Daraja Blog

 

Daraja girls use their voices to honor Malala’s fight for Girls’ Education!

One year ago, two days before the first ever International Day of the Girl, a man with a gun tried to silence a girl fighting for her education.

On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by members of the Taliban for speaking up and using her voice to fight for the right to an education. Malala’s wounds were felt around the globe, as other girls fighting for education hoped and prayed for her recovery. The students at Daraja Academy reacted to this event, and recorded a song to show Malala their support: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0v2cB4B2Cg

Daraja students have not forgotten about Malala’s bravery in using her voice. We celebrated Malala’s recovery and birthday in July. This year, on the first anniversary of the shooting, Daraja students are highlighting the importance of advocacy in their fight for an education and have decided to stand up, like Malala, and use their voices.

Girls reflected on questions like, what makes a girl so powerful and what does it mean to “be the change I wish to see in the word.” After fifteen minutes of a journaling-style free write exercise, Each girl took a marker to paper to visually represent their message about the power of girls to the world. The result was powerful:

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“It is important for us to be loud and use our voices. We have things to say,” explained third year student, Irene W., “We will not be ignored.”

Girls proudly shared their exclamations with one another and explained their meanings. Older girls taught first year students about Malala and they learned about the worldwide movement about access to education for girls.

“I am glad that there are girls around the world who fight for school, like us. It is the most powerful tool,” reflected first year student, Barbara.

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Daraja girls know how powerful and important it is to use their voices, and they are ready to yell their messages at the top of their lungs. One year later, Daraja girls still stand with you, Malala!

Join us in celebrating the second annual International Day of the Girl on Friday, October 11 by tuning into the Girls Speak Out webcast at 3 PM Eastern Time and 12 PM Pacific! Look out for a special message during the program from Daraja students!

Four Amazing Advocates Get on Board in 2013!

We welcome four new board members to the Carr Educational Foundation. The mission of the Carr Educational Foundation is to create sustainable educational models in struggling communities. Daraja Academy is it’s first project.

In 2013, Margaret Pack, Sara Howard, Lisa Halsted, and Erika Merrel joined the board of directors of the Carr Educational Foundation, which currently raises awareness and funds for Daraja Academy initiatives and the work occurring on campus. The addition of these passionate four to our cause is tremendous as they exhibit the qualities of true Daraja women.

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Margaret Pack

Margaret Pack is an account coordinator at Breakaway Communications, a technology public relations agency, in San Francisco. After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in journalism, Margaret traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to volunteer at a primary school. This experience encouraged her to become involved with a non-profit upon her return to the U.S. Margaret learned more about Daraja when working as a PR intern before becoming the Carr Educational Foundation board secretary.

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Sara Howard

Sara attended University of Colorado, Boulder for her Bachelors degree, and Tufts University in The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy for her Masters degree in International Law and Diplomacy. From New York City to San Francisco, She has lived and worked across the United States. She has a longstanding interest and expertise in International Relations. Sara now resides in California with her husband, Kip. She has three daughters between the ages of 16 and 24.

This summer, Sara’s youngest daughter, Amelia, volunteered with Daraja and conducted a water use audit with Leigh Pomerantz. Jackline, a first-year Daraja student, grew very close to Amelia and Leigh and expressed: “I hope that I get to meet Amelia’s mom, Sara. I am really excited for her to be helping Daraja in America!”

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Lisa Halsted

Lisa has thirty years of experience as the Founder and Director with Adventures Cross-Country, a company that offers adventures travel and community service programs around the world to teenagers. Lisa has knowledge and expertise in marketing, program development, human resources and bookkeeping. Through her travels, Lisa has gained a fondness for Africa, both its culture and its people. Lisa now resides in Mill Valley with her husband, Scott, and their four children, Katie, Sheldon, Heidi, and Willie.

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Erika Merrell

Erika Merrel grew up in Northern California before attending the University of Southern California where she received a Bachelors degree in Political Science. She has lived and worked across the United States and recently spent nine years in Sydney, Australia. Her career includes over seventeen years in sales and business development, and she is currently a Director with professional services firm, EY. Erika now resides in Marin County, California with her husband and 3 little boys.

“I am always excited when our Daraja family grows,” explained Molly, a third-year Daraja student, “I hope that I can meet Margaret, Sara, Lisa, and Erika one day.”

We couldn’t be more excited to welcome these four to the Carr Educational Foundation, and we appreciate their many contributions!

Peace building class helps make sense of Westgate attacks

In WISH (Women of Integrity, Strength, and Hope) class this term, third year Daraja students (11th grade) are learning all about conflict resolution and peace building. Piggybacking Alice Nderitu’s peace building talk during Term Two, the lessons are full of exciting ways to brainstorm the development of peace throughout the world, but more specifically, in Daraja students’ home communities.

Following the attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya’s capitol, Nairobi, Daraja students were eager to make sense of the violence and have discussions about how peace building strategies can intervene in conflicts such as these and help prevent them in the future.

In the lesson prior, third year students were asked to envision an ideal world or ideal Kenya for the year 2030.  The objective of this exercise was to create an end for which peace building would serve as the means. After the attack, the girls were ready to continue with positive lessons encouraging them to think about peace and potential rather than dwelling on negative realities such as violence.

To explain the exercise, volunteer, Jane, outlined a “violence tree,” where the causes of violence served as the root system, and the manifestations and different types of violence served as the branches. Because of the harm that this tree creates in the world, the tree was unhealthy and bore no leaves, flowers, or fruits. Next, the girls were each given a large sheet of paper and markers to create their own personal “peace tree.” After individually reflecting and devising “roots” and “branches” of peace, the girls put markers to paper to illustrate their ideas.

Some girls chose to illustrate peace using the tree metaphor, while others exhibited their creativity and illustrated peace in other ways. Mesret drew a series of hearts, growing in size.

Peace illustration by Mesret

Peace illustration by Mesret

Despite running out of time, girls agreed to extend their class into their free time based on their excitement to present and share their ideas. When presenting, Mesret explained her hearts by saying, “The smallest heart represents the love and peace that you must have in yourself in order for the rest of the world to see peace. As more and more people accept that love for themselves, peace grows into everyone having love for everyone else.”

This exercise proved to be helpful in response to the attack in Nairobi, and also relevantly supplemented the WISH curriculum. We are thankful that the entire Daraja community including students, staff, and their families are all safe and accounted for after the attack and out hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones.

We Are One.

Our hearts go out to the victims of the recent attack in Nairobi. Daraja Academy students, faculty, staff, and their families are safe and accounted for.

Daraja stands in solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, the brave response personnel, and generous relief volunteers. We are one!

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Ten Daraja students run for Girls Education!

On Saturday, September 28th, ten Daraja girls woke before sunrise to stretch. Ready to run in The Amazing Maasai Ultra Marathon, the girls walked together to the start line at 6 AM. The Amazing Maasai Ultra was started by two teams on the Chinese version of the popular television show, The Amazing Race, China Rush. Paul and Francis, who made up the “Maasai Warrior” team quickly bonded with Molly and Sarah, or the “Ultra Marathoner” team. After talking about the need for education access for Kenyan girls, the group came together to collaborate on starting a Marathon to raise funds for school sponsorships.

Last year, Daraja Academy hosted the marathon runners during the week before the race during their acclimatization period. Since all marathon proceeds go toward educating Kenyan, specifically Maasai, girls, Daraja was an appropriate stop. After learning about Daraja and experiencing a day on campus, runner Jane Davis and her six year old daughter, Jayna returned at the beginning of September to volunteer with Daraja for three months and run the marathon with some students.

The runners representing Daraja were clearly excited the night before the race, as they stretched and jumped in between giggles late into the night in preparation. They woke by 4:30 AM to eat breakfast before singing the Daraja Anthem and marching to the start line at daybreak. Prepared to run 21K (13.1 miles), the girls took off as the morning sun broke the horizon.

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While waiting for the first runners to come in, volunteers Dibo, Joyce, and Mary N were busy preparing medals, water, raffle tickets, bananas, and more. Juliet and Mesret, along with five Daraja teachers helped out with timing the runs at the finish line.

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The first Daraja girl to finish the race was Rebecca, a second-year Daraja student who placed as the second female finisher for the 21K with a time of one hour and forty six minutes. Salome, Jesica, Ruth, Pauline, Winrose, Moreen, Lilian, Joyce (third year), and Alice all followed close behind, finishing before the three hour mark. Each girl beamed with esteem and pride as they crossed the finish line, with months training all feeling as if they’d paid off.

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Daraja volunteer, Jane ran alongside Alice during the race. “She was confident the whole time. She kept telling me, I feel my body being strong. I can do this. She is someone who never previously considered herself a runner, and she sure should now. She did so well, I am so proud of her,” Jane reported.

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As an integral aspect of putting on the marathon, Daraja student volunteers were all celebrated with thanks from the race directors. Staying involved with the girls education movement by participating in activities that benefit girls is important to Daraja students, as it unites them with girls around their country and the world. In addition, Daraja administration constantly seeks chances for students to showcase their talent and abilities. Daraja couldn’t be more proud of our runners and volunteers, and we thank The Amazing Maasai Ultra Marathon team for making the day a huge success!

With knowledge comes opportunity

As a benchmarking tool, Daraja started a project where students and staff leave campus for a few days to experience a nearby school. This tool will not only be used to observe how Daraja measures up in terms of a Kenyan educational institution, but will also expose staff and students to various teaching styles, schedules, and expectations that the administration may consider adapting, making the program even better and more effective in our mission to provide girls the highest quality education possible.

To kick off this initiative, the new Daraja prefects left campus last week to learn about and experience life at other boarding secondary schools in the area. Prefects were ready to positively represent Daraja Academy and bring back new perspectives and ideas.

Lilian N, Fatuma, and Yvonne all went to Muramati Secondary School, while Rachel, Mary, Joyce, and Alice all attended Loise Nanyuki Girls School. Lastly, Dianah, Lilian T. Irene, and Charity attended Laikipia Air Base Secondary School.

The girls left Monday morning and remained on campus at these three secondary schools for two full school days and one night. Prefects became students at these schools- they did everything that the girls in their assigned schools did in order to really understand how the school was run.

Upon return, prefects reported that they learned a great deal, and appreciate Daraja Academy more than ever. With Daraja being one of the only free secondary education boarding schools for girls in the country, it offers the girls the opportunity to complete their education and take the KCSE exam without worrying about the burden of school fees.  They are able to leave much of the stress and uncertainty behind.

Alice reported, “I had a lot of fun at the other school. I liked observing how it is both different and similar to Daraja. I felt inspired.”  The prefects shared their appreciation for Daraja’s readily available and enthusiastic teachers and the great food they enjoy each day on campus!

In addition to prefects visiting other schools, Daraja hosted four students from Loise Secondary on campus. This way, Daraja students that did not attend other schools or leave campus were still able to learn from our visiting students! The girls had a great time showing the new visitors around, teaching them the way that the school is run, and learning with and from them in the classroom. Above, Purity, a form 1 (first year) Daraja student, poses with a visiting first year student from Loise.

We hope to send more students and teachers to visit other local schools in order to network in the area and continue to look for ways that Daraja can improve teaching styles, schedules, and quality of life for students!

Start a Daraja Club!

It is clear to us at Daraja Academy that passionate students can be the best advocates for other passionate students. Around the world, from San Francisco to Australia, students are advocates for Daraja Academy and Girls Education through Daraja Clubs. From visiting campus and interacting with Daraja girls to hosting successful fundraising events to participating in Bay to Breakers, high school and college aged students are already making a huge impact.

If you are a parent, student, faculty member, or active community member, we would like to welcome you into the Daraja Family and invite you to join this initiative! You are a powerful catalyst for social change, and you can make a huge impact on the lives of Daraja Girls and the future of Daraja Academy.

A Daraja Club can be created at any time, but they are intended to begin at the start of the school year. Clubs have the opportunity to participate in social media competitions and the Race for Daraja, which takes place on May 18, 2014, in order to raise awareness and funding for your partner, a Daraja Academy student.

At Drake High School, Daraja Club co-Presidents Erin and Juliet have already begun their lunchtime meetings for the 2013-2014 school year. In the past, the Daraja Club at Drake has hosted a Benefit Concert, participated in Bay to Breakers, interacted with their partner student, Fatuma, through a pen pal program, and learned more about girls’ access to education around the world!

When asked about her involvement with Daraja Clubs, Erin reported, “I have had an amazing experience with the Daraja Club [at Drake]. I loved knowing that by helping out at these events I was directly helping sponsor Fatuma and making a difference in her life.”

Girls’ education is recognized worldwide as one of the most effective and valuable tools in reducing poverty. With greater involvement and a wider Daraja Academy community, it is possible to increase awareness for girls in Kenya and around the globe.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know that while we are so young, we’re able to help other girls our age that live across the world,” reflected Erin.

Interested? E-mail clubs@daraja-academy.org to get started!

Women in Conservation lecture held for Daraja students!

In the heart of Laikipia County, beautiful wildlife conservancies like the Mpala Research Centre are nearby Daraja’s campus.  Each year, Mpala hosts hundreds of researchers who focus on the wildlife and vegetation in the area. Daraja Academy prioritizes local partnerships, so Daraja students were eager to learn when Mpala hosted a “Women in Conservation” lecture series on campus last Wednesday.

The talk began as an opportunity for the girls to learn about Grevy zebras, the endangered of the two main types of zebras. They learned how to distinguish between the more common (plains) zebras and Grevys. In addition, researchers and presenters Elleni Stephanou and Michael Brown explained that there are only about 3,000 of these zebras left in the world, many of which reside only miles off Daraja’s campus at Mpala.

Emily, a recent Daraja graduate, completed her 6-week internship with Mpala and studied parasites in Grevy zebras. The girls’ eyes widened when Mpala reseachers told them how valuable Emily’s work was to the research project at hand and the protection of this endangered animal.

Next, Elleni, who grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, shared her story with the Daraja girls. During and after high school, Elleni traveled the country interning and doing research with various projects focusing on animals ranging from turtles on the coast to elephants at Mpala. As a role model and near age-mate to the girls, she shared some wisdom with them: “If there are things you want to do or love, don’t shy away because you are young. If you want to do it, you can do it.”

Michael gave advice to the students as well, “Work with the things that you love and follow your passions, that is the way to be happy.”

In WISH this term, Form 2’s (Sophomores) are learning about career choices. They will be looking within themselves all term to really discover where they want to go in their future and what kind of careers most interest them and would make them the happiest. Victoria, Principal and WISH teacher, reported after the Mpala lecture, “The message of that talk came in perfect timing for all the students, but especially the Form 2’s. We will definitely be discussing it in class.”

After a hearty applause and enthusiastic “thank you,” following the presentation by the Mpala researchers, Daraja students gave each visitor a tour of campus. Students and staff cherish local partnerships that enhance the curriculum in this way and hope to see Mpala researchers again soon!

“I left Daraja Academy feeling blessed beyond measure.”

Now that the summer season has come to a close in the United States, many of Daraja’s dedicated volunteers and visitors have left campus. It is no secret that the hands of volunteers are incredibly valuable here on campus and the global relationships that they establish are cherished by both students and visitors. Cristen, a student at the University of Louisville who was in Kenya for a study abroad trip, recently spent four weeks on Daraja’s campus and caught what we call “Daraja Fever,” an acute affliction of the heart that is both critically life changing and extremely contagious. Here is her story:

After spending two months traveling every few days and taking classes throughout Kenya, Cristen finally settled down and unpacked her bags at Daraja in July. With a month’s time to be spent in one place, Cristen was ready to embrace her time and cherish each moment she had with the Daraja girls. She reflected, “When I stepped foot on Daraja’s campus for the first time, I immediately knew I’d have a hard time leaving.”

As a four-week volunteer, Cristen’s responsibilities included developing an Alumni plan for our upcoming graduates and holding basketball clinics on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings in order to teach techniques and get to know the girls. Cristen worked hard to lay the groundwork for an Alumni networking tool that the graduates will utilize to stay in touch since they’ve now left Daraja’s campus.

Each day, Cristen made it her first priority to interact as much as possible with Daraja students. “The opportunities to talk with them during meals, assist with chores, participate in various workships, and watch them perform in “Daraja’s Got Talent,” were the highlights of my trip, without a doubt,” she reported.

When asked about what makes Daraja so special, Cristen explained: “One of the unique qualities about Daraja Academy is unity. The girls come from multiple backgrounds, diverse cultures, and various circumstances. Despite any differences, they all have one thing in common: Daraja and their hunger for education. The Daraja girls showed me how they are using their inner strength to overcome the genuine hardship that many of them have experienced. The amount of hope and faith they possess is endless; I was privileged to listen to their stories and experience the depths of their hearts.”

Upon leaving, it was clear to the students and the staff that Cristen would be back to Daraja’s campus sometime soon. “From campus’ contagiously cheerful atmosphere to my life-altering interactions with the girls, my volunteer experience highly exceeded any expectations,” Cristen says. She further explained, “I left Daraja Academy feeling blessed beyond measure for the opportunity to spend time at the school and with the girls. I also left with a deeper appreciation for the value of education, as many people around the world take school for granted.”

Now, Cristen is finishing up her degree at University of Louisville and is excited to make plans to return to campus. In addition, Cristen is developing a plan to sponsor a Daraja girl through fundraising and possibly even gathering a group to collaborate in raising the money.

Daraja students miss Cristen very much for her supportive and enthusiastic attitude. Lilian T, who is pictured above and connected especially with Cristen, explained, “All my hope is that she will come back and spend more wonderful moments with us.”

 

If you are interested in volunteering on Daraja’s campus, inquire with Sarah at sarah@daraja-academy.org for more information.

Daraja students learn about Internet security!

During a teacher development workshop in July, Daraja teachers discussed the importance of computer literacy for Daraja Academy graduates.

Martin, our computer class teacher and IT specialist on campus, works closely with Daraja students and teachers to integrate technology use into classroom curriculums.

“Based on how the world is right now, every employer expects you to be computer literate. We must empower our girls to have this skill to help them succeed in their goals,” expressed Martin.

This week, two volunteers on campus, Ian Brodie and his father Steve, taught workshops to all Daraja students about the Internet and cyber security and safety.

Topics during the workshop included privacy on social websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, an introduction to Wikis and how to correctly source research from them and how to interact over e-mail providing websites such as Gmail.

“Think about it this way,” explained Steve, “Everything on the Internet is permanent. Before you post or send something think, would I want this on a billboard in Nairobi?

Giggles from the girls showed that they understood his sentiments. With Daraja girls using the Internet for classwork, it is important that they learn safety and security measures. Each form was attentive and excited about these workshops, despite them each being held after a long day of classes.

After the class, the students had only great feedback to report. “I am confident that I can be safe on the web now,” reflected Alice, Form 2.

“The strongest tool to have,” Martin believes, “is the ability to research on the web and be computer literate so students can continue learning through their life and also be valuable at work.”