March 5, 2024

When Water Meets the Bridge: The Story of Daraja Academy

My name is Jecinta Ann Mwangi, Well Aware’s Operations Officer, and I am honored to tell Daraja Academy’s story. Myself and another one of our team members, Mesret Endale, attended Daraja Academy as girls, leading us to our roles we currently hold today. The newly found partnership between Daraja and Well Aware means the world to us, continue reading to learn about Daraja’s story.

In the vibrant heart of Laikipia County, amidst the sweltering heat, lies Nanyuki, Kenya, the backdrop of my formative years spent at Daraja Academy. This fully sponsored, all-girls boarding high school provides a nurturing environment for needy yet bright and promising Kenyan girls like myself. Beyond academic pursuits, Daraja cultivates a holistic approach to education, fostering leadership skills, instilling a sense of social responsibility, and empowering us to become agents of change within our communities, nation, and beyond. However, among the myriad lessons imparted during my tenure, one stood out as particularly profound: an acute awareness of the significance of water conservation.

Nestled within the semi-arid expanse of Kenya, where the relentless sun scorches everything under its unyielding rays, lies the canvas of my upbringing. In this parched land, water isn’t merely a resource; it’s a precious commodity, intricately woven into the fabric of our existence. From the very first days of orientation at Daraja Academy, water assumed a paramount importance. It wasn’t just about hydration; it represented life itself—a vital force sustaining not only our physical bodies but also nourishing our spirits.

In our quest for this rare yet invaluable commodity, we forged bonds that transcended mere camaraderie. Together, we cultivated discipline and nurtured a culture of preservation that became deeply ingrained in our collective fabric. These values not only fortified our well-being but also stood the test of time, enduring long after our days at Daraja Academy. As alumni, we continue to hold these principles dear, passing them down to future generations as a testament to the enduring legacy of our alma mater.

In our arid sanctuary, the scarcity of water posed formidable challenges that tested our resilience. I vividly recall the events of my second day at school when, clad in our PE attire, we were led from the school gate to the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro river—the primary water source for our institution. Our teachers pointed out the pump used to supply water to the school and the water level calibration gauge, revealing the alarming decline in water levels over the years. It became apparent that we were facing a pressing water crisis, prompting a swift adaptation to a culture of conservation. We embraced practices such as using water judiciously, ensuring tight closure of taps and showers, refraining from flushing toilets unnecessarily during the day, recycling water where feasible, and minimizing water usage for bathing and cleaning. Despite our efforts to conserve, the situation deteriorated further, culminating in the complete drying up of the river. Forced to confront this harsh reality, we rallied to devise innovative methods for preserving the dwindling water reserves in our cisterns.

In the face of imminent fate, our resilience became our beacon of hope. We turned to an overlooked resource on the school grounds: an old, shallow hand pump well, disregarded due to its water’s unsuitability for consumption. Desperation compelled us to rely on it for essential tasks such as cleaning classrooms, doing laundry, and bathing. I recall the urgency of those days vividly; classes would end earlier than usual, around 3:30 PM, prompting a frenzied rush as we raced to retrieve our buckets and hurried to the shallow borehole situated at the property’s edge. For some of us, myself included, whose feet lacked swiftness, hours would pass in queue before we could fill our buckets. Once acquired, we would hasten to clean our clothes, take a hurried bath, and ensure that a portion of the precious water was reserved for bathing the following day and for our allocated duty stations. This laborious routine consumed hours, leaving little respite before dinner and evening preps, which lasted from 7 PM to 9:30 PM. The exertion of pumping water from the borehole’s hand pump left our hands sore and our muscles aching, yet in the face of adversity, we discovered an unyielding strength fueled by the necessity of every single drop of water.

The exertion of pumping water from the borehole's hand pump left our hands sore and our muscles aching, yet in the face of adversity, we discovered an unyielding strength fueled by the necessity of every single drop of water.

The transition of Daraja Academy to its new campus marks a significant milestone in its journey of growth and empowerment. With this move, Daraja is poised to accommodate double its current school population, reaching approximately 500 students and staff. This expansion brings forth a multitude of benefits, particularly in terms of sanitation and overall well-being. The increased infrastructure and availability of water in the new campus will enable the institution to implement improved sanitation facilities, ensuring a hygienic environment conducive to learning and thriving. Moreover, the larger campus will facilitate enhanced recreational areas, expanded educational facilities, and more extensive community engagement initiatives. With a broader reach and capacity, Daraja is primed to continue its mission of empowering bright and promising Kenyan girls, nurturing their potential, and fostering positive change within their communities and beyond.

The partnership between Daraja Academy and Well Aware heralds a transformative collaboration aimed at advancing the shared vision of empowering communities as well as young Kenyan girls and fostering sustainable community development. With Daraja’s steadfast belief that every girl deserves the education necessary to effect positive change, and Well Aware’s commitment to providing access to clean drinking water for life, this alliance promises far-reaching benefits. The installation of a new water well at Daraja’s new campus stands as a testament to this partnership’s potential.

Not only will it ensure a reliable and sustainable water source for the school, but it will also have a profound impact on the girls’ lives. With access to clean water, the girls will experience improved health and hygiene, enhancing their overall well-being and academic performance. Furthermore, the partnership underscores the girls’ resilience and commitment to conservation. Through mindful usage and stewardship, they will preserve every precious drop of water, maximizing its impact for themselves, their community, and the world. As Daraja continues to nurture the next generation of community leaders, this partnership exemplifies the transformative power of education, water and sustainable development.

As Daraja continues to nurture the next generation of community leaders, this partnership exemplifies the transformative power of education, water and sustainable development.

I am profoundly grateful to find myself at the intersection of two organizations that have played pivotal roles in shaping my journey: Daraja Academy and Well Aware. Having been a beneficiary of Daraja’s transformative education, I am humbled to now work alongside Well Aware in providing access to clean water to the very community that molded me. It fills me with immense pride to give back in this meaningful way, knowing firsthand the profound impact that access to clean water can have on individuals and communities.

Working with Well Aware, I am able to channel my passion for service and my gratitude for the opportunities afforded to me by Daraja into tangible action, ensuring that rural communities receive the vital resources they need to thrive. With each well we install and every drop of clean water we provide, I am reminded of the power of collective action and the immense joy that comes from making a positive difference in the lives of others. I could not be any happier or more fulfilled than I am in this role, bridging the gap between my past and present, and contributing to a brighter future for all.

To learn more about our Water Projects, click here.

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