Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Year Ahead - 2018

While 2017 saw some of the biggest developments to date- including a complete rebrand of our organization and expansion to a second campus, we are extremely excited about what lies ahead this year.

As we enter our 13th year in operation, we have some big plans on the horizon. Not only are we continuing to develop our second campus in Kahunda, where we anticipate accepting our first residential girls and developing our Early Childhood Center this year, but in many of our programs, we are excited to partner with both private organizations and the Tanzanian government to use our model to effect larger-scale change. 
Mainsprings' second campus in Kahunda

Toward the end of 2017, three of our staff members became certified in Permaculture Design in Kenya, which will allow us to have more professional and certificate-bearing permaculture seminars on both of our campuses this year. This ultimately helps subsistence farmers better utilize their own land to feed their families, turn a profit, and restore the environment to a more natural landscape. As our own permaculture farm grows on both campuses, we also anticipate having record-breaking harvests and profits from the farm in 2018!

This past year we also partnered with several governmental and private schools to expand our adolescent reproductive health curriculum, ultimately allowing youth, especially girls, to understand their rights and roles in society and how to live a healthy life. We plan to continue to partner with the same (and more schools) in 2018, which will enable us to implement this curriculum and relay this valuable education to thousands of underprivileged youth in the region.

And, we would be remiss to not celebrate the yearly turnover that is happening in our residential
program. Every December, more girls graduate from our secondary school, realizing their dreams of higher education and the ability to live a prosperous life. While it is always sad to see them leave our house, we know that they will always be a part of the Mainsprings family and that it means we are able to accept more vulnerable girls into our family. With four graduates ‘leaving the nest’ in 2017, this means 4 new girls will be able to call Mainsprings home in 2018.

While we could write pages and pages about other exciting plans we have this year, these are just a few of the many exciting things we anticipate for 2018 and we would not be able to do it without your support! It is amazing what YOU have accomplished over these past 12 years and all of us- from the tiniest preschoolers to our entire board and staff- are extremely grateful that you continue to help us grow and work to end poverty- one child, one community at a time!

Guest Blogger Chris Gates is Mainsprings' Founder & CEO.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Look Back At 2017

It’s been quite the year for us. One of the biggest changes we experienced this past year is our new look.

Starting the year off as JBFC, we are now known as Mainsprings, with an entirely new look and feel to our organization. However, as always, we are still true to our namesake and mission of alleviating extreme rural poverty in Tanzania-one child, one community at a time.
But, the new look is not all that happened at Mainsprings this year. We are here to serve our children and communities, and so many exciting developments happened these past twelve months. As we close out this year, it’s hard to remember everything that has happened in Tanzania, but we would like to highlight a few accomplishments that YOU helped us achieve:

* We continued to have 100% pass rate on our 7th grade national exam

* We graduated our third class from secondary school

* We harvested of 36 TONS of fresh produce and built a wonderful new greenhouse on our flagship campus
* Our farm saw the births of and raised hundreds of chickens, pigs, sheep, and bunnies

* Our school continued to educate and feed 400 students daily

* Our clinic provided healthcare to more than 1,000 community members

* We established a permaculture program on our second campus

* We employed more than 80 East Africans

* We hosted 107 volunteers on our flagship campus

 * We continued to provide a loving home to more than 55 vulnerable girls

* And we supported 12 girls in higher education

As we look back, we are in awe at what is happening. This movement is truly changing the lives of thousands of individuals in Tanzania because of YOUR support.

We look forward to doing even more in 2018 and hope you have a very Happy New Year! We will see you next year…

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Successful First Year of Basketball

December 15th, 2017, is a big day for our organization- especially the young ballers on our Bibi Mimi’s Girls’ Home basketball team! The team, officially known as J-MOND, will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Friday. To mark the occasion- as well as all of the hard work, accomplishments, and successes that the girls have had this year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the inaugural season.

Sports are an extremely important part of childhood for many kids, and at Mainsprings we value sports as a way to keep our girls, staff, and students healthy and happy. Sports are also an important way to teach important life lessons about commitment, communication, cooperation, and discipline and they serve as a way to continue to mold young leaders. Basketball has long been a dream at Mainsprings, particularly so for our residential girls ever since we constructed basketball hoops and retrofitted them to our tennis court at the beginning of 2016. Since then, the girls have gone from learning the basics of dribbling a basketball in the girls’ home dining hall with volunteer Hannah Walter, to now producing some of the best young players in all of Mwanza region.

On December 15th, 2016, eighteen residential girls from Bibi Mimi’s Girls Home held their first official meeting to discuss adding basketball to the girls’ activities schedule. For roughly six months, the girls had been playing basketball on their new court and learning the basics of dribbling, passing, making layups, and playing defense. Exactly one year ago they decided to move from having a basketball “club” to creating an official basketball “team.” The girls created an exercise schedule, implemented team rules (attending and being on time to all practices, respecting each other, using good language, following rules, etc.), elected two captains (Vale and Getruda), and, most importantly, set goals for their young team.

The 2017 season- despite some challenges and painful losses at the beginning of the year- was a year full of accomplishments that the girls, and our whole community, should be proud of.  Some of these accomplishments include:

· Learning the fundamentals of basketball and learning what it means to be an athlete (teamwork, leadership, discipline, cooperation, respect)

· Setting a practice schedule, creating team rules, setting team goals, and playing dozens of games against the Joseph and Mary boys

· Competing in over 15 games in Mwanza

· Sending four girls- Vale, Nyamisi, Lau, and Neema- to a training camp at Orkeeswa Secondary School

· Sending the team’s assistant coach- Ms. Atamba- to the training camp at Orkeeswa Secondary School twice

While 2017 has been a great year for our fledgling basketball program, we fully expect 2018 to be even better. The girls and coaches have big hopes for the New Year. As a team, the girls have set the goal of being the top girls’ basketball team in Mwanza region in 2018, and in the top 10 best teams in the nation within five years.

Guest Blogger, Seth Diemond, is Mainsprings' COO in Tanzania and resident basketball fanatic.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Graduation 2017

Last Friday, Mainsprings and the Joseph and Mary Schools graduated its third class of Form 4 students. These 27 young men and women have now completed their O-Level secondary education and are now awaiting the results of their Form 4 national exams that will help determine where they will head in life.
Mainsprings' four graduating residential girls - Maggie, Julie, Martina, and Siwema

In honor of such a big accomplishment, our Kitongo campus hosted its second major graduation in as many months. As a final send off for our Form 4 graduates- many of whom have been on our campus and in our school for years- nearly 600 attendees came out to celebrate their successes. Joseph and Mary’s 400 students, our flagship campus' 70 person staff,  Mainsprings US-based staff-including CEO Chris Gates, Mainsprings Kahunda Director, Mr. Lyimo, and dozens of government officials and community members came together in honor of the 17 girls and 10 boys who walked across the stage and received their diplomas.

The Magu District Commissioner and several other government officials escorted the graduates as they marched from our central office building to the dining hall where staff, students, families, and community members patiently waited. Cutting the ribbon at the entrance, the District Commissioner officially kicked off the graduation and watched as the graduates danced their way past the invited guests and to their seats.
Just as with our 7th grade graduation in October, our third Form 4 graduation was filled with original entertainment from Joseph and Mary students who used the day to showcase what they have learned in school. Primary School students created skits depicting the history of Tanzania’s past and present political leaders, presented about different science subjects, and performed original songs wishing the graduates off well. Joseph and Mary Secondary School students performed a graduation-themed remix to Jay-Z’s “Forever Young” as well as a wonderful performance of Empire’s “Powerful” by residential girls Happy, Leticia, Zai, and Neema Daniel. A group of secondary students- led by our lab technician Mr. Mikela- made (and subsequently marketed) soaps and perfumes that they had learned how to make in their science class.
As with any major ceremony, our class of 2017 was showered with advice from a host of speakers.  Ms. Atamba, one of our school managers, gave a speech about the history of our organization, how far the students had come and how far they still have to go, as well as our school’s emphasis on co-curricular activities. Athumani and Maggie addressed the graduates and guests on behalf of the whole class and expressed their collective gratitude for the education they received through our many programs- both in and out of the classroom. Athumani, one of our scholarship students, talked about how much Mainsprings, and especially Mr. Samo, has done to empower him. Our Guest of Honor- District Commissioner Hadijah R. Nyembo- spoke to the importance of using their education to empower themselves and their communities as well as to her appreciation to the cooperation between Mainsprings and the Tanzanian government.

The highlight of the day, as always, was the handing out of certificates and diplomas. First, the Office of Student Development handed out superlative awards to various students for accomplishments in leadership, sports and games, cleanliness, arts and music, etc. Mr. Kidapanda then handed out awards for students who excelled in the various subjects taught at Joseph and Mary. Finally, the District Commissioner- who serves as a Mayor to Magu District- handed out the graduates’ diplomas as they each took a turn walking across the stage, shaking hands, and being recognized by all of the guests in attendance.

As a final celebration, all of the guests were treated to a community lunch of rice, pilau, friend chicken, beef stew, fruits, vegetables and soda. Congratulations to the Class of 2017! We are so proud of you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Mama Paulina

Editor's Note: This Staff Spotlight highlights Mama Paulina, who has been a matron at our Bibi Mimi's Girls' Home on our flagship campus of Kitongo, but who will be moving to our second campus in Kahunda to become the Head Matron of our girls home.

How long have you been working for Mainsprings?:

"I have been working for Mainsprings for four years."

What is your job position and what are some of your responsibilities?:

"I am a matron in the girls' home here in Kitongo, and I will be the manager of the Kahunda girls' home. My main responsibilities are to take care of the girls and make sure of their safety and the campus safety. I also make reports."

What is your favorite thing about working at Mainsprings?:

"I like that Mainsprings takes care of their workers. Also, they help us to solve the problems that we face. We are a family and that's why we end up doing a really good job!"

What are the biggest challenges you face with your job?:

"The challenges I face are normal challenges that all parents have, like making sure the girls follow the rules, do their chores, etc.

 Are you looking forward to your move to Kahunda as a manager?:

"Yes! I am really happy that I have been given this opportunity. First of all, I love to be a matron and I love children. So I'm happy that I have been given this opportunity to continue learning ad have more responsibilities. I'm looking forward to continue learning and growing as a worker and as a person. I'm going to be a manager and I take that position really seriously. I'm going to work really hard to achieve mine and the organization's goals."

What are you most nervous/anxious about with the move?:

"I'm nervous about getting to know my new boss! I'm used to working with Seth, Melinda, and Paula, and now that is going to change. I will now get to work with Mr. Lyimo!"

And finally, what will you miss most about the Kitongo Campus?:

"I'll miss the girls a lot.  I've been with them for a long time and I love them so much. I will also miss my bosses here, and in general, I'm going to miss the people from this campus because we are a big family!"

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Impact of Sports and Games

Sports and Games are vital to students and staff for different reasons at Joseph and Mary.

At Joseph and Mary, we use sports and games as tools for vibrant health. Students who are active show that they are not only healthier, but are also ready to perform day-to-day activities in the classroom without any problems. Sports and games can also be used as a learning platform whereby students are introduced to new games that are not common in our government schools- good examples of what we offer at Joseph and Mary are basketball and tennis.

Apart from physical gain, our students learn leadership skills by being team leaders where they learn different leadership techniques. These skills also promote teamwork because as a team they work towards the same goals and objectives. The skills they learn as leaders and in teamwork will benefit them long after they leave Joseph and Mary Schools.

The above advantages are made possible by integrating different programs into our daily schedule. This year, we created formal sports teams that include tennis, basketball, soccer, handball, volleyball, and netball. Teams are given time three days a week for training. Inclusion also helps us try to nurture young talent by giving opportunities to young kids from preschool through 2nd grade during recess programs twice a week.
By working closely with our partners in the Tanzanian government, our aim is to not only improve the sports and games at Joseph and Mary but also to improve athletics across our whole district. Our aim is to have students from Joseph and Mary playing nationally and beyond. In fact Joseph and Mary is one of the only private schools in the whole country recognized by the government by being selected to be an “Academy” where students of different games and talents will be developed.
Mainsprings residential girl and 2015 graduate, Neema, who was selected to play on the Mwanza Women's Premier Team.

Since the government has realized our hard work in promoting sports and games in our district, the Ministry of Youth Sports and Games is working hand in hand with us. Recently, our basketball team represented our district in the government competition at the national level. Also our school was requested by the District Education Director to train teachers from government schools on basic skills in tennis. Working with the government, we were able to train teachers from various schools around our district with the hopes that they can start tennis programs at their schools.

Most importantly, our sports and games programs give our students a chance to have fun!

Guest Blogger, Mr. Samo, is Joseph and Mary's Dean of Students and Head of the Office of Student Development.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Mr. Jonas

Editor's Note: This Staff Spotlight highlights Mr. Jonas, who previously worked for Mainsprings as a Secondary School teacher before departing to complete his Bachelors Degree in Administration and Education. With his studies complete, he is now back on the Mainsprings campus, working as our Campus Registrar.

How long have you been working at Mainsprings?:

"Almost three years in total, with a break in between to complete my Bachelor's Degree in Administration and Education."

Why did you decide to do this job?:

"I love the interaction I can have in my job with both the parents and students. I feel this job provides opportunities to help prepare a future generation to be competent and have the skills to live a full life. This is important to me as I want to invest in the future generation. I also felt I was a good educator and I wanted to take the next step in upgrading my skills through first my education, and now in a new and challenging job position. I like that it is a profession that has different activities and will always keep me learning. 

What do you enjoy most about your position?:

"I like when I have a plan, set it in motion, and then see that is has gone well. In particular, I like when I see this happen with the students that I help and then have the opportunity to see them prosper and do well."

What is your favorite thing about Mainsprings?:

"My favorite thing about Mainsprings is that we are provided the opportunity to help those who would not otherwise have access to what we have to offer. I appreciate that Mainsprings provides an opportunity to learn for not only the students and girls, but also to the staff and broader community. For example, they teach us to care about our community, give us opportunities to learn about new technology, and provide opportunities to attend seminars and learn."

What are your favorite activities at Mainsprings?:

"First, I really appreciate the various teaching methods we use and facilities we have to offer. Secondly, I love all of the exposure to sports we have, including tennis! It has been really great having the opportunity to have training and learn alongside the students."

What is the biggest challenge of your job?

"I think currently the biggest challenge is outside of Mainsprings. It is challenging to learn the different laws in Tanzania having to do with my administration job. They are always changing and it is a challenge to stay up to date on best practices!"

What do you want to do in the future?:

"I want to continue to learn more and not be closed-minded in this world that is always changing. For example, I want to continue to learn how to use and apply new technology as it continues to develop. I also want to always be learning new approaches to teach students new skills outside of traditional schooling. I want them to learn not only their academic education, but also basic skills that they will carry with them throughout life."