May 25th, 2011

A classroom is a classroom…?

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 (see above photo). 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.

8 Responses to “A classroom is a classroom…?”

  1. Joy says

    Wonderful article on the good works of Johnson & Johnson and your unique perspective as a teacher. Thanks

  2. Lorena says

    Mike – great article and a wonderfully rewarding experience, I am sure. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Brenda Sarokhan says

    I have been left speechless; I stand in awe of your compassion and dedication to making this world a better place for those in need. If ever in need of volunteers for this cause, please contact me.

  4. Denise Sitarik says


    What a special opportunity for you and for those children! Truly a partnership in learning for everyone. Hats off to your committment and dedication to making the world a better place by sharing your special gift for teaching with others. Thanks for sharing…..

  5. Rebecca says

    What an amazing opportunity! I really love Johnson and Johnson products and it is wonderful to see that you are also involved in community outreach. Please keep up the wonderful work!

    Rebecca @ArtIs4YourHeart

  6. Anne Findley says

    What a difference you made in the life of these orphaned children! I know how hard you work and I can imagine their excitement listening to you speak to them. Way to go. You are a terrific J&J Ambassador!

    Anne Findley

  7. Rene Kiamba says

    Wonderful piece Michael – thanks for sharing. As I read it, I could not help thinking how such opportunites are truly golden, and how much the children were privileged to hear from you, even as you heard from them!

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