Connecting for a cause – the best kind of learning

For the past four years, as part of our Global Girl program, Toorak College has been connected to Daraja Academy. Daraja is a girl’s school in Kenya providing free education to impoverished girls who would not have access to a secondary education any other way. Our conduit for this connection is Mark Lukach, a former teacher who has been involved with Daraja since its inception. Mark has been skyping into our school from San Francisco, helping our students to understand the purpose of Daraja and the critical difference an educated girl can make to the community she lives in. Mark’s energy crosses our Internet connection, and enthuses our students every year.

Over this four year period, our Year 9 students have raised money to support the running of Daraja Academy by holding ‘Sleepout for Schools’ events. The girls stay overnight at school, and try and incorporate an element of fundraising into the night’s activities.

This year has been a very special ‘Sleepout for Schools’ event. An event is held in San Francisco called the Bay to Breakers. It’s a 12 km fun run, and for the past couple of years a team has run in this event raising sponsorship for Daraja Academy. At Daraja, the girls attending the school run a 12km course at the same time. This year, Toorak College joined the cause and our students began their Sleepout for Schools event with a laps of our oval. We had decided to run in teams to share the load of the 12km amongst groups of girls, but one of our very fit students, Julia, really threw herself into the event and ran the entire 12km after school. She was absolutely inspiring, and managed to raise a significant amount of money thanks to her dedication. Ruby, one of our students, designed a logo for the event, and we made badges that the girls wore during the night. I’m sure we will see them pinned on their school blazers throughout the year.

Jason Doherty, the founder of Daraja Academy, recorded a video thanking our girls for their ongoing support.

Like Jason says in the video, the girl’s efforts were featured on the Daraja Academy site, and we shared this with our students in the days leading up to the event. The actual event was a great success, with most of our Yr 9 students participating and raising money for Daraja in the process. What made the event really special, was the fact that we knew the money we raised would be going to support the tuition for Lilian, a student at Daraja Academy. Our aim was to try to raise $2,400.00, the cost of a year’s tuition. To date, our students have raised $2,040.00, with plans to find ways to raise the extra $460.00 that will get us to the total Lilian needs for a year’s education. Our students know only too well how fortunate they are to have access to a good education, and the opportunities they will have as a result of this. It’s been truly rewarding for all of us at the school to see our students dedicated to a cause, knowing they are making an impact on a young girl’s life. This is the kind of learning you don’t get from textbooks -it’s real life connection with a cause in mind.

Daraja Academy made a video thanking people for the efforts they went to to support their girls.Take a look at these beautiful girls who now have an opportunity to education thanks to Daraja.

It’s been so rewarding having our Yr 9 students work for this cause over the last four years. Every year I hear girls tell me how meaningful it is to do something when they know where the money is headed. This cause helps them see the world differently, and goes a long way towards developing empathy, something we want our students to value.

Here are some pics from our run.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could extend the participation rates for next year, and have other schools join in to support the cause at the same time? Any takers? You’ll be better for it, if you do. I know that our students are feeling the rewards that come from giving to others and making some sort of positive difference.

*Special thanks once again to Mark Lukach, who gives so freely of his time to our girls and makes the event come alive for them. Mark usually skypes with us on the night of the sleepover as well, but this year, he had to forfeit. And for good reason. Mark and Guilia’s first child, Jonas, was born the previous night. Congratulations to you both. Toorak College girls send warm wishes your way. ūüôā

Sleepout 4 Schools – well worth the effort

I’ve been meaning to post about the Sleepout 4 Schools event run by the Yr 9 students of Toorak College for the last week, but time keeps running away from me. It’s vitally important that¬†I give it the space it deserves; the students involved worked tirelessly and pulled off a marvellous day to support girl’s education in Kenya and India.

The idea began with a whole day activity where the girls were exposed to ideas about how they could make a difference. They found out about the Bal¬†Ashram in India and their plans to build a girl’s school to¬†help save girl’s from child slavery. They also listened to Mark Lukach when he skyped in from San Francisco and told us about Daraja Academy, a girl’s school in¬†Kenya started by Jason and Jenni Doherty that had just opened its doors two weeks before.

That day sowed the seed and ideas germinated. A  meeting of 30 or so interested students saw them decide on the idea to hold a sleepover at school as a fundraiser for the two schools.

After quite a few weeks of planning the event was held on May 22nd. During the day the girls participated in a Global march into Mt.Eliza to raise awareness about the plight of¬†children forced into child slavery. A neighbouring school, Mt.Eliza Secondary College, joined them and lunchtime shoppers and proprietors of our local shopping centre¬†listened to the girls’ message. It was very well received and the girls felt like they had made an impact.



At 6.00pm the sleepover began. As teachers, we’d been given a running sheet from the girls in the organising committee, but we fully expected that we’d have to step in to get things going. We couldn’t have been more wrong. They were supremely organised. All of the girls, all 54 of them, had¬†paid to sleep over. During the¬† night they raised money by selling popcorn and lollies and a group of them made friendship bracelets that they sold. Some of them had sought sponsorship from family members and friends to collect after the event.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

At 11.00pm we skyped Mark Lukach in and he talked about the progress of Daraja Academy. He was pretty #stoked (you have to know Mark on Twitter to get that one!) that 54 students had gone¬† to the effort of getting together to do something good for others.¬†Jason Doherty, the founder of Daraja was the next to skype in. This was Jason’s first ever skype call so it was pretty exciting. He was able to give us a lot of detail about Daraja and how the girls there are faring. Jason extended an invitation to our girls to visit the Academy; who knows, maybe one day we will get there. Jabiz Raisdana then skyped in¬†from Qatar to let us know he was impressed with the effort of our students. It helped to let the girls appreciate the global nature of what it is they¬†are doing.¬†¬†

It was after 12 midnight by the time we’d finished our calls so you can imagine it took a bit of time to settle to sleep. We were up and at ’em by 7.00am the next day. We still have to get a final total of how much money was raised, but it should be close to the $1,000 dollar mark.¬† Last Monday two of our students visited a local radio station and spoke eloquently¬†and passionately about what they’ve been doing.¬†

We are very proud of the efforts of these Yr 9 students. They have a genuine sense of the importance of service unto others, of thinking outside yourself.¬†That’s an important part of being human as far as I’m concerned and school communities can be instrumental in helping our young people to understand this. These students have also gained an understanding of their role as global citizens. They have used technology to connect with the people they want to help; we can’t get to Kenya direct yet but we are hoping to start to write to the girls over there. The girls created a Ning to support the project¬†¬†because they wanted to reach out to others to try and gather support. We didn’t quite manage that, but there’s always next year!¬†¬†


Nice work girls. We’re very proud of you all.

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Daraja Academy opens its doors

Mark Lukach edited this video showing the students from Daraja Academy in Kenya. He wanted to capture the energy of the school and i think he’s done a great job doing that. The school opened its doors three weeks ago to 26 girls from Kenya who otherwise would not have received an education. Congratulations go to Jason and Jennie Doherty who packed up everything in San Francisco and moved to Kenya to help realise this dream.

This is one of the reasons our Year 9 students are excited about starting planning for Sleepout for Schools, an idea they have cultivated to help raise money to support Girl’s education in Kenya and India. Watch the video and I’m sure you will see good reason for involvement in supporting such a cause. They are planning a sleepout at our school on May 22nd and participants will be seeking sponsorship with the aim of raising money to support a worthy cause like Daraja.

On that note, think about joining with us. We would love to see other schools collaborate with us, Mark Luckach’s school in San Francisco and Daraja Academy in Kenya. Daraja means bridge, and this is all about building bridges of support. Come and form part of that bridge with us.

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