Dwight Schools Collaborate With Students From Kenya to Create a Literary Magazine

Led by a Dwight Global student and teacher, students from Dwight campuses around the world worked with a girl’s boarding school in Kenya to create a literary publication called The Harambee Magazine. The online magazine features writing and art by students from Dwight and the WISER Girls Secondary School in Muhuru Bay, Kenya.

Harambee will also support WISER, a school where nearly 40 percent of the girls are orphans and most have been affected by AIDS, poverty, or sexual violence. The boarding school was founded in 2010 by WISER NGO (Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research) a nonprofit that helps girls from rural Kenya get better schooling and healthcare.  

The Idea for the Magazine

The magazine is the newest chapter of a tight bond between Dwight and Wiser. After first hearing about WISER during a 2009 Global Issues Network Conference, Dwight New York launched a WISER Club and raised $3,000 — enough to support one student at the WISER school, which opened the following year.   Since then, Dwight has been thrilled to cover the tuition of over a dozen WISER students.  

Earlier this year, Laurel Aquadro, an English teacher at Dwight Global who advises the WISER club, developed the idea for the magazine with Dwight Global student Stefania Bielkina ’23. 

An adept writer, Stefania wanted to create something that would benefit WISER well beyond her time in high school; Harambee was born from that desire, and she became the magazine’s editor-in-chief. The magazine is inherently global, so Dwight formed a committee with representatives from all of its campuses around the world. Stefania then appealed to students from all campuses to join editors for poetry, fiction, non-fiction, or visual arts, Harambee’s four sections. Given their respective passion for the sections, the below students were named editors:

Poetry

  • Gloria Shakina, Form 3 WISER
  • Hermione Jiang ’23, Shanghai
  • Addah Gloria Alendu, Form 3 WISER
  • Mil Right Susan, Form 3 WISER

Visual Arts

  • Jennifer Song ’25, Seoul
  • Annie Luo ’23, Shanghai
  • Eliza Pritchard ’23, Dwight Global
  • Heba Mansour ’22, Dubai
  • Pheny John Auma, Form 3 WISER
  • Sandra Ongati, Form 1 WISER

Fiction

  • Daoxin Hu ’23, Shanghai
  • Emily Schmidt ’24, Dwight Global
  • Estella Ugbebor ’24, Dwight Global 
  • Tianying Xue ’22, Shanghai

Non-fiction

  • Maya Singh ’22, New York
  • Lisa Li ’22, Shanghai
  • Kelly Hsu Chi Wei ’23, Shanghai
  • Rose Eberhardt, faculty, Dwight Global

Dwight Students Visit Kenya

From 2010-12, Dwight’s students visited the WISER school every year to help the students. In 2013, U.S. travel warnings curbed trips to Kenya, yet the WISER Club continued to raise money to help four girls enroll at the school. With the launch of Harambee, which Dwight students in New York, Seoul, Shanghai, Dubai, and Dwight Global worked on, Dwight has deepened its bond with WISER in the spirit of the magazine’s name: In Swhaili, Harambee means "all pull together". 

Pheny John Auma, a junior at the WISER school and a visual arts editor, says she joined Harambee “because I like art and could use it as a way to raise funds to educate WISER girls.”   

Inasmuch as Harambee was created to support WISER, students who submitted pieces were asked to make a small donation to the school. The editorial team contacted Dwight and WISER students for submissions and collaborated virtually to decide which pieces to publish. “To be published in the journal,” says Stefania, “the pieces had to have a humanitarian theme and demonstrate a high artistic or literary caliber.”

Bridging a Continental Divide

Ms. Aquadro, the club adviser, says the content for The Harambee Magazine is engaging, and the publishing process has been rewarding for its writers and editors.

“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 Dwight’s partnership with WISER and helping to raise awareness for the school,” says Ms. Aquadro. “All the girls at the WISER school speak English in addition to Swahili and one or two tribal languages. Our first issue has some lovely poems written by WISER students, as well as some of their beautiful art work, so we hope everyone reads the first issue of Harambee.”

Ciara Hatch, a recent graduate of Dwight Global ‘21, says it’s important to support the WISER school as well as Harambee. Ciara was one of a number of Dwight students to visit the school in 2019. The group stayed at the school with the Kenyan girls for a week, and Ciara recalls talking with them about their lives in the evenings after their long school days had ended. All of the girls were laser focused on their studies, only taking breaks to eat and sleep. But in the end, she says, the students from Dwight and WISER—all teenagers—had much in common. Ciara, for instance, wears rings on her fingers, and one evening the WISER girls noticed her rings and gigglingly asked, “Are you engaged?” Ciara shook her head and dissolved into laughter and the girls spent the evening talking about the travails and joys of teen-aged life in America and Kenya.

“I’ll never forget chatting with the girls about boys and crushes,” Ciara says. “It was great to laugh with them, but at the same time it was clear that they saw the WISER school as a pathway out of their blighted circumstances.”