There have been possibly three soul quaking occurrences that have taken place over the course of my lifetime. Occurrences, which moved me, so deeply that I knew I would not be the same man after its passing. To my recollection those events consist of giving and receiving marriage vows with my wife to-be above the crashing waves of the Big Island’s north shore, standing for the first time after laying supine for 5+ months in early May 1993 after “the crash” – and arriving on campus yesterday.
Calling it a campus is actually a misnomer. The 150 acres that has been known for the past decade as the Laikipia Baraka School, and is now Daraja Academy is a bustling community. Over a half dozen tribes: Kikuyu, Masaii, Turkana, Luya, Kalenjin, Embu and Nandi have lived, eaten and slept together communally, cooperating for the better part of 5 years without permanent employment – a good example to Kenya, if not the world as a whole. Babies toddle past grazing goats as mothers hang their colorful wash on the lines strung between the staff houses.
Two of the Carr Educational Foundation’s (CEF) directors, Songai Mohochi and Mark Lukach, a member of the Advisory Board and CEF’s Volunteer Coordinator, Grey Brooks, the school’s Director of Operation’s Peter Wathitu and myself had been bouncing over nearly 1,000 km of Kenyan “road” leading up to our approach of campus. Many of the “roads” we traversed, especially the stretch from Kisii to Narok, looked to be in the same stage of construction that they were the last time I traveled them… in 1988 – the same piles of gravel, the same bulldozers and backhoes, and the same napping workers and pacing, hands on their hips over-seers.
The route from Kuria land was dusty, it was bumpy and it was LONG. But we made it to campus. The true reason we are here.
The hypnotizing part of the school is that you can see it from a distance. Far away, at least 15 kms to the southeast the structures can be seen, hugging the green hills. And from a distance it looked magnificent. The afternoon East African sky consisted of the striking juxtaposition of dark grey of downpour and the azure sparkle of thirsty air. During this time of year along the equator, where campus resides, the weather can change from parched to a torrential storm in moments. Those two opposite illuminated our destination, the Daraja Academy campus.
We pulled in through the open front gate and it all made sense: the thousands of hours of toil back in the states, the expenses accrued, the time spent pouring through curriculum books and 501.(c)3 legal mish-mash, the meetings with our tireless board as well as those with potential donors which did not bare fruit all made sense as the 4×4 pulled to a halt in front of the dining hall. We had made it. The school was exactly as I had remembered it. It was exactly as I had explained to people – acres of beautiful open land, purple, coral and red bougainvilleas hugging the dormitories and dusty, empty classrooms.
Stepping onto the dark soil it occurred to me just how many times over the past three years I’d heard, “you are so brave to attempt this,” “it takes a lot of guts to uproot and move to a school on the other side of the globe” and most commonly “you are crazy!” Leaving that dusty, cramped 4×4, taking in the mindboggling beauty that is our campus, all those sayings ran through my head one last time. They couldn’t have felt less applicable if they’d have been said to me after winning the lottery. There is nothing brave about this. I am exactly where I want to be, breaking ground on a project that will bring access to a better tomorrow to hundreds of deserving young women, young women who are a part of East Africa’s future.