Sarah Jannsch’s enthusiasm for the WISER girls is contagious. She first heard about WISER as a young employee at Johnson & Johnson and was immediately hooked. She’s since visited WISER’s campus to spend time with the girls, built a network of engaged Johnson & Johnson WISER Volunteers, and is leading a group back to Muhuru Bay early next year for a business bootcamp. We sat down with Sarah to hear more about her passion for supporting the WISER girls.
W: How did you first hear about WISER?
SJ: I had been with J&J for about 2 years and had just moved back to Northern California when I had a fateful meeting with the leader of our office at the time. When he heard my passion for community service in general and my background in science, he knew I needed to be connected to WISER. Next thing you know, I was sitting down with [WISER Board Member] Carrie Arndt and hearing how WISER got started. I don’t think any woman anywhere could hear that story and not be moved. I come from an area of the country where people aren’t as privileged and where there are real challenges, but to understand the stark contrast between there and Muhuru Bay, and to learn about the challenges these girls face just to get an education, was really powerful. No matter how bad I saw people in my neck of the woods having it, I knew it wasn’t the same. I knew the level of impact I could have with WISER, and I couldn’t turn back.
W: Why is WISER so important to you?
SJ: I think that especially in the world we’re in right now, gender inequality in every way, shape, and form is touching all of us. For me, I had this pipe dream of wanting to live somewhere like Kenya and putting all of my time, heart, and soul into something. Now, I realize that I can have a much bigger impact by working with an organization like WISER. Empowering the WISER alumni to go change the world is much bigger and badder impact than I could ever have had on my own. WISER is proving that it doesn’t take a big organization to make a big and measurable impact. I think that’s a big part of why it’s so important to me. And that WISER goes beyond just the girls at the school – it’s about educating young men and women in the community, providing health opportunities, and making sure the community has clean water. WISER takes an approach that impacts an entire community. Having been boots on the ground in 2017, you can feel that impact. To know this journey started just over 10 years ago when girls were seen as a commodity for dowry, to now having men proud to have a strong woman in their family, being proud that their daughter is a WISER girl, and wanting their daughter to reach her full potential, that’s big for me.
W: What do you wish other people knew about WISER?
SJ: I’d want people to know that WISER works. It’s a model that has proven results and that is sustainable for the community. I’d also want people to know that WISER isn’t like other charities, and that every dollar is spent strategically. I realize the power of giving a dollar to WISER in comparison to that dollar going to anywhere else. Having met the girls first-hand, I know this is working. It’s money that I couldn’t spend better anywhere else.
W: What do you hope that WISER will achieve?
SJ: I would love to see us build a critical mass of strong, educated women that completely transforms the community and changes the way girls are valued. The WISER girls are such a source of potential and value in such an under-resourced area, and they’re already leading change in their communities. I’m excited to see the broader impact that WISER is going to have on this entire area and see how it ripples out from there.
I want to help make this become a reality. I’m a firm believer in that everyone has a next step. In every aspect of our lives, we as human beings get complacent and comfortable. For a long time, I got comfortable. Then, I was introduced to WISER and it was life-changing in the best way. I want to ask others to think about what their next step can be, to think about what they can do to create life-changing opportunities for these girls – tell their friends and family about WISER, give, or advocate – because that one more thing could empower 210 more girls to get an education. Taking that one next step could change lives and create ripple effects for thousands of girls around the world.
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 Sarah has, please contact Zack Fowler at [email protected]