Editor’s Note: This week’s blogger is Travis Purser, Tulsa, OK, who first came to JBFC as a volunteer and now is the organization’s latest full-time employee.
When I made the decision to come to JBFC, I was unsure what I would be doing; how long I would stay; and if volunteering in Tanzania was really what I was looking for. I left my hometown in Oklahoma and boarded an international flight last December with only the hope that maybe I could find some clue as to where I wanted my life to go.
When I arrived, the Joseph and Mary Schools had just one class remaining before the end of the year break started. So for my first task as a new volunteer at JBFC, the staff asked if I would help find activities for the girls to do over their break, to keep them both physically active, as well as, actively practicing their English, reading and math skills. For the first month, every day fellow volunteer Elisa Masso and I would take all the JBFC girls out to participate in various activities such as math lessons, reading sessions, pen pals or playing fun games like capture the flag and soccer.
To be honest, the first week was a little stressful – not knowing the girls’ names; trying to figure out how to teach long division with remainders to kids whose first language isn’t English; learning the routines of campus; and trying to adjust to Tanzanian lifestyle.
But it didn’t take long for that stress to fade away. By week two, I was hooked.
I was taken in by everything about JBFC and Tanzania. The people, the simple lifestyle, weather, wildlife, the incredible view of Lake Victoria. But most of all, it was the 44 girls that in only one week’s time made me realize that this place is exactly the one place I want to be.
These new relationships and connections formed gave me such a sense of peace and happiness that I started to get the feeling that I might end up sticking around for quite a while.
After about two months, Chris and the JBFC staff asked if I would like to join the team as the guest coordinator. I was extremely excited to get to be a part of the JBFC team. The job would require me to work from March through August, having a completely different role with different responsibilities. Instead of focusing my day on the JBFC girls, I focused on making sure school groups and other volunteers had a schedule of activities that would help them get the most out of their time here. I got to spend a lot of time with our guests, and so I was there to watch each guest react to the impressive development of the campus and farm, our methods for self- sustainability via solar power electricity and a solar water pump, the girls’ home and, of course, the interactions with the JBFC girls.
The most amazing part of my job, was getting to watch first time volunteers truly understand what an amazing place this really is. Seeing guests leave transformed – knowing they have the ability to change a life for the better; that they can make a difference in someone else’s life – is one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever felt.
That’s when I knew I wanted to find a career in non-profit organizations, whether it be JBFC or somewhere else. Well, fortunately for me JBFC is trying to replicate its model in another community in Tanzania and recently posted an opening for another campus director (Editor’s Note: Seth Diemond is JBFC’s current campus director and will be helping to develop and eventually moving to JBFC’s second site). After some thought, I decided to give it a chance and apply for the job.
After several interviews and discussions, I am humbled and honored to say that I was offered, and have chosen to take the position. Just as my roles and responsibilities changed from volunteer to Guest Coordinator, my roles and responsibilities will change again as I move to Director-in-training. I have much to learn, but am excited and motivated to do everything in my power to help JBFC continue its mission.
JBFC has done more for me in the last 9 ½ months than I begin to explain. It has made a difference in my life. It has changed my life.
Now with the support of the JBFC team and my friends and family, I get the chance to give back, and do everything I can, to make a difference in as many people’s lives as I can.
Thank You, JBFC!
Travis Purser is a University of Tulsa graduate. He first came to JBFC in December of 2013 as a long-term volunteer, before being hired as the Guest Coordinator for JBFC’s Summer Volunteer Program. He will now serve as Director-in-Training, preparing to fill current Seth Diemond’s (JBFC’s Current Campus Director) shoes. Purser will become the Kitongo Campus Director, when Diemond moves to Northern Tanzania to start JBFC’s second campus.