The wellbeing of a student equals success. We need to understand and address the things that make a student unwell, the little things in their minds that add up. But, firstly, I can’t address students’ concerns until I am well myself.
Victoria Guchi, Principal
Resilience is defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
At Daraja, we are in the business of fostering resilient, empowered girls. Before coming to Daraja, each of our students showed exceptional academic merit but had no means of continuing their education. Despite coming from diverse backgrounds and 37 different tribes, Daraja girls share a story of resilience.
Martha teaching a WISH class
In order to promote holistic wellbeing, Daraja hired a full-time counselor named Martha. She elaborated on her work stating, “Although the girls have an incredible opportunity to succeed with the full scholarship of Daraja, the adverse experiences of their pasts and ongoing challenges at home continue to affect the girls and limit their capacity to thrive.”
Martha stays busy with over 20 students currently seeking an appointment. Some of the students that Martha counsels with have experienced stress or trauma as a result of sexual and physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect, substance abuse within their home, mental illness within their home, or incarceration of family members. Statistics show that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) such as these strongly correlate with a wide range of behavioral, health, and mental health problems later in life.
Fortunately, the negative long term effects of adverse childhood experiences can be buffered by positive relationships and support structures. Since its founding, Daraja has fostered a supportive environment for its students by establishing ‘family trees,’ faculty mentors, and weekly WISH classes.
Lucy Karambu, founding director, and Loice Muriithi, secretary, of Resilient Woman
To help faculty and staff better support our students, Daraja participated in a multi-day “Trauma-Informed Care for Caregivers” training with Resilient Woman of Africa. Resilient Woman works with parents and school staff throughout Kenya in order to prevent and address adverse childhood experiences before they evolve into larger concerns. Each teacher and staff member left the training motivated to better support their students and ease the adverse effects of negative childhood experiences.
Marylyn, the history and Kiswahili teacher, described her new compassion for frustrating behavior: “I learned that in my mind I need to separate the student from the act.” Chris, the head of facilities, reflected, “I learned that we will never fully know what children are going through, but we must be good listeners and try to understand.”
Daraja hopes to continue to collaborate with Resilient Woman for further trainings, including those for parents and students. Daraja will continue to be a beacon of healing and hope.