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A classroom is a classroom...?

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From Michael Bzdak, Ph.D., Director, Johnson & Johnson Corporate Contributions

As part of my work in global philanthropy, I occasionally have the privilege to visit some of our partners to experience their reality and to understand their challenges.  A couple of weeks ago, a small group from Johnson & Johnson spent a few hours at Nyumbani Village in rural Kenya. Nyumbani Village is a self-sustaining community designed to serve orphans and adults who have been affected by the HIV pandemic.  The Village, a three-hour drive from Nairobi, provides a family-like setting for orphaned children under the care of elderly adults. According to their web site, the Village seeks "to ensure that the children receive love, sustenance, health-care, holistic education and culture transfer, aiming at their physical, psychosocial and spiritual development, and, at the same time, providing holistic care and support for the grandparents in their later years."

In advance of our visit,  I made a request to spend some time in the classroom. I was thrilled to be able to teach in the equivalent of a ninth-grade English class where the students were learning the nuances of the English language.  Although a far cry from the "smart classrooms" of our New Jersey schools, the classroom at Nyumbani was a simple but powerful learning environment.  I worked hard to engage the students and was rewarded with enthusiastic student participation.  These students possessed the sincere passion for learning that teachers everywhere hope to see in their classrooms.  Although I'm hopeful that I was able to impart some wisdom, the students left me with a profound sense of respect for their desire to learn.  As the class ended, I was deeply disappointed to leave this amazing room where, without the assistance of laptops and PowerPoint presentations,  hopes and dreams are nurtured each day.

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