as fools for taking me to school and using their resources to buy books and uniforms instead of buying land and expanding their homestead. My parents supported me with the little they had. In return, I worked very hard during my four-year scholarship at Daraja.

I am proud to be the first girl in our family, and among a few girls in our entire country, to meet the first Kenyan-American president, Barack Obama, who is also the first sitting US President to visit Kenya.


Ken Wakiako, who works at the US Embassy, visited Daraja early this year. I gave Ken a campus tour and explained why Daraja is my home. Ken was impressed, and when the time came to invite people to meet President Obama, Ken remembered me. I was excited and shocked.

When I arrived at Kenyatta University for the event, I was grateful to meet and speak with several leaders and community members about Daraja, including the US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec. I was excited to meet with the President! He was very friendly, interactive, and eloquent. I thought he would only give a speech and leave. I was impressed that his main aim was to listen to the great people in our country, to learn from them, and then give his remarks. He was also very humble and patient, something that moved the hearts of many.

Our meeting with President Obama was interactive. A few people were given chance to explain what they do as members of civil society. If I were given a chance to ask a question, I would have asked the President to explain his government’s plan to support the existing girl’s education organizations in order to send more girls to school.

My meeting with the President is a historic event not only in our country, Kenya, but also in my life. I will explain to my children my achievements and how excited I was to meet with the President Obama and other great people in our country. My grandparents never thought the President of the United States would one day be of Kenyan descent. I will get to share this experience for generations to come.


Irene Wachera

Daraja Academy Transition Student

Missed President Obama’s meeting with Kenyan Civil Society? You can watch the entire meeting here.

Mobile Technology Development Program Expands at Daraja

They came bearing gifts

chrisgarciamobiletech23 years ago, Chris Garcia took his first steps on Kenyan soil with a group of teachers and students from University of San Diego with a huge surprise for Daraja’s teachers and Form 1 class—iPods for every teacher and iPads for every freshman girl.

Next week, Chris is returning to Kenya for the next round of development with the now 3-year-old Kenya Mobile Technology project. “The type of professional development was limited to show teachers and students how to use the iPads and iPod touches in the most basic form without wifi,” said Chris in his appeal to friends, family and professional connections to help financially support his return to Daraja.

Until only recently, campus electricity only ran from 7p-10p from a cranky, 20 year old diesel generator. This meant no charging laptops, phones, cameras, and the USD donated iPods and iPads meant to encourage and critically engage Daraja students in their classroom learning. “Now, the campus has wifi,” said Chris, “and the iPads and iPods need to have their operating systems updated, along with installing apps to enhance the education for Daraja Academy students.”

There’s an app for that: Introducing new applications to enhance classroom learning

Chris, a teacher at Chula Vista Elementary School District in Southern California, coordinated with fellow teachers and participants of the 2012 Mobile Technology Project by distributing an assessment soliciting advice. The assessment addressed how teachers based in the U.S. use technology to enhance classroom instruction, improve grading procedures, lesson planning, and acquiring materials to build a better digital platform for presenting high-quality photographs and images.

Chris used GoFundMe to raise enough funds to cover the return trip to Kenya. Engaging nearly 60 people, he raised an impressive $3,000 for the Project. “This was my first experience using GoFundMe, and it was a very simple set up through their website, and very easy to promote through social media and emailing the link to my contact list.”



Have you always wanted to visit Daraja? Do you have a project you’d like to see implemented on campus? Email Ashley at info@daraja-academy.org to learn about our Guest Program, Internships, and easy tips and tricks for raising money to visit the school transforming leaders of today into world changers of tomorrow.

Every Drop Counts: Transition Students Host Anti-Pollution Campaign

Daraja Transition Students Win 53,000 Kenya Shillings for Anti-Pollution Campaign

IMG_0199In conjunction with Laikipia Wildlife Forum in Nanyuki, Daraja Academy Transition students created an anti-pollution river campaign grant proposal. Students assessed community needs and compiled research about where river pollution and water shortage was a major problem in communities surrounding Daraja’s campus.

In the transition schedule is a unit about community projects and proposal writing. Sammy of Laikipia Wildlife Forum facilitated this unit. The proposal was written to Laikipia Wildlife Forum as a recognized major stakeholder in the county’s environment and conservation. Said Carol Wanjiku, Transition Program Manager, “The proposal was accepted, passed, and we received a grant of 53,000 Kenya shilling for the campaign.”

Event Day!

OCTThe Anti-River Pollution campaign event took place June 27, 2015, attended by students from Naibor Primary and Secondary schools, Ol-Girgiri Primary school, Simama Project and local community members.

Daraja Transition students used performances and speeches to introduce “Every drop counts”, a phrase meant to encourage conservation and raise awareness to local residents about the dangers of pollution. Presentations covered a range of topics covering biodiversity loss associated with un-sustainable use of river Nanyuki.

Daraja Academy campus residents utilize river Nanyuki water for domestic use and for irrigating our small organic garden, supplementing food to our school.

Said Carol about the success of the grant proposal and campaign event, “It’s a great achievement and we are happy for this empowerment.”


In order to continue the momentum of learning and growth, Daraja Academy created a fifth-year Transition Program immediately following completion of secondary school to help our students navigate the vulnerable required gap year imposed by the Kenyan government. For more information about the program, please email info@daraja-academy.org.