Sharing the belief that education is a right, not a privilege, creative Dwight Lions worldwide have joined forces with students at WISER (Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research) in Muhuru Bay, Kenya, to create The Harambee Magazine — a cross-campus online publication in support of WISER.
WISER works with local-area girls to transcend poverty, HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence by empowering young women to drive change in their communities. After hearing about WISER’s mission at a 2009 GIN Conference, a team of Dwight staff and students in New York launched a WISER Club and raised $3,000, enabling one girl to attend the school, which opened the following year. WISER takes “a holistic approach, providing everything a girl needs to be successful: clothes, books, safe housing, female role models, leadership training, healthy food, mosquito nets, HIV education, and essential medicine.” The impact of WISER is significant, having touched the lives of over 2,500 youth. Over 90% of all graduates attend college or university, despite the fact that only 9% of all girls in the region finish school.
From 2010-12, Dwight students visited WISER in Kenya yearly to contribute directly through hands-on activities. In 2013, travel warnings curbed trips to Kenya, yet the WISER Club continued to support the School through an annual WISER Week, raising funds to educate more girls. Conditions in Kenya changed yet again and we were pleased to resume the trip in 2019, connecting students personally and more deeply with WISER and introducing them to the culture and traditions of East Africa.
With the launch of the online magazine this year, students in New York, Seoul, Shanghai, Dubai, and at Dwight Global are now expanding Dwight’s connection with WISER students in the spirit of its name: “Harambee” is Swahili for “all pull together.”
An Idea Is Born
Laurel Aquadro, WISER Club Advisor and Dwight Global teacher, and Stefania Bielkina ’23, Dwight Global student, put their heads together earlier this year to develop the idea for the magazine during Dwight Global’s own WISER Club meetings. Leaning into her interest in creative writing, Stefania wanted to do something new that would benefit WISER now and well beyond her own time in high school; The Harambee Magazine was quickly born and Stefania became Editor-in-Chief.
The first step was to put the call out for fellow student-editors to apply to join the masthead in an area of their interest: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or visual arts. The Club selected editors whose passion for the project was palpable:
“l participated in the Dwight Harambee online magazine because I like art and could use it as a way to raise funds to educate WISER girls,” shares Visual Arts editor Pheny John Auma, a Form 3 WISER student.
The newly forged editorial team also put a call out; this time for submissions in each of the four areas from Dwight and WISER students. “To be published in the journal, the pieces had to have a humanitarian theme and demonstrate a high artistic and/or literary caliber,” shares Stefania. Additionally, as Harambee was created to support the WISER mission — which has expanded with COVID-19 to provide relief for girls and their families who are directly affected by the pandemic — students who submitted pieces were asked to make a minimum $3 donation to WISER.
Sixteen pieces came in and student-editors collaborated virtually to share their feedback and vote on which pieces to publish. “Our extremely diverse editing committee made sure that the selected pieces resonated with all communities,” Stefania explains.
“Not only is the content for The Harambee Magazine engaging, thanks to so many talented contributors, but also the process of putting it together has been rewarding for all. It has provided another opportunity for students to get to know their peers across Dwight Schools through a shared interest, and to connect with students in Kenya, while also extending our partnership with WISER and helping to raise additional awareness for the School,” says Ms. Aquadro.
As the team was preparing to publish the magazine’s first digital issue, Stefania underscored that message: “Besides amplifying various issues around the world, Harambee serves as a unifying force, connecting most of Dwight’s campuses all around the world and with WISER. Although our first issue isn’t perfect, and there’s still a lot of work to be done in the future, we hope that the magazine will help forge a more cohesive, cross-campus Dwight community.”
We have no doubt that it will — and we congratulate Stefania and the whole Harambee editorial team across continents!
If you would like to support WISER, please click here.