Daraja Academy’s incredible 10-year birthday bash and fundraiser
On Saturday, June 15th, Daraja Academy decorated campus and celebrated its 10th anniversary with over 300 people. The day was filled with cultural performances, speeches, and an exciting harambee (fundraiser) that ended with an impromptu dance party and an enormous dinner.
The theme of the party was “Mimi ni Daraja” or “I am Daraja.” Teresia Anderson, a Daraja Kenya Initiative board member, explained, “Whether you have been here since the beginning or just started supporting Daraja today, you are all part of the bridge. Without you, the bridge would collapse. Because of you, 322 girls have been given the opportunity to become educated, powerful women. Because of you, they can.”
Daraja founder Jason Doherty added, “We are a collection of very different individuals that work in a beautiful harmony. This place is not a school. This place is a movement. This place is hope. Daraja Academy is hope. It is what we could all be if we just tried a little bit harder. If we just believed in the person next to us, and we lent a little bit of a hand. When you invest in Daraja, you are not investing in a student. You are investing in Kenya’s future.”
After the speeches, girls representing several tribes including Kikuyu, Borana, Luo, Turkana, Giriama, and Maasai performed traditional songs and dances. Some visiting parents brought traditional clothing for the performances. Those who didn’t have something to wear crafted traditional outfits from spare bedsheets, blankets, scarves, and belts. The entire performance was incredible.
Next came a traditional fundraiser or “harambee.” In Swahili it means “all pull together.” Many people pledged donations and support, but even those without money to spare found ways to help. One student’s grandmother offered two chickens for the auction. She said, “Even though I do not have much, I would never come empty-handed!” Her chickens were sold for $70 each, and she was thrilled! Overall, $15,000 was raised during the event—enough to support one Daraja girl through her entire secondary school and transition program and another Daraja girl for 2 years.
Finally, it wouldn’t feel like a birthday celebration without a cake! A 14-pound 10th anniversary cake was served as the party ended. The DJ started playing “Who Run the World (Girls),” and the Daraja girls immediately flooded the stage to dance. Soon, everyone in the audience had joined in, and a spontaneous dance party ensued. Afterwards, everyone headed to the dining hall where the Daraja kitchen staff served over 400 people dinner. They cooked 552 pounds of rice and 132 pounds of cabbage! After dinner, the party continued well into the evening.
We are grateful for everyone who came to campus to celebrate a decade of Daraja, and we can’t wait to celebrate in the US later this year. Here’s to another ten years!