When the Daraja girls are asked who their role models are, you can be sure that Nurse/Counselor Jacinta’s name will come up. She’s a woman who has risen to all of life’s challenges and chased down her dreams. But most importantly, she’s a woman who understands the situations that some Kenyan girls are put in.

When Jacinta was 14 or 15 years old and home for a term break, her father arranged a marriage for her; she hadn’t finished high school and dreamed of becoming a journalist. The man she was to marry was a police officer in his 40s. Her father was a nomadic farmer with three wives and 23 children – the dowry was needed to support the family.

She stayed with the man for 11 days, distraught at the situation, before she resolved to get out. She told him she needed to buy feminine products then used the money he gave her to buy paper. She scribbled a note explaining what had happened and sent it with a young boy to the Catholic priest who had helped her get into elementary school.

The next day, the priest, several missionaries, classmates and the police came to remove Jacinta from the marriage. She was returned to the parish’s boarding school where she had been studying and stayed there year-round, volunteering on the property to earn her school fees. “I was the first one to say no to early marriage in my area,” she said.

Jacinta finished high school, married a man of her choosing, studied nursing and counseling in university and is the mother to two fantastic teenage boys.

She has been part of the Daraja family since early this year and continues to work part-time in town as a nurse, bereavement counselor and HIV/AIDS counselor.  Her connection with each girl and presence on campus has become priceless to the entire community. She started by sharing her story with the girls, being available for chats and playing volleyball with them. Eventually the girls became comfortable opening up to her – Jacinta acknowledges that “only for the girls to trust you – that is something. I want to tell them about my life and maybe it will change one or two people.” We’re confident that since she first stepped foot on campus, she has changed many more lives than that.