Saturday, January 12, 2013

Last Supper


After a six hour, dusty drive, we are at the Fairview for one last dinner together before we head to the airport.

This has been an amazing, life-changing, eye-opening revelation. Whatever it is that drives you, inspires you, gets you out of bed in the morning, we promise that this would blow it away.

None of us really knew what to expect coming here. We took a leap of faith. And none of us will ever be the same.

We leave richer with experience, friendships, purpose and drive to continue the momentum to help these girls.

Join us. Invite us to present to a group, attend a gala, write to a girl. We need you. They need you. We CAN change the world...when we educate a girl.

kuona wewe baadaye,

Melissa Katz
Jeff Pearson
Wendy Hills
Camry Haskins
Matthew Arndt
Raman Mehta
Megan Goepfert
Sonia Thompson
Simon Do
Carrie Arndt

On the Road Again

After a visit to the Maasai Village, we bid a fond farewell to Sarova Game Camp in Maasai Mara. We are on the road to Nairobi where we will have dinner and head the the airport for our respective flights.

Paved Roads

Finally! Our butts took a beating on the dirt roads.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Last Day

Sunrise safari.

A Comment Posted by Michel Paul, Company Group Chairman, Diabetes Care, J&J on JNJBTW

Hello Melissa, Carrie, Jeff, Raman, Megan, Simon, Wendy and Sonia:

On behalf of the entire Diabetes Care Franchise, I want to thank you for dedicating your time and energy these last two weeks to the WISER girls in Africa. I am extremely proud of your efforts, and of all of our Diabetes Care Franchise employees’ efforts, to truly create better lives and promising futures for this community.

In supporting WISER, we are truly illustrating our Johnson & Johnson Credo at work. As you know, for the last seven years, many of our Diabetes Care Franchise Colleagues have supported the WISER organization. WISER’s mission is to ensure that one day, all women will be granted equal access to safe educational opportunities so that they may achieve leadership roles in their communities. Seeing your work these past two weeks, truly brings this mission to life.

Thank you again for your passion, dedication and commitment to making a difference.

Warm regards,
Michel Paul

We Saw a Rhino!

Now we just need a leopard.


Once upon a time, I produced news that aired at the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati. I was reporting on a mural being painted by a group of underprivileged kids. Their group leader didn't have much to say and I thought I would go back to the station without an interview. I stopped and talked to one of the youth leaders and asked him about the project. He answered with one word: Harambee. It means hope. Our Kenyan friends expanded for us just now and said it means that the community gathers together to help the one in need. If that's not the meaning of hope, I don't know what is.

In this country, when your jeep is stuck in the mud, the people on the road drop their wood and stop their cars to help you push it out. Similarly, the education of girls is proverbially stuck, but we are making progress. The J&J Credo tells us that we have a responsibility to the world community. Before we ever arrived in Kenya as a J&J teaching crew, other J&Jers stepped up to support WISER. The Diabetes Care Franchise has held galas and raised money. The Employee Resource Groups like WLI, AALC and GLOBAL have worked hard to contribute.

I hope you will comment here or go to and let us know you're out there helping us, too.

We are pushing as hard as we can, but we need more to get us out. It takes a lot of muscle to achieve a little bit of hope.

The J&J WISER Crew in Kenya

Safari Day 2

Cheetah and some elephants so far

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Because We Wanted To

Last summer, the U.S. Olympic Swim team (many of whom are friends with our Matty Arndt) made a "Call Me Maybe" video. We wanted to honor the WISER girls in song, which is their tradition, and so we made one, too, and showed it to them on the last day. We think they liked it because when it was over they shouted AGAIN!

We thought you might enjoy it and pass it on! The more people who see it, the more chance we have to educate a girl...

Click Here to Watch the Video (please note: not working on mobile devices)

Learn More or Donate to WISER

Calling it a Day

We are on hour 11 in the truck. Dirty, tired, hungry but enjoying the sun setting on the Serengeti. We will be at the lodge within the hour. Full day of safari tomorrow so more pictures then.

In our jeep we have Carrie (who is tired but on the mend, Camry, Matt, Jeff and me. In the other jeep is Wendy, Raman, Megan, Sonia and Simon.

Can't wait for more. This is the most amazing trip!!!!!!

Lions and a cheetah

Mud Bath

The rains have been very heavy this week making the dirt roads into mud paths. We got very stuck after getting into Maisai Mara safari park. Matt, Jeff and I got out to push. And we wrote back on the road.

And then we saw some Zebra, Eland and Giraffe just hanging out. Mommy and baby elephant waited for us later.

No Words

Guest Blog by Camry Haskins

In America I work with young people every day. I am their first stop when applying to Job Corps. These are students who are trying for a second chance in education and I commend them for that.

Though I see the potential in all of the students that i work with, when I compare them and other American students to the girls I have met at WISER I can't help being amazed.

This week I was part of a group that taught communication , resume writing and interviewing skills. Though the girls started out bit shy it was obvious to see their thirst for knowledge. They were focused and professional. Their eagerness to learn was infectious.

On our last day of teaching I sat down with several of the girls and did mock interviews with them. They came prepared and many displayed a confidence that demonstrated all of the knowledge they had absorbed in just three short days. I was and am amazed by their growth and determination.

And if all of that wasn't enough, every evening after dinner the girls could be found working diligently on their lessons without a single teacher in the room. All of the girls I met this week were, are, and will always be an inspiration to me.

They have all set high goals for themselves and I truly believe that someday they will be serving their community and their country as the doctors, engineers, lawyers, and journalists that they all dream to be.
Americans could learn a lot from the young girls who reside at the end of the long dirt road.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Safari Bound

Carrie was sick all night. She's on her antibiotics and with us in the van. She is tough, but is the first to say it's a miracle. She got about an hours worth of sleep. It's an amazing trip but not without its risks even for the most seasoned of travelers. We are taking care of each other like a make shift family would. We all feel lucky to have one another.

Parting Thoughts by Jeff Pearson

Words cannot express the emotions we are all feeling right now. Just as we were beginning to bond with the girls, we have to return home (for now), already missing the girls before we drive out the gate.

None of us will ever forget this life-changing experience, and we are truly humbled by it. This is not a goodbye, but instead a beginning and an opportunity. I challenge each of us, as well as everyone we know, to participate in the next chapter of the WISER story.

Packing up

Getting ready to head into the jungle. The last post from WISER is coming soon.

Rainbow led us to this pot of gold.


We received so many letters tonight. Here is an excerpt from one:

"I learned a lot during this short time and I wish to know more and this will help me so much in life...thank you for your love and care for us...we promise not to let you down and promise to do our best."


We went to say goodnight to the girls. It's 8:15 pm and they are still dressed in their uniforms and sitting in the classrooms studying and doing homework.

We walked through each class and sang the WISER song. The girls joined in and helped us with the rounds. We hugged and cried and blew each other kisses. They have had as big an impact on us as we have on them.

Each has made a permanent impression on our hearts.

Below: Wendy and her pen pal Annit

Emotional Goodbyes

So many new friends. So hard to say good bye. So much more to do.

Feel the Power

Power is back. The girls honored us as we are leaving with the WISER song.

Here are the lyrics:

Life is a journey
You learn each passing day
And though you may stumble
You will find your way.

We've been told the sky is the limit
But there are foot prints on the moon
When we expand our minds we'll see
Learning can set us free.

Learn WISER, and see all that you know
Grow WISER, above the earth below
Be WISER, and see where you can go

Don't tell me I can't succeed
I can make dreams a reality
I won't stop no matter what
I can reach the top

Learn WISER, and see all that you know
Grow WISER, above the earth below
Be WISER, and see where you can go

Tomorrow we will leave here at 6:30 am local time to head to safari. Leaving here will be bittersweet. We have learned, we have loved and we have grown WISER. Thank you, WISER Girls. You are in our hearts now and there you will remain.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Morning After

I've never heard rain like the pelting we got last night. We lost power and have yet to recover it. Without power at home our world would stop. We are taking cold showers and heading to class. If I don't blog for a bit, it's because my phone died. Have a great day, I know we will.

Quote of the day, "No one told them it was impossible, so they did it," Mark Twain

The Graduate

Megan Goepfert graduated today while we were here! Congratulations and thank you for setting an example for the girls. J&J is enabling the education of girls all around the world.

Inspirations on a White Board

Jeff witnessed one of the girls writing on a white board in his classroom after class. He went back to see what she wrote...