Everlyne is an inspiration to me! I’ll never forget one special day I had at Daraja. I was walking into the dining room on a Saturday to hang out with the girls. I saw Everlyne, she was alone at the table and her tears were streaming so fast down her cheeks. I didn’t even know tears could fall so fast from someone’s eyes. She just couldn’t stop crying. I asked her if she wanted to take a walk with me outside and she nodded bashfully.
We walked on Daraja Academy’s nature trail, and found a bench in a secluded area surrounded by trees. She explained to me that she couldn’t stop thinking about her little siblings. Her little brothers were living with her stepmom and father. Her father is blind and therefore cannot provide for the family. The stepmom takes out the financial stress on the kids. She treats them very badly.
I’m a big sister too, and the thought of anything happening to my little brother is the worst feeling in the world.
Everlyne felt conflicted at Daraja- she is enjoying three meals a day, a great education and is surrounded by staff and volunteers that show her love and support constantly. Why me? What about my little brothers? She questioned aloud. This was a lot for me to take in and I didn’t know what to tell her. What were the right words to say?
Then I just started talking…we talked about how her being at Daraja shows her little brothers that there is hope. We also talked about her getting a secondary education allows her to make a good income when she graduates and she will be able to take care of her brothers. She will be able to help them pay for school fees. If she were home right now, she would be helpless. Just like her brothers, she would be a victim of her stepmom Her chance to help her family get out of that situation was her at school. The best strategy was to give her 110% everyday in class.
When I left Daraja, Everlyne was in the top 10 of her class. She aspires to be an optometrist, (her dad is blind). She has always been a good student and now I know what motivates her: the fierce determination to help her brothers. A recent Yale study stated, “Girls and women spend 90% of their earned income on their families, compared with 30% to 40% among males.”* That’s not just a static to me. That’s Everlyne.
On May 15th, I’m running with Everlyne. I’m participating in Bay to Breakers because I saw firsthand how Daraja Academy is transforming lives. I’m running for Everlyne, and all the girls just like her. Please support me in my race by donating- any amount- just to show that you believe in her too.
Lots of love,
*Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003
After our talk, I held Everlyne then asked if she wanted to go back. She said no, and that she wanted me to continue holding her. We sat for minutes while I just held her, neither of us talking. At that moment, I realized, she’s only 14 years old. When you’re 14, all you want is love and encouragement. This particular 14 year old had the world on her shoulders, and she just wanted to be held. It made everything real to me.