One of the greatest lessons students learn at WISER, both in and out of the classroom, is how important it is to work with others in a team. That’s why, last month, we were delighted to welcome an international group of employees and friends of Johnson & Johnson to team up with the WISER girls on a set of special programs. The visiting Johnson & Johnson volunteers came to campus as passionate representatives of WISER’s longest-running and widely-celebrated corporate partnership.
Johnson & Johnson volunteer team members spent months carefully preparing curricula to share with the WISER girls during this trip. Once the volunteers arrived in Muhuru Bay, trip leader and J&J-WISER Volunteers Lead Sarah Jannsch said, “the team on the ground was immediately willing to give every last ounce of energy they had to supporting the WISER Girls.”
The effort showed. The volunteer team led workshops on every topic under the sun: from dance to marketing and from neuroscience to watercolor painting. These workshops were as interactive and fun as they were relevant to WISER girls’ lives. The curricula delivered by volunteers was specially created the curricula to both enrich the WISER girls’ learning experience and to emphasize skills that are critical for life after secondary school. The hands-on sessions targeted communications skills, introspective evaluations on leadership style and personality, and critical applications of STEM skills that are relevant to the Muhuru Bay community. Skills like these will be invaluable to students as they take the next steps toward their bright futures.
One such skills-building workshop asked WISER girls to put their STEM skills to work in the study of one of the most pressing health issues facing their communities: malaria and its relation to mosquito biology. In preparation for the J&J team’s visit, WISER girls grew and evaluated mosquito larvae for weeks in order to have hands-on specimens for the workshop with J&J volunteers. With the help of a curriculum crafted by the Smithsonian Science Education Center, the J&J team led WISER students through a series of modules that let students learn about mosquito biology in a hands-on way.
Despite covering a large range of topics during an packed schedule, the J&J volunteers were right at home during their entire visit. “When you have a large group like this, no matter how much you prepare, you never know exactly how things will play out. But you would have thought that these 21 strangers had been lifelong friends,” Jannsch noted about the J&J team. “They came together in the most beautiful way to work with the WISER Girls during this powerful visit.”
In between these workshops, the volunteers got to unwind with WISER girls by spending time visiting student homes, engaging with students’ Houses of Wisdom, and learning about life in Muhuru Bay. Everyone—WISER girls and volunteers alike—even got a chance to demonstrate their dance skills.
Johnson & Johnson has been an essential partner in WISER’s journey, joining in WISER’s mission from its very beginnings in 2006 to coordiante sanitary product provision to help girls stay in school. J&J’s financial contributions and volunteer support have been vital to WISER’s continued success, as WISER has grown from a big idea to a groundbreaking community organization.
Whether you’re a WISER student or an international volunteer, teaming up to share experiences like this one is at the heart of what makes WISER so innovative. We are so grateful for the hard work and energy that the Johnson & Johnson volunteer team brought to campus, and we can’t wait to see where our long-running partnership takes us next!