Saturday, March 8, 2014

Postscript Note: the Dynamic Duo

Two unsung heroes of WISER are founder, Sherryl Broverman, and Carrie Arndt of J&J. Sherryl turned an area of study, a theory and an idea into a reality. She works tirelessly on behalf of these girls and has been named an honorary "daughter of the soil" by Muhuru Bay.  

Through her son, Mike, Carrie started out as an ambassdor to J&J for sanitary products and now as a board member and major fundraiser, she breathes life into WISER with all the love, sweat and tears of any mom. 

They bring us together, bring us along and organize us (as best they can). We love you and thank you on behalf of the girls and everyone you've allowed into this gift of WISER.

Pictured: Dr. Sherryl Broverman of Duke University, founder and currently chair of the board, Carrie Arndt of J&J, board member, Madeleine Fackler, board member.

Until Next Year...

As is the tradition, I am signing off the blog from the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi. It's a beautiful night and we are ready to head home. 

The WISER theme I chose when the girls greeted us was LOVE. Kenyan people are so affectionate and loving with one another and they extended that love to us. As we left today we waved "I love you and I'll miss you" while blowing kisses to the girls. 

I hope that even in a small way through this blog you got a sense of who they are and what they fight for. Their bravery knows no bounds. As Olivia (pictured here) reminded us yesterday, we are all G-d's children and we must take care of one another. 

Please join our cause. You are all Karibu (welcome)

Friday, March 7, 2014

Oh Pioneer

I don't know what it's like to be a WISER graduate.  No one does. The girls seemed happy but serious yesterday. The honor is a big responsibility and their work is just beginning, however, we will remain beside them and behind them every step of the way. 

"Oh pioneer
I sing your song
It's the hymn of those who've gone before and those who carry on
Your work is hard
But the future of us all rests on the shoulders of your heart

Where are we going
Oh I don't know
But still I've got to go
What will become of us
Oh I don't care
All I know is I'll go anywhere

Oh pioneer
So young and brave
Be careful of the careful souls who doubt you along the way
You orphaned child
Your mother is adventure and your father is the wild

Where are we going
Oh I don't know
But still I've got to go
What will become of us
Oh I don't care
All I know is I'll go anywhere

Let your heart not be troubled

I won't run when bullets chase me
I won't rest where arms embrace me
I will love when people hate me
I won't hush, no you can't make me
Send the dark but it won't break me
You can try but you can't change me
Take my life, they will replace me
I won't hush, no you can't make me
I won't hush, no we will sing

Where are we going
Oh I don't know
But still I've got to go
What will become of us
Oh I don't care
All I know is I'll go anywhere

Let your heart not be troubled"

The Band Perry


Gifts come in many forms. You can be gifted with a talent, intelligence, musical ability or with something that merely fills you with joy when you are in possession of it. 

Being here with these brave young women is a gift. It fills me with joy, hope and peace to see their shining smiles. I will leave tomorrow, but I will take them with me in my heart and keep them safe until I return in January to receive
them again. 

Live. Learn. Be WISER

Graduation Day!

It's graduation day and the entire campus is full of excitement!  Crews of people worked all night long putting up chairs and tents and getting ready for the big day.  

The ceremony was supposed to begin at 10:00am, but in reality began at 1:00pm as often happens here in Kenya.  The faculty and graduates processed into the tented area, and we began a three hour celebration with pomp, circumstance, many speeches, and a blazing hot sun.

But to say it was worth it is an understatement. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Graduation Rehearsal

Excitement mounts as the graduates return to rehearse, greet friends and get cards of congratulation. 

Brave Mothers

Carolyne Gor blew me away last year when I learned that she, a 36 year old mother of four, enrolled at WISER. Her oldest daughter, Mary is two years behind her and prouder of her today than anyone. 

Good Good...Great Morning!

Excitement is in the air! The sun is shining, each car load lets off another group of people. The girls begin to cheer as a band in matching uniforms arrive. As sleep was futile, the girls were up at dawn preparing the campus for visitors. We greeted the newer guests and then the girl reprimanded us (lovingly) for not having greeted their classes yet so we walked down to take millions of selfies with them. Let the commencement begin!

Lights Out in the Bunk House

Literally, the generators are down and we have no power. But as I lay under my mosquito netting. I can hear the sound of the girls singing in the distance. Beautiful melodies with perfect harmonies. Ah to be WISER 

The Countdown Begins...

The excitement is palpable. One of the girls said to me, "I wish it was right now!" Tomorrow will be amazing. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Teacher Kennedy

Teacher Kenney is one of a kind. In a world where male teachers were at one time unsafe, he is kind, engaging, funny and talented. 

"If you agree that the answer is X, stand on this side of the room!" The girls are out of their seats and moving around. 

He is a treasure and the girls love his class, as did we. 

Attending Classes (including PE)

It's hot here in Kenya...yes, "Africa hot." We attended math class, physics, English and PE (soccer/football in the hot sun in a maxi dress, and that was Jeff).  For the record, my team won 2-1 (I played defense and they scored the single goal on me). 

Now preparations are in full swing for gradation. 

As we sat in classes I was blown away. The girls aren't just engaged, they are hanging on every word. They participate competitively. Knowledge is dangled before them and the reach for it as though it would disappear if not siezed immediately. And they are always prepared. They come ready, studied, well-read and hands raised to answer every, seriously, every question. 

It's inspiring. 

WISER Welcome!

The girls gave us a welcome that made the journey worth every step! They sang and danced and invited us to join. It is like coming home as the breeze off Lake Victoria washes over us. 

Madame Dorcus informed us that the scores put WISER in the top 100 of private schools (77 out of more than 2000) including boys schools. Pretty amazing for the first gradation class. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


In 8 hours the festivities begin! Long, bumpy ride ahead but nothing compared to the one behind us. 

Why is education of girls the key?

Many organizations have noted that educating girls is critical to ending hunger, poverty, child mortality. So what makes WISER different? 

First, the focus on not just enrollment, but completion. 

Second, the issue is not just gender inequality, but gender violence.  Real physical violence. But also "structural violence" in the system. And the emotional violence that accompanies it. They are demeaned, demoralized, abused, sexually assaulted and, most criminally, the girls begin to believe they are worth two cows. 

Third, the schools, if they can stay in them, are not adequately set up to help them succeed. They would have to do unthinkable things for school fees, kerosine for lamps to study by (remember the sun goes down at 6 pm), with no support from families. 

Pushing the girls into the schools is hazardous and the girls blame themselves for failing. The best they can hope for is to find a husband to take care of them. The girls may even begin in primary school as high-performing well and then begin to internalize the abuse and the failure begins. 

As a comparator, at other local schools. few girls get above a D on exams, none qualify for university. 30% attrition each year. 

WISER is a gender safe school and environment. The girls get weekly counseling sessions in addition to everything else. NOW, WITH THE EXAM RESULTS, WE HAVE PROVEN THE APPROACH WORKS!!! 

What can you do? Keep WISER going. The future is promising but not guaranteed. Donate now


A beautiful poem by graduating Sophie Stella. 

What the Scores Mean

Guest blog from Carrie:

I became involved with WISER in late 2006.  We have seen what the social empowerment of these young women can create for the future.  Now we have test scores to validate what we have watched blossom over the past 4 years.

A single number that defines your future. A number that opens doors.  A number that Kenya defines.  And the WISER students are now the stars.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Scores are in!!!!

We got the KCSE - university qualifying exam. Twenty girls have passed, fifteen of the girls qualify for scholarships!!!  Amazing news!! The girls are dancing and singing!!!

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Sheryl Broverman, PhD, Professor of Biology and Global Health and her faithful protégés Carrie Ardnt, Jeff Pearson and Madeleine Fackler begin the day with breakfast in Nairobi. Fingers crossed we will see the scores today that determine university admissions for the girls. 

As an aside: it's a beautiful day sunny and 65 degrees. 

Greetings from Nairobi

Twenty-seven hours later, we arrived safely in Nairobi. It's hard to believe that seven years there was no educational option for girls in Muhuru Bay and now twenty eight of them will graduate from secondary school for the first time in history. I believe in miracles.