Monday, May 30, 2011

East Africa Day 12 (Wed May 25): Intro to My Daraja Project!!

I successfully used my netbook and the internet this AM for a while – I got to start my research project!! Woohooo!! But then my netbook began to malfunction again, and I couldn’t use it anymore. Perfect timing - Wa was about to leave for town, so Andy sent my netbook along with Wa for further service. Wa let me use his laptop and modem for the rest of the day so that I could continue with my work.

Most people who know me know that I bleed Brown & White, Lehigh University’s school colors. I’m sure that love of and appreciation for our alma mater manifests in alums in different ways, but I find that many alums that I’ve met through the Young Alumni Council share my passion for ensuring that future and current students can access the same sort of education that we all had. For me, this means seeing high school students with maybe limited means but unlimited potential through the college search and application process. While I was at Lehigh I volunteered for STAR (Students That Are Ready). More recently I volunteered for the San Francisco-based Level Playing Field Institute as a Summer Math & Science Honors Academy mentor, focusing on the college scholarship search and application process. I thought THAT was hard – finding scholarships that matched my two mentees’ profiles - but my current project takes that one step further!

At some point I got interested in access to higher education for the women who are growing up in the developing world. I found out about Daraja through Caitie Ireland, got involved by collecting the running shoes (my official blog post has been published!), and then saw an opportunity to provide a service to an amazing community of young women. So I applied to volunteer on Daraja’s campus and submitted my proposal, for what I would like to contribute to Daraja. I created a project that fortunately for me closely mirrored something that the Board of Directors had been thinking about – how can Daraja ensure that the current students can achieve their dreams after they graduate and leave Daraja? Daraja’s first class of students are currently in Form 3 (high school juniors) so this project comes at a good time!

My project involves a lot of research – I’m researching a lot of nitty gritty things that fall within a few main categories: KCSE (think SAT) prep, types of higher education opportunities, how to finance your higher education, and other ways secondary (high) schools can prepare young women for life after graduation. I’m also looking at the local community labor force and what opportunities exist near campus. This all seems pretty straight forward, but not being Kenyan, it means that I need to learn everything about Kenya’s education system from scratch. So one day at a time!

I was walking back to my banda after dinner tonight, when I saw a very small mammal leap 2+ feet from the ground into some tree branches. Andy happened to walk by, and told me that it was a Bushbaby. He said that he was surprised to see one down so low (usually they are up higher in the hills) and out so early in the evening. It was my lucky night! I didn’t get a photo, but you can see a photo of one here.

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