Thursday, October 12, 2017

Expanding Literacy In Our Community

Over the last two months, it’s been a common sight to see six students from Joseph & Mary’s Form 2 class walking into Kitongo with an armful of books each Sunday afternoon. This is a result of JBFC’s expansion to the Family Literacy Program, which started in January 2016. The Form 2 students participate in the program, which serves as their mandatory community service project, for an entire year before handing the program off to the upcoming Form 2 class.

The original program –in partnership with Sarah Lawrence College – strives to encourage reading in the classroom and at home. While starting as a way to encourage parents to become more actively involved in their children’s educations and encourage literacy in the community, it has developed into a four-week seminar that parents take one grade at a time. Over these four weeks, parents discuss the challenges that their children face academically, creative ways to support their children at home, and solutions such as buying more books for their homes, encouraging student to attend school daily, and reading with their children themselves.

It is led by Joseph and Mary’s Dean of Students, Mr. Samo and our Literacy Coordinator, Mr. Simon. The Form 2 students participate in many ways including translating, surveying, providing childcare, and cooking. This program has seen great success and each Wednesday many parents arrive to learn more about their child’s education, while becoming part of the solution to some of the challenges they may face.

This past June, students from The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey worked with Joseph & Mary’s Form 2 students to expand this program into the community. Over three days, students from both schools discussed the challenges that the community faces, which range from community members’ lack of access to books to parents not being able to read themselves. What they came up with was partnering with the local Baptist church to create a book nook in their community centre where parents, students, community members, and children, who are not yet in school, can go to read and access books in English and Swahili. The students then scheduled time with the Kitongo Baptist Church and presented the idea to the pastor and some of the church members, officially launching the addition to the program on June 28, 2017.

Under the supervision of two Form 2 students – Emmaculate Immanuel and Peter Nicholas – the program has taken the initial book nook and expanded it. Six students at a time from the Form 2 class rotate going to the church after the Sunday service with an armload of bilingual Swahili-English story books.

Each student finds one or two partners and together they sit and read, often taking turns sounding out words. Participants can ask how to pronounce different words and what they mean in a safe, non-judgmental environment at no cost. If they are struggling with reading in general they can focus on the Swahili text of the book or if they’re striving to learn English, they can focus on that. Typically there are 10 to 12 participants from the congregation and surrounding community that range from toddlers to elders.

This program is looking like it will continue to grow and change to address obstacles, but these first two steps have demonstrated how partnerships and some students creativity can make a huge difference in a community.
This blog was written by two guest bloggers, Jeff DeViller and Emma. Jeff is Mainsprings' Volunteer Coordinator in Tanzania, and Emma is is one of Mainsprings' residential girls. She is currently in Form 2 at Joseph and Mary Secondary School. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Trek Tanzania 2017

Last year, Mainsprings launched its inaugural walk-a-thon, "Trek Tanzania: A Virtual Climb of Kilimanjaro". While climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on many people's bucket lists, few get the opportunity to actually travel to Tanzania and take on Africa's highest peak. As many climbers (including our own Administrative Director, Melinda Wulf) would tell you, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of determination over several grueling days to make it to the summit.

That being said, we found out very quickly last year that we have some incredibly active and fit
supporters, who are more than capable of walking the entire route and then some! We had groups of friends and families taking morning walks to get coffee or out for an evening stroll, all while counting their steps to see if they could reach the 89,480 steps it takes to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and back down. Not only were these supporters making themselves healthier during our week-long walk-a-thon, but they were simultaneously making our community in Tanzania healthier by raising money for our healthcare clinic.

We also found out that our teams of supporters were not only competitive with how many steps they were each achieving, but with raising money. Together, they helped us raise over $30,000 for our clinic which provides preventative health services to a community of more than children and families.

This year, we are launching our second Trek Tanzania, but the rules will be slightly different than last year. Instead of running for one-week only like last year, Trek Tanzania 2017 will run for the entire month of October - and yes, even though it is now October 4th and the competition technically started three days ago, it is not too late to register and start tracking your steps and fundraising!

How can you participate? There are multiple ways!

Grab your friends and family and create a team, or tackle the trek solo. Be sure to register yourself or your team (you can do so by clicking here), and use the entire month of October to track your steps and see if you can reach 89.480 by the end of the month. You can also get friends and family to sponsor your virtual climb, which will help raise money for our clinic.

Prizes will be awarded to the team that raises the most money by the end of the month, as well as the team that reaches the summit first. You and your teammates are responsible for tracking your steps via whatever method you prefer (MapMyRun, iPhone Health app, Fitbit, pedometer, etc.). To complete the trek, your team must walk 89,480 steps per team member. For example, if you are a team of five, your team needs to complete 447,400 steps (that's 89,480 x 5 participants) AS A TEAM. This means that some people can walk more than others, you just need to complete the required amount of steps cumulatively. Be sure to let us know when you and your teammates have completed your steps!

Happy trekking!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Growing into Mainsprings

As many of you may remember, we celebrated our 10th anniversary last year and had many exciting changes and developments as an organization. Our first graduates started college, our primary school ranked 18th in the entire nation of Tanzania, and we worked with the government to move into a second campus site and began development there. Our team has grown and we as an organization are ready to take on bigger challenges after seeing the successes of the past decade and maturing as an organization. However, there were many things about our look and name that needed to change in order to better reflect who we are now and how we intend to grow. That is why we enlisted the support of AcrobatAnt, a Tulsa-based marketing firm, earlier this year. Over several months, AcrobatAnt helped to interview various stakeholders in our organization, helped to fine-tune who we are and where we are going, and finally came up with the incredible new look and feel of Mainsprings: The Janada Batchelor Foundation for Children.
Our namesake, Janada Batchelor (my Mimi), who originally introduced me to Tanzania, is still a part of our new identity and will always remain a part of who we are. That will not change. But, time and time again, we heard the acronym “JBFC” was tricky to remember and didn’t accurately reflect who we are and what we do. When we were first presented with possible new names and came across Mainsprings, many of us figured it was the source of a spring or at least had something to do with the flow of water, which many of us liked the image of, but we were not completely on board. However, after looking at the actual definition (something that plays a principal part in motivating or maintaining a movement, process, or activity), we were sold. That is who we are. We are a motivator for a movement to end poverty. We are not the solution- but we are a catalyst in the communities we serve. 

Throughout these next few months, we will slowly be transitioning from using the acronym “JBFC” to “Mainsprings” and will be rolling out an entirely new look. As you can see, we already have new colors and a beautiful new logo. And we will soon have a new website, new brochures, and all of the other fun things that come with this big change! Those of you who were able to attend our Tanzania Backyard Bash last week were able to see our new look in person, and we appreciate you coming out to support us as we not only unveiled this change, but launched our cookbook – our first big project as Mainsprings. I hope that you will continue to grow with us as we continue to unveil our new look this fall. Mainsprings is still devoted to the same mission of alleviating extreme rural poverty- one child, one community at a time. 

As we say in our new brand promise:

“Mainsprings personifies the hope and joy seen in the eyes of East African children and families who are mastering the life skills necessary to break the cycle of poverty and create a sustainable future for themselves and their community. Far greater than the sum of its individual parts, Mainsprings provides compassionate, lasting, innovative change via safe refuge, education, healthcare, and economic sustainability through agriculture. Like a nurturing family, Mainsprings creates an environment where children are empowered to develop life-long skills. Day-in and day-out, and with the partnership of staff, donors, volunteers and local villages, JBFC makes possible a new, hopeful reality for East African communities.”

We hope you will continue to be a mainspring- playing a principal part in our movement as we expand to help thousands of children and their families across East Africa.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Taste of Tanzania

It’s been over four years in the making. What started as a crazy idea with a few friends around a table at Papa’s, our on-campus restaurant and lodge, is coming fresh off the presses tomorrow and making its debut at our Tanzania Backyard Bash- our cookbook, Taste of Tanzania! Anyone who spends any time around me knows that I love to cook and host. For me, cooking is therapy.  Cooking is about experimentation and finding new flavors, but most of all, cooking is about celebrating and being with the ones you love. As my grandmother, Mimi, taught me- you only live once, so you might as well enjoy it and do what you love, with the people you love. That’s how my grandparents lived their lives and that same mantra is what has made our organization what it is today.

Taste of Tanzania is a labor of love, featuring over 120 recipes from around the world, while simultaneously walking readers through some of my own family history, fun stories from our founding, and several pieces about who we are today. Also, the entire look of the book features the new look of our organization, having recently been through a rebrand. We hope this unusual cookbook is as much of a conversation starter as it is a guide to making some delicious dishes!

Taste of Tanzania has taken countless hours from our team in the US and Tanzania, the assistance of many photographers, and countless hours of devotion from our incredible volunteer graphic designer, the one and only- MK Edwards! I may or may not be biased, but I think this book could not be prettier. I would especially like to thank Amanda, Diana, and Travis for so willingly working overtime, who not only continued doing what they normally do to make JBFC great these past several months, but helped me make this cookbook a literary and artistic masterpiece! 

They put up with my crazy ideas, my lack of attention to detail, and my overuse of commas, but never stopped helping to make this project happen. I could not be more grateful to everyone who has helped this dream become a reality, and I hope each and every one of you will experience the Taste of Tanzania!

Please help us spread the word, and consider giving this cookbook as a holiday gift this year! We will be traveling around Denver in the East Coast this fall, so make sure to check out our Facebook page for upcoming cookbook events in your area.

There is still time to buy tickets to our Tanzania Backyard Bash tomorrow evening. Purchase tickets in advance for easy check-in, or buy them at the door!

Taste of Tanzania will be sold at the Tanzania Backyard Bash for $40, or you can check out our website Friday, September 22nd, to learn how you can get a copy of our new cookbook through Amazon (online price is $45 and includes shipping).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Second Home for Some

To me, going to JBFC always seemed like one of those things that other people do. I never thought it was meant for me. I’m someone who enjoys being in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by people I know, and it seemed like such a stretch to go halfway across the world to a place I had never been and be around people I had never met.

I decided to take a leap of faith my junior year of high school and sign up to go to JBFC. I wish I had a huge story and realization that made me go, but I don’t. I just decided, and that was that. Fast forward a couple months and I was about to board a 14 hour plane ride, already going on day two of traveling, and honestly, in the midst of exhaustion, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. We arrived at JBFC at about 10 at night. We were exhausted and ready for some much needed sleep. I woke up the next morning, a Sunday, and walked down the steps to the girls’ dining hall. I stepped inside and I was overcome immediately with a feeling of comfort- I was home. Any doubts and discomfort went away in that single moment. I was overwhelmed with the love I received by people who had just met me. I felt like I had known them for years. 

That whole day was full of firsts for me. The first time meeting the girls, seeing the campus, and most importantly, my first prayer time. At the end of every day, everyone gathered in the girls' home dining hall and the girls sang prayer songs and prayed for what they chose. Although I couldn’t understand most of it, it was my favorite part of that day; and every day after that. That day was the start of a love and passion that grows more and more everyday that I spend on the campus.

Coming home from these trips, I often get questions from people like: “Did that change your life?” and “Do you appreciate everything you have so much more now?” and the short answer is yes. But it’s much more than that. I appreciate my life in America, yes, but my life when I’m on campus in Tanzania is full. It’s obviously very different from life in the United States, but I’ve never been around so many positive, genuinely happy people. The energy and love that they exude is so captivating -  it’s something that I’m missing from my life in America. It’s what makes JBFC the hardest place to leave.

Guest Blogger, Laurel S., is a two-time volunteer with JBFC, first coming as a participant on a high school trip, then most recently visiting this past summer as a participant on our first-ever Experience JBFC trip.  Laurel is currently studying at the University of Kansas. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Ms. Atamba

Editor's Note: This Staff Spotlight highlights Ms. Judith Atamba, who is currently a teacher at Joseph and Mary Primary School, and is also the Assistant to the Head of the Office of Student Development. Ms. Atamba will move to our second campus in Kahunda next year, where she will take on the positions of Head Teacher at our school and assistant matron. 

How long have you been working at JBFC?

"I have been working at JBFC for two and a half years."

Why did you decide to be a teacher?

"The reason I decided to be a teacher is because a teacher doesn't only teach; a teacher is a parent. We do counseling and guiding and all of the duties that the parents do for their kids at home, but we do it in the school. We enable kids to reach their goals!"

What do you like the most from your job?

"My favorite part is teaching, because I have a lot of experience in that field and I feel that I am really good at it."

What is your favorite thing about JBFC?

"JBFC is a good organization because it has a main objective of ending poverty. JBFC wants to end poverty by giving education to people, healthcare, and supporting members by giving them food throughout the day. I also like that we have been working in cooperation with all the workers and local villagers and I hope we can keep having this spirit!"

What are your favorite activities at JBFC?

"Sports and games because I like to see the talent of the students out of the classroom. For example, seeing Neema M. playing both football and basketball is very impressive!"

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

"Students not performing very well in the subjects that I teach (math, English, and social studies). Sometimes students believe that these subjects are too hard for them. They convince themselves that they can't do them and so they don't perform well. I usually have extra time with them, talk to them, build them up psychologically, and make sure they end up convinced that they can do it."

What do you want in the future?

"I want to continue aiming higher and higher, so that I may do my work perfectly and help all students reach their goals!"

“Miss Atamba is a force to be reckoned with and always brings exuberance and life to the classroom, meetings, or even conversations," says JBFC Founder and CEO, Chris Gates.  "She is an incredible leader and role model- always leading by example and our school and campus would not be the same without her. These are just some of the many reasons we are excited for her to lead the development of our primary school on our second campus."

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kahunda Campus Progress

In order to fulfill JBFC's mission to alleviate extreme rural poverty in East Africa, JBFC's leaders believe it must expand. The goal is to provide more girls with a safe home, more students with a quality education, and more communities with access to healthcare and an economic engine to escape poverty. In order to accomplish this, JBFC realized it needs to build more campuses like our flagship site in Kitongo.

During the spring of 2016, JBFC began inquiring about potential sites in need of JBFC's services. The Mwanza Regional government suggested the district of Buchosa as a potential area for JBFC expansion. This is one of Mwanza region's newest districts, and lacks resources, has very limited services, and has limited NGOs operating in the area. Our second campus in the village of Kahunda, in Buchosa, also lies on the shores of Lake Victoria and is approximately 50 miles from our Kitongo campus, though it is accessed by ferry from Mwanza (it is approximately 2.5-3 hours by car).
After deciding on this location, one of the first things JBFC did was find a Campus Director for this second site. Mr. Seraphine Lyimo, whose Staff Spotlight appeared on last week's blog, was the perfect candidate. Mr. Lyimo, along with Kahunda Campus Manager, Marcus (who moved over from our Kitongo campus), have been busy developing this second campus and preparing it for its groundbreaking.
Mr. Lyimo has developed a positive and cooperative working relationship with both the village and district governments in Kahunda. He has begun the process of obtaining all the necessary building and operating permits that will allow us to begin building later this year.

Marcus, with the help of other recently hired farm staff, has planted 1,660 various trees including: citrus, avocado, banana, plantain, and pomelo, just to name a few! They have also installed a water tank and pump for irrigating these trees. The garden is now operational in one of the alleys and is already producing lots of cabbage and lettuce.

We now have 11 full-time workers in the security and farm departments on this second site.

By the end of the year, we expect to begin construction on a chicken coop and a run for laying chickens and local meat chickens. We also intend to plant an additional 1,000 trees in the remaining tree rows. In regard to construction of buildings, we plan to receive building permits for our first two dormitories, a family bungalow, and a central canteen and will hopefully be able to accept our first girls very soon.

Stay tuned for more updates on this growing campus and thank you to everyone who has made this incredible progress possible!