Thursday, September 22, 2016

Climbing Kilimanjaro - Part 2

Editor's Note: From October 24th through October 28th, JBFC is hosting Trek Tanzania. It's a walk-a-thon, where we're inviting our friends around the world to walk the same number of steps that it would take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to benefit JBFC's healthcare clinic. Guest Blogger and JBFC Administrative Director, Melinda Wulf, has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro THREE times! Here, she describes the second part of her summit on her first climb in 2013. The first part of her trek is chronicled here.

Day 4

Happy and healthy, we enjoyed our trek through more alpine desert. This was a short trekking day and we arrived at base camp in the afternoon. We sat in the mess tent with our guides eating popcorn and playing cards, laughing a lot from the altitude. We had hiked just 2 miles but climbed 2,000 feet and were now over 14,000 feet which was the highest altitude any of us had ever climbed. We were giddy thinking about summiting the next day.

Day 5

We woke up around 1 am with our tents covered in snow. We piled on the layers because we knew it was going to be a cold one. We gathered in the mess tent eating cookies and drinking warm tea and coffee. Our nervous anticipation was back. We had all been preparing for this was the moment for quite some time. 

The first few hours of the summit were switch backs on the mountain. I couldn’t see much other than the guide in front of me, which was probably for the best. The wind was pretty fierce and my layers were working but I was having issues with my gloves. My liners were not warm enough but with the fatter ski gloves I’d brought I couldn’t hold onto my trekking poles. I sucked it up and used the liners hoping I wouldn’t get frost bite.  The water in our water bottles was starting to freeze and I was feeling nauseated from the altitude.

Just around sunrise we reached Stella point which marks the end of the switchbacks and is a short resting point. I really wasn’t feeling well at this point and the guides had to take my head lamp from my head, as it was light out and I hadn’t even noticed. The distance from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak only takes about an hour to walk, but it felt like a marathon.

The walk was pretty surreal as we reached the glaciers and eventually the summit, 19,341 feet. It was a bit chaotic at the top with people that had achieved their goal and were posing for pictures with the infamous sign. We couldn’t stay long at the summit because of the altitude, but got our pictures with the sign, the glaciers and our awesome guides.
As we started walking down the mountain, we started breathing easier and my headache and upset stomach went away. Our water melted and we started stripping off our layers as the sun warmed everything. Exhausted, we “skied” down the scree on our boots and our butts back to base camp for lunch. We were greeted by our porters with a cold Fanta and big smile. I remember choking up at this point just feeling so proud of my accomplishment.

Day 6

On the last day, we walked out of the park pretty quickly. We all smelled pretty bad and couldn’t wait to get back to our hotel to take a shower. We took once last glance at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro through the trees. Most, don’t ever look back but something got under my skin that week. I went on to trek Kilimanjaro 2 more times after this, but have since retired. The bonds I’ve formed with my guides, porters and climbing mates are some of my most cherished friendships.
Do you think you have what it takes to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro like our brave Melinda? Join us for Trek Tanzania and see just how far you can make it! Grab some friends and family, create your own team, and see if you can walk the 89,480 steps it takes to climb Africa's highest peak (steps are counted collectively). All proceeds from our inaugural walk-a-thon will benefit JBFC's Health Clinic. 

Register by clicking here, and don't forget to like our Facebook Page: JBFC's Trek Tanzania

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Climbing Kilimanjaro - Part 1

Editor's Note: From October 24th through October 28th, JBFC is hosting Trek Tanzania. It's a walk-a-thon, where we're inviting our friends around the world to walk the same number of steps that it would take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to benefit JBFC's healthcare clinic. Guest Blogger, Melinda Wulf, is JBFC's Administrative Director in Tanzania. Melinda has climbed and successfully reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro an amazing THREE times!

Below is Melinda's account of her first experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013.
Day 1

With nervous anticipation I watched the guides and porters gather all the equipment, food and supplies needed for six days on the mountain. I sat and wondered how they would get it all up there, when we would start hiking, and if I would actually make it to the summit. Everyone in our group was sitting around eating snacks and making nervous small talk. We all had one goal in mind, to make it to the top, and we were all a little nervous.

We finally started walking up the path around noon and I was in awe, watching the porters pass by us wearing flip flops and carrying 20 kilos (44 pounds) on their back. The initial phase of the trek is in a rain forest, but there aren’t many animals, we saw a few monkeys and lots of insects and birds. We walked pretty slowly, but it’s amazing how quickly I felt the loss of my breath. It started raining and continued to rain until we reached camp that night.

We walked 7 miles and climbed over 4,000 feet in altitude that day. A lot of my things were wet and it was cold. We sat in the mess tent on wet canvas chairs and tried to enjoy our first meal on the mountain. Doubt really started to seep into my head at that point and I remember thinking I couldn’t handle 5 more days like the first.
Day 2

I woke up early with the birds chirping and the sun shining. It was a new day, a new start. I hung my wet clothes from the day before on the outside of my backpack, had some breakfast and started trekking. On the second day we hiked out of the rain forest and into the heather and moorlands that contained lots of moss. We had a lot more sunshine and laughter on day two as we got a “peek of the peak” through the trees. That day we walked 4 miles and climbed about 3,500 feet and spirits were high in the mess tent that night.

Day 3

Looking back, this was by far the hardest, but also my favorite day of the trek. We climbed out of the mossy trees and into the desert which meant climbing lots of rocks. I was thankful for my boot camp training where I’d been doing tons of squats and lunges. Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb, but the Barranco Wall could make you think twice about going further. There’s a portion of the climb where my guide told me to trust my boots and not to look down. I wasn’t sure if I really trusted my boots, but I sure as heck didn’t look down. The hugging or kissing rock, is a large boulder you have to hug to get around on the edge of a cliff. This part of the trek is not for sissies.

At the top of Barranco Wall, we sat and ate our snacks
and took pictures of us above the clouds. We marveled as we watched porters from other groups carry plastic chairs on their heads as they climbed over the wall. It was a challenging, but rewarding day. We walked 3 miles and climbed high and slept low that day reaching our campsite 13,106 feet above sea level.

To be continued...

Trek Tanzania is JBFC's inaugural walk-a-thon! All proceeds from Trek Tanzania will benefit JBFC's Health clinic which provides preventative health services to a community of over 400 children and families.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cooking Up Better Futures

In Tanzania, tourism is big business.

It's one of the major sources of foreign dollars. And it could be the key to a good life for many young Tanzanians.

We know this is true, because we've seen it at our own campus restaurant, Papa's Cafe & Bungalows. Over the last four years, Papa's has continued to grow. And one of the greatest things to watch is the young workers who have flourished in the kitchens and on at the front of house. 

We've seen Fatuma go from a garden worker to a kitchen worker to an invaluable member of our hospitality staff, taking care of more than 150 guests at our guesthouse. She wouldn't have had that kind of career development without her training at Papa's. 

Next year, we hope to formalize that training with a vocational education program at Papa's.  

Thanks to a gift from a generous donor, JBFC has now broken ground on a new classroom to house the Papa’s VETA (Vocational Education Tanzania Authority) program. JBFC plans to offer a registered program that will provide hands-on experience in catering, restaurant management and housekeeping. Upon completion of the two-year program, graduates will receive a certificate in hotel administration.

This will give rural students who may not have the opportunity to go on to Advanced Secondary for Form 5 a chance to get training that will give them a good paying job in the tourism industry.

We hope to enroll approximately 20 students. We will charge a modest tuition, so the program can be sustainable and hopefully another source of revenue for JBFC. 

We've seen so much success at Papa's. And we've seen our employees really take off. One of our favorites, Johnny, was able to save enough from his job at Papa's to purchase a dozen cows. And he used his experience at Papa's to get another job as a safari driver. 

These are the kind of success stories we'd like to spread throughout our community.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

JBFC Girls Get Defensive

A few months back, we announced that JBFC was one of five non-profit organizations chosen to participate in a pilot program to bring self-defense training to girls in the Mwanza region of Tanzania. This training is designed to empower girls to identify potential danger, to act with confident independence to get to safety, and if necessary, know how to physically protect themselves. 

Miss Deo, our Early Childhood Coordinator who doubles as a matron in the Girls' Home, and Felista, our campus Social Worker, attended a week-long training camp in May and began teaching the basics to our Secondary School girls. Here is an update on how the program has expanded.

JBFC's residential girls are getting stronger, faster and tougher, thanks to our new self-defense training program.

The program started back in May with two of JBFC's female leaders attending a self-defense workshop in Mwanza. Miss Deo recently attended another monthly review session and received her certification for the first two levels in self-defense training. Our trainers have now completed nearly 50 hours of instruction and will continue with monthly reviews until next April.

Over the next four months, our trainers will start learning from their peers. All of the participants from the four partner organizations will visit each site to see how everyone is putting self-defense training into practice. The group will visit  JBFC in December.
Miss Deo says she's been really impressed by the JBFC girls' progress over the last three months. "The girls are gaining confidence," Miss Deo said. "[They can] stand and defend themselves. They no longer need to depend on another person."

The Secondary School girls have now completed 12 weeks of training, meeting for two hours every week since June. In August, JBFC expanded the program to include the Primary School girls (Grades 2 and up). Our 7th graders were sidelined while they prepared for the national exams, but they will start participating in September. Before the end of the year, the girls will participate in a two-week training workshop with Miss Deo and Felista.

The older girls have eagerly welcomed their younger sisters in the self-defense training.

"The primary girls are doing wonders in self-defense and already catching up to the big girls,"said Leticia. "Because they are training from a younger age, when they get older they will be even better than us older girls!"

Imma agreed. "It is more fun with the younger girls in the training," she said. "I think it is good for them to learn."

And the younger girls are thrilled to be included.

"It's fun and will help us one day against an enemy," Salome said.

"It is so amazing to learn," Dotto added. "It will help us in the future and it is fun."

"It's good, I like it. It helps us know how to defend ourselves," said Zai. "If someone tries to do bad things to us, we can protect ourselves."

Guest Blogger, Melinda Wulf, is JBFC's Administrative Director in Tanzania.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Welcome to the Family

JBFC’s SUV rumbled through campus, kicking up the dirt road as it went. No one really paid any mind, until we saw who emerged.

It was a cluster of JBFC’s residential girls, a matron, and a little girl clutching their hands with fear written plainly across her face.

I’ve worked for JBFC for almost five years. I have never witnessed a new girl being brought to campus before this moment. And now I realize I didn’t really know what it meant for JBFC to be a family.

JBFC is home to more than 50 girls now, about 43 of them live on campus. With our secondary school graduates moving off of campus and on to higher education, JBFC had eight beds to fill. We have added six new girls this year alone, which is the most new girls we’ve had at once since JBFC’s beginnings ten years ago.

The newest addition was trying to make herself as small as possible, which wasn’t hard. We were told she was eleven-years-old, but she looked closer to seven. She was tucked behind one of the older girls; her eyes darting over the other girls in the yard and the tan-colored buildings surrounding her.

And that’s when the JBFC family swelled to welcome her.

I saw the older girls gently nudge her forward, wrapping an arm around her thin shoulders. The other girls dropped what they were doing -- games were halted, chores abandoned -- and they came in ones and twos to hug the newcomer and speak a few comforting words. She was wrapped in love again and again.

And then, they all went back to what they were doing: games resumed and the prep work for dinner continued. They managed to acknowledge the moment without letting it become overwhelming. They gave her special attention without making her a spectacle. They simply made room in the family for one more.

I have never seen a truer expression of what JBFC is.
And the effect on the new little one was almost instantaneous. It only took a hug or two for a shy smile to cross Vero’s face. And it wasn’t an hour later that she joined in those games, was sandwiched between her new sisters for prayer, and welcomed to the dinner table to eat her fill (which was considerable!).
There’s a reason we don’t use the word orphanage at JBFC. Because we are a family.

A family that’s a haven for girls who haven’t had the easiest time in life. A place where they can feel safe and supported; where they can love and be loved; where they can share their hardships and band together to overcome them.

I’ve had a lot of proud days at JBFC (not least of which was watching our graduates cross the stage last December), but this ordinary day will go down as one of them.

Blogger Ashli Sims is JBFC’s Chief Operating Officer in the U.S. She has just returned from a month at JBFC’s campus in Tanzania.