The second leg of our journey brought us to a place I had dreamed of since very young – Kenya! Between a steady diet of National Geographic and Wild Kingdom programming, tales of Stanley and Livingstone, and the great Beryl Markham book, West with the Night, I was extremely dialed in to finally experience this amazing part of the world. Landing in Nairobi at night kept me from seeing trees full of nesting Marabou Stork, but morning revealed these incredible birds and much more, and we soon took to the road to find more critters.
Our immediate destination was Nanyuki, a town about a four hour drive north. We were going to visit a remarkable girls’ school that my sister-in-law, Julie Whyte, had introduced us to, The Daraja Academy. Founded in 2006 by two Californians, Jenni and Jason Doherty, Daraja – which means “bridge” in Swahili – was to be a school that could provide access to high school for academically-talented Kenyan girls who otherwise could not afford to pay tuition.
Through Julie, both my daughters, Maddie and Erin, had become involved in fundraising activities for the school, including starting a Daraja Club at Drake High School in San Anselmo, California. In fact, Daraja, and the ideals the school espoused, became an important focus for all of our extended family and friends, and the chance to visit the school became a trip highlight.
Approaching the school from the old dirt road, senses were bombarded with farmers leading a caravan of dromedary camel, herds of zebra and impala in the distance, and the occasional glimpse of Olive baboons. This was getting very cool! We finally arrived at the campus, meeting some of the students and faculty, touring the facility, and seeing how much good energy was being generated through this innovative school. One of the opportunities I was given was to put on a short presentation to the girls about Jeepney Projects Worldwide, with the idea being that these ladies may someday have a chance themselves to promote the unbelievable diversity of wildlife in their own country. In describing our group’s foray into raising awareness of the plight of the endangered Philippine Eagle, I tried to tie-in how they may find a way themselves to become advocates for their own endangered wild things. At the end of the talk, I presented the school with one of David’s limited edition hornbill prints – definitely a different look than the hornbills in their own country. It was a great time for me, although a bit nerve-racking, and I hoped the girls got something out of it.
The rest of our visit to Daraja, and our subsequent adventures in Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and the Masai-Mara, would take much more than a blog entry to give full respects. Days and nights filled with lion, cheetah, turaco, leopard, secretary birds, rhinos, elephant, hyena, vultures…the list goes on and on. Overwhelming! This entry is meant to be nothing more than a thumbnail sketch of an incredible visit to the school – I think it’s best for readers to learn more about Daraja and how they may help keep the school moving forward by doing a little research on their own. Please visit their website to learn more (and get thee to Kenya!)
All photos courtesy of Peter Barto and Kathleen McDade.