Editor’s note: Johnson & Johnson has more than 128,000 employees around the world. Throughout 2014, we’re going to bring you their unique stories. Whether they are employees who work with a nonprofit, mentor children, or simply volunteer at their local soup kitchen, we want to show that small acts of kindness can make big changes in the world we live in. These stories have inspired us, and we hope they’ll inspire you, too.
“Those who can lead have an obligation to do so, in the realm of citizenship….” General Robert Wood Johnson, 1949
A successful professional cannot exist in a vacuum. The business side of one’s life must be integrated with family and social facets in order to create a well-rounded individual. I have been involved as a volunteer since childhood — first as a Girl Scout leader while in high school, then as a parent volunteer in my children’s school and extracurricular efforts. Volunteerism was modeled by my parents and I have modeled it for my children.
In the fall of 2006, I received a phone call from my son, Mike Arndt, then a freshman at Duke University, that dramatically changed my life.
Mike explained that the young girls in a rural community in Kenya with a 38% HIV rate were missing school each month due to their period. He asked if it was possible for Johnson & Johnson to donate sanitary supplies. .
That simple request turned into a passion. I brought the needs of the young girls in Muhuru Bay, Kenya to the attention of my colleagues in January 2007 along with an introduction to WISER, the Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research. Muhuru Bay is a community that has not sent a girl to university in over 20 years.
The WISER School opened in January 2010 when 30 students from Muhuru Bay were selected for full scholarships to a newly constructed single-sex residential boarding school in the community. The school expanded each year as it added a new class of 30 students, reaching a full capacity of 120 students in 4 classes in February 2013.
The WISER School is based on three educational pillars:
- Remove all gender-based violence from the educational system. Sexual, physical and psychological abuse of girls is prevalent in many Kenyan schools and has been shown to lead to low aspirations, low self-esteem, and under-achievement. WISER girls thrive in a climate of safety, respect, and high expectations.
- Provide weekly psychosocial support and counseling for all students to build empowerment and leadership skills, raising girls’ ambitions and their ability to achieve them.
- Provide stronge and supportive mentors and role models in the faculty, including the first female principal in the district. Most girls in Muhuru Bay had never met a university-educated woman.
My passion to help the girls of Kenya, and WISER, is embraced by my colleagues at multiple Johnson & Johnson Operating Companies and supported financially by Johnson & Johnson Corporate Contributions’ African Charitable Contributions organization in Sub-Saharan Africa (based in Nairobi). The support from Johnson & Johnson has enabled me to help WISER in ways I had not thought were possible.
My involvement with WISER includes five trips to Kenya, $500,000 in fundraising, partnering with Johnson & Johnson African Charitable Contributions for HIV community research, orphan scholarships, and the distribution of feminine hygiene products. We also led a 10-person Johnson & Johnson volunteer trip to lead a business boot camp at WISER in January 2013. I serve as the Board Secretary for the WISER non-governmental organization in Kenya and WISER International in the United States.
In March 2014, the first class graduated from the WISER school for girls. The results of that graduating class fill me with pride and inspiration:
- Every single girl at WISER passed their national exams.
- 50% of our class scored so highly on the exams that they were eligible for direct enrollment in university, with almost all of them qualifying for full government funding.
- WISER was ranked in the top 5% of the 2000 private schools in Kenya, despite competing against elite private schools that take in only high performing students.
No other school in the region, for boys or girls, had results as good as WISER’s.
It has been amazing to have my personal passions intersect with my professional life in a way that brings about real change in the lives of these young women. I’m excited about the futures that lie ahead for the WISER school graduates this year, and in years to come.
Learn more about the WISER school and programs, visit www.wisergirls.org.
Carrie Arndt is the Director of the Management Comprehensive Action Plan at Advanced Sterilization Products, a Johnson & Johnson company. A medical microbiologist by training, her career has spanned infection prevention, diabetes research, and infectious disease diagnostics in areas ranging from Program Management to Research and Development, Operations and Business Development. Carrie is the mother of two sons, Matt and Mike, and is married to Ed Arndt, Director of Clinical Services.