Rachael Bennett has been involved with WISER for nearly ten years. She launched one of our earliest partner school programs, bringing students from the US to WISER’s campus in rural Kenya, and has continued to support WISER since then.
We sat down with Rachael to learn just what it is about WISER that motivates her to stay involved and how she maintains her passion for supporting the girls.
W: How did you first get involved with WISER?
RB: I used to work at Dwight School in New York and first heard about WISER when I chaperoned a group of students traveling to a conference in Geneva. One of WISER’s founders was a speaker at the conference, and he was captivating. I left with a feeling of “we have to get involved with whatever he’s doing.” At the time it was the early days at WISER, before the school was built, but there was so much passion for it. We came back to Dwight and wanted to become a partner school, to do whatever we could to support WISER. I started the WISER program for Dwight and ran that for about five years with a colleague. I ran two trips of Dwight students to Muhuru Bay, where they would spend time with the WISER girls and do a specific project. It was in the early days when there was no running water, the classrooms hadn’t all been built, the computer lab wasn’t done – but kids from Dwight would come back and be so passionate and excited by their experience. The whole school was involved – kids in kindergarten up to seniors in high school could tell you about WISER. I’d love to go back and take my kids with me now.
W: We love that you’ve been a part of WISER’s growth over the past ten years. How would you describe our work?
RB: I think it’s two-fold. First and foremost, the mission is to educate girls and to empower them. But I also think more comprehensively, it’s to empower the whole community. What I like about WISER is it’s not just about the girls. They do scholarships for the boys and clean water for the community. It’s not just helping the girls, it’s helping everyone. WISER is about helping the community that the girls have come from and educating the community so that the cycle of thinking that girls have to stay home, and can’t do this or that, changes. It’s changing the cycle for new generations.
W: Going off of that, what do you think is the most important work that WISER does?
RB: I think the obvious answer would be to educate the girls while they’re there, but almost more importantly, it is to change the way the community sees girls and values girls and values education. Without this value, it makes getting girls into school and educating them that much more difficult. If you can change the process from where the girls originate so that their mothers and fathers are supporting them, it makes WISER’s job that much easier when they get to school. Even more important than impacting individual girls is changing how the community values girls and education.
W: Why does this cause matter to you?
RB: I have kids. I think about my daughter. I think the opportunity to go to Muhuru Bay and see in-person the amazing things these teachers and Madam Dorcas and everyone involved in WISER is so passionate about, it just enhances your understanding and makes you want to do more. I was very lucky – not many people get to go and be on the ground at WISER. It’s great to be able to show kids in New York pictures and stories and build a personal connection with girls who value their education so highly, who can’t even believe they’re given this opportunity to be in school, it helps change perspectives a little bit. And, of course, it’s about the personal experience that I had. It’s been great to follow some of the girls we knew when we were there, and to know that they’re in college now. It’s been amazing to see them doing so well. Once you’ve personally experienced the work that a charity is involved in, it’s easy to decide to give and stay committed.
W: We’re thankful you’ve been such a longtime supporter. What do you think about WISER’s growth?
RB: I think you’re on a great trajectory. WISER has certainly made amazing strides since I was there. It’s been something I’ve loved being involved in. My husband and I have our own family foundation, but other than that, WISER is the cause that’s nearest and dearest to my heart, and I know that I’ll always be involved.
We can help you build a supporter story of your own. If you’d like to learn more about how you can make an impact like Rachael has, please contact [email protected]