Stories: Life Before Daraja

This summer, as part of a volunteer’s project, all the girls at Daraja wrote stories about life before Daraja. I somehow did not read them until the last night I was at Daraja, when I stayed up long past the generator turning off reading these stories and crying by the light of my headlamp. I know I’ve already written snippets I had heard before, but I would like to share some more specific stories and quotes from the girls:

“I will live to be remembered,” says Anastacia, who lost both her parents, walked twelve miles to school barefoot every day after waking up early to work in the garden, got abused by her guardians, and ran away from home for five months.

Elizabeth essentially worked as a slave for her aunt and uncle: “Each sunday, I would go to the garden and dig while my aunt and her family were sitting down chatting and laughing.” They didn’t even let her go to church.

“All in all, God lifted out love that now I can sing and stand out amazingly with no fear and I can speak in front of people with my futuristic voice that glitters and shines at the daytime,” Benny wrote.

“I want to change other peoples’ lives just the way mine has been changed,” Esther said, who dreams of starting a school for those who cannot afford education.

Lillian Form 2 writes with so much wisdom and hope: “There is a pattern which everybody has to follow, a pattern of joy and peace, a pattern of tears and sorrow, a pattern in which you bring change to what you have because you are the source of energy required to attain all that is best.” As I read it I get shivers. “I have proof that life is living with trust,” she continues.

“One day, when I went to a nearby market to get some vegetables, I heard some women discussing that there was an interview taking place at a school called Daraja Academy and it would offer a free scholarship for four years,” Brenda writes. It’s incredible that such a loving, smart girl would not be at Daraja if she didn’t happen to walk by and overhear a conversation at that moment.

Mary P writes, “I will make Daraja famous.” When I think about her excitement about us completing a math problem when I tutor her – the bright eyes and the clasping hi-five – I have no doubt that she will.

Teddy’s entire story shocked me. She lived with her loving grandparents, then her mom came and took her away, treating her so poorly. She would be locked inside all day, except when she had to run errands. One night, her mom almost killed her by banging her head against a wall and almost dropping her off a three-story balcony (she would have, if a man had not driven up below). She knows her mom never wanted her, and now lives happily again with her grandparents. Yet today, she is the smartest, most earnest, most studious girl here. Her eyes shine without a trace of sadness from the past.

These are women of integrity, strength, and hope. It’s hard to continue life normally knowing that there are more girls out there like the Daraja girls who, like Anastacia, could live to be remembered. Jenni and Jason are doing something truly incredible, and I will do anything I can to help these girls and many more.

As such, for my last post of this segment of my gap year, I have a favor to request. It costs only $2500 to sponsor a girl for a year at Daraja – food, health, uniform, teacher salaries, and everything else – and I would like to raise enough money to do that. I’m not one to donate to every cause I hear about, and I don’t expect any of you to either. However, women’s education has always seemed like one of the most important ways to change the world out there, and having been at Daraja, I know precisely where the money is going. If you are so inspired, you can click on the “A Request for the Daraja Girls” link above (one of the pages in the header section of this page, next to “My Plan For The Year” and “Where Am I Now”) to help me with my cause.

Thank you all so much for reading and commenting; it made me so happy while I was traveling. I’ll post pictures at the end of the month, then talk to you again in Argentina!

With love,

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