Pauline is an exceptional young woman with a light in her eye, who was the third ranked girl in her primary school. Within a few weeks of starting at Daraja Academy, the staff discovered that Pauline has epilepsy. Pauline grew up being passed from grandmother to aunt, and there was never enough money to get the head scans and treatment she needed to control the illness. She is currently under the care of the best doctor in Nanyuki and the academy is working to limit the seizures.
In addition to epilepsy, Pauline has just experienced a very traumatic event in her life. It wasn’t until she was taking her 8th grade exams that she learned that her mother was still living, and had three other children. Pauline never got a chance to meet her mother because she was ill and passed away at the end of 2010. She is estranged from her half-siblings.
Once the academy realized Pauline had epilepsy, a nurse was brought to campus. She trained all the students and staff on the proper way to handle a situation when someone has a seizure. After going from having no one care for her health issues to having an entire school ready to take care of her, Pauline has felt a tremendous weight lifted from her shoulders. This is apparent in her growing confidence. The teachers have seen this positively affect her school work as well. Now that her health is being treated, Pauline can focus much more on school. We look forward to seeing how she progresses throughout the year!
Did you know that in Kenya, each year of secondary school will raise a woman’s eventual wages by 15 to 25%? Did you know that girls with a high school education have, on average, 2.2 fewer children? Did you know that women invest 90% of their wages back into their families, as opposed to 30 % for men? And did you know that less than 2% of every development dollar goes towards girls? The education of girls, which Nike has dubbed "The Girl Effect", both helps them to realize their potential and begins a virtuous circle that fights against poverty. Now you know.
On May 15th, for the 102nd anniversary of Bay to Breakers, 104 students from high schools across the Bay Area will race 12 K to celebrate Daraja Academy, a school in Kenya designed to ease poverty through educating talented girls to become leaders through secondary school. I am proud to return after a successful race last spring and from the 77 person team two years ago.
On the same day, 10,000 miles across the globe, the 104 Daraja students will run the same distance. My partner is Pauline, whose story appears above. I am honored to run with such an inspirational and strong girl.
But why choose to support her cause through running? For nine seasons, I spent sixteen hours every week with a close-knit group of the craziest kids out there: those who choose to run… for fun. I have found strength through camaraderie. After races, no matter how exhausted, I return to the course to cheer others through the finish. Tangible drops in times after grueling workouts motivate us to challenge each other to bust out that extra mile in practice. Because so much of the sport is mental, I’ve learned to use enthusiasm to build up and motivate others, acknowledging or gently using humor to guide. I have thrived where energy, love, and just enough folly to keep things interesting abound. My team stretched and hurt together, challenged and cheered for each other, and shared the joy of accomplishment. Running with them has imparted confidence as I realize that despite my nerves, I know what to do in a race and can run alongside anyone without fear. I’ve learned to trust myself and my friends and to carry the spirit of the runner to everything I do. I can very honestly say that running has changed my life for the better. Two years ago, I ran the Bay to Breakers race for Hadija Hussein Abullahi. Last year, I ran for Fatuma. And this year, I am running for Pauline, to show her and her fellow students the same support I show my teammates here and to give them the chance to forge a life for themselves.
I know that I live a charmed life for reasons largely due to chance, and I wish to use the talents I possess to let my friends in Africa know that our heart and thoughts are with them. The Race for Daraja helps girls to help support themselves and their communities, but they need your help. You have the power to change a girl's future. YOU can be involved in this by sponsoring my race! Any help at all would be greatly appreciated, and each donation, no matter the size, makes a world of difference. Thank you so much for your time and your interest.
May you have air in your lungs, life in your legs, the wind at your back, and wings on your feet.