What is the Carr Educational Foundation and how does it relate to the Daraja Academy?
The mission of Carr Educational Foundation is to create sustainable educational models in struggling communities. Daraja Academy is its first project. Daraja Academy’s mission is “to provide a quality secondary education to exceptional Kenyan girls because we believe educated girls can transcend poverty and change the world. “
How long have the Foundation and the school been around?
The Carr Educational Foundation was established in 2007. Daraja Academy’s first class of girls officially began in February 2009.
Where are they located?
California & Kenya. Carr Educational Foundation headquarters are located in San Rafael, California. Daraja Academy is located 4 hours northwest of Nairobi, Kenya surrounding traditional Maasai and Turkana villages.
Who started the Carr Educational Foundation?
After traveling in Africa extensively as a child, and teaching in Tanzania for a year after graduating college, Jason Doherty realized his life’s purpose was in Africa. Wanting to do something about the lack of access to secondary school for East African girls, Jason and his wife, Jenni (both educators) decided to move to Africa to start a school. In 2006 they began researching, fundraising, and putting together a board of directors.
In 2007, The Carr Educational Foundation officially became a 501(c)(3) organization and Jason and Jenni traveled to East Africa to find a location for the school. In Kenya, they connected with the representative of the Laikipia Baraka School which was originally created to educate at risk adolescent boys from inner city Baltimore. It can be seen in the 2003 award winning film “Boys of Baraka”.
The landlords had looked for 4 years for a non-profit to occupy the campus but could never find the right fit. They fired the board and staff maintaining the land and were ready to demolish the campus. The day Peter Wathitu, director of campus operations, was on his way to town to hire workers to tear down the campus, he received a call from Jason and Jenni. After meeting in the lobby of a hotel in Nairobi, a simple handshake sealed the fate of the Daraja Academy campus.
In February, 2009, they welcomed the first 26 girls.
How are the girls selected to attend Daraja?
The students selected rank among the highest in their primary schools, exude strong leadership qualities, and yet would have NO means of continuing their education without Daraja. The academy is one of the only free secondary schools for girls in Kenya. Access to this type of quality education is virtually non-existent for the extremely destitute and rural population. Many are orphans, victims of AIDS, domestic abuse and sexual abuse. You can find out more about the student selection process here.
Much attention is also paid to making sure that Daraja has a good representation of girls from throughout Kenya from a variety of tribes and religious backgrounds as well as from local communities. Kenya has a history of tribal violence and the Daraja founders, board and staff feel that it is important to create connections and friendships between tribes from different regions of the country.
What is Daraja’s educational philosophy?
Daraja Academy has been established to provide young Kenyan women the tools to create change and become the country’s future leaders. Our innovative educational model melds the traditionally rigorous Kenyan educational standards with innovative teaching practices like project-based learning (PBL), research field trips, and community partnerships and community service. A 13:1 student-teacher ratio means that our students enjoy the benefits of personalized instruction. In addition to an effective academic curriculum, the academy has four main focus areas: Women’s Empowerment, Cross-Cultural Education, Community Responsibility, and Personal and Career Development. Learn more about the educational model here.
In addition to a demanding academic curriculum, the school instills:
- Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope (WISH) class: To supplement the academic courses Daraja Academy offers this class that focuses on empowering students who have been impacted by issues including domestic or sexual abuse, being orphaned by AIDS or the to pressure to marry early. The course additionally focuses on key preventative measures such as sex education. WISH works to encourage the girls to share their stories and rebuild their sense of inner self-worth.
- Grassroots Girls Club: This club shows how to create grassroots change through applied knowledge in working with local communities on projects focused on everything from environmentalism to women’s business issues to volunteerism.
- Tribal Diversity: In a country with a history of tribal violence, Daraja makes a point of accepting girls from various tribes in order to build bridges and break misconceptions.
- Global Relationships: Almost every month, the academy hosts international visitors who eat meals, host workshops and participate in activities with the students.
- Global Classroom: In the winter and spring of 2011, we collaborated with the San Francisco Arts Commission on a project that partnered the Daraja girls with San Francisco high school students to explore the issue of personal identity from different cultural perspectives.
Social and Environmental Responsibility:
- Local Student Enrollment and Local Employment: The academy is surrounded by destitution and therefore makes a point of enrolling local students and hiring local workers.
- Permaculture Methods: Due to growing environmental issues such as deforestation, the school is implementing sustainable methods and is making a point of educating our girls about these methods.
Personal and Career Development:
- Counseling: Many Daraja students come from homes where domestic violence is a common occurrence and food is often scarce. Nearly half of the students at Daraja have lost one or both of their parents. Daraja Academy feels that it is important to address the emotional issues that accompany these difficult home life situations. There is a licensed counseling professional on staff that is available to the students.
- Internships: In the students’ 3rd and 4th years at Daraja, each student will choose a profession: then Daraja Academy sets up internships in their chosen fields using local community resources. This provides real-life experiences to the students and helps them explore whether that profession is truly an interest they want to pursue.
What makes Daraja Academy unique when compared to other international schools?
First, Daraja is one of the first completely free boarding secondary schools for girls in all of East Africa. Providing a boarding situation allows the girls to separate themselves from difficult issues at home and concentrate fully on obtaining the best education possible. In addition, we adhere to the following values:
- Engagement: As opposed to simply asking for donations, Daraja Academy’s school model encourages volunteers to visit campus and use their time and expertise to teach students and staff.
- Community: The academy purposefully selects girls from various tribes in order to emphasize the power of communal action. Simultaneously, while the students are changing Kenya through their education, our supporters abroad bring global awareness to a common cause.
- Responsibility: Women’s empowerment programs such as WISH exist to illuminate individual power. At the same time, our Grassroots Girls Club highlights the power of groups working in unity to help those who have not been granted the same opportunities.
- Respect: Instead of isolating ourselves, we are choosing to involve the community through local employment. The campus also practices permaculture methods to respect the country’s land. Investment in the local people and land secures longevity.
- Commitment: Our goal is to create leaders of our graduates, which requires long-term investment from donors, volunteers, and community. By connecting donors emotionally, requiring significant projects of volunteers, and hiring locally, we cultivate a collective sense of commitment. When supporters, both in Kenya and abroad, see the change they are making, the project becomes stronger. This solid foundation promotes creation of more schools across East Africa.
How many staff do the Carr Educational Foundation and Daraja employ?
The Carr Educational Foundation has five employees: a development director, marketing associate, volunteer coordinator and the founders who act as the principal and director of operations.
Daraja Academy employs over 30 local people as teachers, administrators, cooks, maintenance workers and guards.
How does the Carr Educational Foundation raise funds to support the school?
Our funding comes primarily from individuals and small grants. We are currently in the process of pursuing larger corporate and foundation grants. To make a contribution, visit our donation page.
How can I find out more about getting involved with Daraja or Carr?
Watch “The Girls of Daraja,” a short film about Daraja produced by Deborah Santana and created by Emmy-Award winning filmmaker, Barbara Rick of Out of the Blue Films. Also, get connected to our social media for daily updates on what the girls are doing:
Are there any volunteer opportunities within the organization?
California: The foundation is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers eager to share their professional expertise with our California staff. Additionally, volunteers are encouraged to join the Daraja family and advocate for the school by starting Daraja clubs or chapters within their communities. Interested parties should email email@example.com.
Kenya: Interested volunteers are encouraged to apply to our campus volunteer program. This program allows volunteers to stay on campus, work with the students/staff and receive firsthand experience of working in education in a developing country. Volunteers can do anything from professional development to athletics. If you are interested in volunteering abroad, email firstname.lastname@example.org.