Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Faces to the JBFC Staff

Our campus and mission are growing, and with it, comes a need for more staff! We have several new faces (and a couple familiar ones) who are joining the JBFC teams on both sides of the world.

In Tanzania:

Seraphine Lyimo – Second Campus Director
Lyimo is a lifelong educator and passionate about social change through the empowerment and
education of youth. Having worked in several different roles in various schools, as both teacher and administrator, Lyimo recently joined the JBFC team as our Second Campus Director. Currently, he is training under Chief Operating Office, Seth Diemond, on our flagship campus in Kitongo before he ultimately moves to our second campus site to oversee the development and operations of that separate campus. Lyimo has a Masters in Education Administration, Planning, and Policy Studies.

Jeff DeViller - Volunteer Coordinator

Jeff and his wife, Bethany, are our first Canadians to the JBFC team. Jeff will be working in Tanzania as our Volunteer Coordinator, helping to host our various school partners, visitors, and Experience JBFC trips. JBFC expects to have over 130 volunteers this year, so Jeff has quite the task ahead of him, but we are confident he is up the challenge as he has previously worked as the Coordinator of Volunteer Services for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and various other non-profit organizations in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Bethany is a trained nurse and lifelong farmer and is going to be working with our Public Health Outreach program as well as help with various aspects of JBFC’s permaculture program.

Christina - Graduate Social Worker

Christina, our new Graduate Social Worker, will be living with JBFC residential girls who recently graduated from Form 4 and are awaiting their placements in post-secondary education. While living with them, Christina will be responsible for registering the girls for their short-term technology courses, helping file college applications, setting up volunteer and internship opportunities, and coordinating various training and enrichment seminars. She will also be tracking JBFC's eight 2015 graduates in their various placements, which means lots of travel, as those girls are spread out all over the country.
Christina (left) with 2016 JBFC Residential Girl Graduates, Vero, Neema, Kulwa, and Rose in their new off-campus home.

In the U.S. Office:

Travis Purser - U.S. Expansion Coordinator
Travis will be a familiar face to many of our JBFC supporters. He arrived on JBFC’s campus in Tanzania at the end of 2013 to volunteer, quickly joined the staff as our Guest Coordinator in 2014, helping coordinate volunteer itineraries and activities, and finally moved to the Campus Director position on our flagship campus in Kitongo. While in Tanzania, Travis became very familiar with JBFC’s model and all of our children, staff and community, and is now using this knowledge and passion to help in our Tulsa office as our Expansion Coordinator. Travis is responsible for improving JBFC’s monitoring and evaluation processes and helping in the expansion and growth of JBFC.

Katelyn Jackson - U.S. Development Assistant

If you came by our office last Fall, Katelyn is also a familiar face! She spent last Fall working as the
JBFC office intern while finishing up her last semester of school. She graduated this past December from Oral Roberts University with a degree in International Community Development. Katelyn will be helping to manage our supporter database, send out various communications, and help to keep the JBFC US office in good order (no easy task, if we do say so ourselves).

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Impact of Solar Lighting

Since 2013, our flagship campus in Kitongo has used the power of the sun to generate power. We started with our water pump, which had previously been powered by a generator and cost thousands each year. Our campus has grown since we first introduced solar power, and with that growth, came a higher need for electricity. 

Last year, Brunswick School out of Greenwich, Connecticut helped raise over $11,000 for JBFC's solar power infrastructure. Thanks to the students, parents, and teachers at Brunswick, not only has JBFC increased the amount of electricity to our Secondary School, Administration Building, Primary School Computer Lab and Office, Papa's Cafe, and all guest housing, but individual lighting systems have also been added to each dorm and the dining hall. This means that our residential girls and matrons can study later and have the much needed safety of light in the evening and nighttime hours.

Below are quotes from some of our staff about how this change has impacted their lives and work on campus.
Mr. Samo, Dean of Students: "It gives them [the residential girls] consistent light to study, without having to worry about power cuts."

Felista, JBFC Social Worker: "It will help them to get more time to study at night. If there's any social event, now they will be able to do it. It can also help the matrons to wake up earlier for doing their different duties."

Boniface, Campus Registrar: "They use the dining hall to study so the solar power will help them to keep studying in the dark hours. Also, it will enable the girls to get light during supper, improving social life."

Mr. Fred, Head of Joseph and Mary Primary School and 7th Grade Teacher: "We always give them homework. They have also to study and now they have the chance not only to do it but to choose when they feel better to do it, at night or early in the morning. Also, it will help the matrons to charge their phones. During entertainment hours now they can put music on, dance, practice choir, etc. so it will also help to refresh their minds."

Mr. Kidapanda, Head of Joseph and Mary Secondary School: "This enables them to concentrate in their studies, especially at night. It gives them the proper environment for their studies."

Vero, JBFC Residential Girl and 2016 Graduate: "It helps us to study and to do other activities like clubs!"

On behalf of all our girls, students, and staff in Tanzania, THANK YOU to the entire Brunswick community and all of our supporters who have enabled JBFC to "Go Solar" since 2013. You are not only helping us to be more eco-friendly at our campus, but you are enabling us to have 24/7 electricity without the worry of high fuel costs, ultimately helping with JBFC's self-sustainability goals!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Fatuma

Editor's Note: We would like to continue with a series we started last year, where we introduce our supporters to some of our staff in Tanzania through interviews. These employees are very much the back-bone of our operation, and work hard to ensure that operations continue to run smoothly on campus our campus. 

This month's Staff Spotlight features Fatuma, who has had a variety of different job titles and responsibilities over her past four years at JBFC, but who currently works as JBFC's House Manager, overseeing all hospitality regarding the guest housing and international staff housing on campus. Fatuma has moved from being kitchen staff at Papa's Cafe and Bungalows, to running the Papa's kitchen, to assisting with the cooking and cleaning for the volunteer program, to now managing all hospitality for our volunteer program. In 2016, that meant she was responsible for making sure the basic needs of over 150 visitors and volunteers were met while also managing a three person team. We expect an equally busy 2017, and to ensure that Fatuma has the help she needs, we have added an additional member to her team.

How long have you been working at JBFC?:

"I've worked at JBFC for 4 years and 2 months."

What are some of your responsibilities for the work you do?:

"I am the House Manager. My responsibilities are cooking, cleaning, making sure that all the guests needs are covered, and coordinating the rest of the house helpers."

What is the biggest challenge you face as the House Manager?:

"My biggest challenge is coordinating the house helpers. For example, if one of them doesn't properly clean one room, because I am the House Manager, I am responsible for that and I find it sometimes difficult to check everything constantly and make sure that my part of the work is done."

What is your favorite part of your job?:

"My favorite part is cooking, even when we have a lot of guests!"

What are you looking forward to in 2017?:

"I'm excited to see my team work very hard!"

JBFC's Chief Operating Officer in Tanzania, Seth Diemond, says "In addition to brightening my life (and basically anyone's life who has visited JBFC over the past four years) day in and day out, Fatuma truly embodies what JBFC stands for. Her work ethic, friendly personality, and the example she sets have rubbed off on our entire campus."

"Fatuma is a favorite among our residential girls and can often be found hanging out with various groups of kids in her free time. She loves to teach the girls how to cook, especially pancakes, and was awarded in August with a Certificate of Recognition for her amazing work during our peak volunteer season. To say the least, Fatuma is an integral part of our team, impacting all the various moving parts of JBFC's work; volunteers, staff, residential girls, and students."

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: The Year in Review

This past year not only celebrated our tenth anniversary as an organization, but was also one of major transitions. It was the first year JBFC Founder and CEO, Chris Gates, and his family were not on campus in Tanzania, the year that our first set of Joseph and Mary Secondary School graduates were out on their own and moving into higher education, and the JBFC family added 6 new faces to its residential girl program. These transitions were all needed in order for our operations to grow and expand, and while we are anxious for 2017 to start, we would like to take a moment and look back on some of the highlights from this amazing year.

* JBFC turned TEN in March! The entire month was full of celebrations at various restaurants in Tulsa, but March 6th was our official birthday. We celebrated with a party at The Tropical here in Tulsa, and celebrations in Tanzania!


* The JBFC family grew to 52 residential girls. This year saw us take in Rehema (age 15), Samida (age 12), Salma (age 6), Vero (age 14), Lufina (age 7), and Vero T (age 11). We could not be happier to have these new additions to our family!

* The JBFC Girls' Government entered its third year, proving that this is an actual program with a mission, outcomes, and a real impact on the overall organization.

* The JBFC residential girls and matrons began self-defense lessons. JBFC was one of only five non-profit organizations chosen to participate in a pilot program to bring self-defense training to girls in the Mwanza region of Tanzania.


* Joseph and Mary Primary School graduated its 6th class of Primary School students - this entire class passing the Tanzanian National Exam earned JBFC's Joseph and Mary Primary School a ranking of 18th out of 8,241 schools in the COUNTRY!
* 14 out of 28 Class of 2015 graduates moved on to Advanced Secondary (Form 5), including 3 of JBFC's residential girls, with many of the other graduates moving on the various higher education programs as well.

* Joseph and Mary Secondary School graduated its 2nd class of Secondary School students - 17 graduates including 4 of JBFC's residential girls.

* 2 Career Days were hosted by the Office of Student Development, with 6 guest speakers coming to speak to the Secondary School students about a variety of careers.

* 2016 saw the implementation and continued success of the Family Literacy Program.


* JBFC launched its inaugural "Trek Tanzania" walk-a-thon to raise funds for our clinic. Supporters in Tulsa and around the United States walked well-over the 89,480 steps it would take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and raised over $30,000 for our healthcare clinic!

* JBFC's new nurse, Gertrude, was hired earlier in the fall. Prior to going to nursing school, she taught Physics, Chemistry, and Biology at a private school, where she was also a dorm matron. After completing nursing school, she worked in a pediatric ward at a hospital!

* New hand-washing stations have been installed at the dining halls on campus. Hand-washing stations and dish-drying racks have also been installed at Bibi Mimi's Girls' Home, which will greatly improve sanitation around campus.


* The JBFC Farm has averaged over 1,700 pounds of vegetables each month, with a monthly record of 3,891 pounds of vegetables in November!

* Two community-based permaculture seminars and two-school based seminars were held this year.

* The first Tanzanian-led community permaculture seminar taking place.


* Gretchen Scott Designs from Bronxville, New York donated hundreds of brightly-colored tunics, shirts, and dresses to our residential girls and matrons.

* JBFC received a $30,000 grant from the Segal Family Foundation, who support organizations cultivating healthy, productive, and empathetic youth.
* The U.S. Office saw lots of wonderful volunteers come into the office throughout the year, racking up 420 volunteer hours!

* JBFC launched new curriculum partnerships with 2 schools in the U.S.

* Joseph and Mary students have Pen Pals from 5 different schools across the country.

* Over 150 volunteers came to our campus in Tanzania during 2016, including several new school partners. We are so grateful for all our supporters and friends, old and new! We hope to see you again next year!

There is still time to join us in our end-of-year campaign.

Thank you for your continued support of our mission. We hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year's and we look forward to great things in 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas 2016

With the absence of Chris and his boys, many of the Class of 2015 graduates not being present, and several new faces taking part in their first festivities, Christmas at JBFC looked a little different this year! Chief Operating Officer in Tanzania, Seth Diemond, told us all about how the JBFC family celebrated the holidays this past week.


This year, Christmas celebrations were held at Papa's. The girls did an amazing prayer on the lawn infront of Lake Victoria, which was led by our new Girls' Government President, Vale. There were prayers, songs by the JBFC choir, and a chance for people to share what they are thankful for this year. Vale gave a speech about the best parts of 2016. Melinda, Paula, and I led a wonderful rendition of "Feliz Navidad" before Mzee Kitula and all the girls joined in. Mzee Kitula running up to us with his hands waving frantically in the air, and singing Spanish Christmas songs, are memories that will not be forgotten any time soon.

Papa's itself was beautiful. The decorations committee, joined by Pili who finished a two-year long hospitality program, set up all the tables, table cloths, napkins, cutlery, etc. The girls brought benches from the girls' home and set them up in front of the Christmas tree. The girls' stockings were laid out on the bar and a table was set up under the bar for all of the food. One of our girls, Zai, said the scene was "amazing."


This year we were able to harvest a Grevaria tree from our farm. Now, this might not sound too amazing but it actually is for a couple of reasons. First, Grevaria trees look pretty darn similar to your standard pine tree, which added to the Christmas feel and the general ambiance at Papa's (we usually use a Mango tree). Second, it means that some of the first trees we planted when we implemented permaculture are "coming of age" for use. Disclaimer: no trees were harmed; it was cut in such a way to avoid imposing any pain on the tree and it was cut high enough to ensure that the tree will grow back!

Maggie and the tree committee chose the tree and with help from Emma, our driver, cut it down. They spent the afternoon making hand-made decorations including a star for the top.


As always, one of the highlights of the day was the food. Our Papa's staff taught the girls how to make big, American style pancakes in the morning with sausages on the side. We slaughtered a hog and chickens from our farm and the girls, with the help of Emma and myself, spent the afternoon barbecuing ginger-lemon marinated meat. The girls and Papa's staff made mashed potatoes, sauteed Kale, coleslaw, and garlic bread. Melinda made sugar cookies and Paula made macaroni and cheese.
The food was a major hit and the massive mountains of food on the littlest of girls' plates spoke volumes. To top it all off, we had ice cream to go with the sugar cookies for dessert. After running out of cups for the ice cream, people started making ice cream sandwiches!


As always, gifts are a favorite part of anyone's holidays. We started the afternoon with Melinda,

Paula, Carli, and I exchanging little gifts during lunch. After dinner, we had a short staff-appreciation segment for our managers and workers who helped with the Christmas party/attended as guests. This might have been everyone's favorite part of the evening (especially Paula!) because each time we called a manager/worker up to collect a holiday card/holiday bonus, all of the girls began wildly cheering. The girls came up with a personalized cheer for each worker based on what they do for the campus. For example, when our Farm Manager, Edward, came up, the girls all chanted "EGGPLANT EGGPLANT EGGPLANT!" When our Head Matron, Mama Maggie, came up the girls all chanted "MAMA MAMA MAMA." It was absolutely touching to see how excited and appreciative the girls were for our team and equally as amazing to see how much the support from the girls meant to the staff. It made the night.

We then handed out gifts to the girls starting with the stockings. The girls got a variety of items from photo albums (thanks Alyssa!), suckers, and math sets, to water-bottles and toiletry bags. Seeing the girls' reactions to their gifts was Melinda's highlight of the night. Everyone left happy, and extremely grateful, to say the least.

Seth Diemond is JBFC's Chief Operating Office in Tanzania. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Career Day Inspirations #2

Before the end of school, we had our second Career Day of the year for the students of Joseph and Mary Schools. We are using these Career Days as opportunities for our students to gain exposure to a variety of careers and learn more about how to go about achieving their goals.

For our second Career Day, we were lucky enough to have three female professionals join us, (from left to right) Ms. Nyamumi George (an accountant), Ms. Vick Majembe (a lawyer), and Ms. Loyce Masogo (a cotton-machinist).
The guests were chosen based on a survey conducted earlier in the year gauging interest in particular careers. Between both Career Days, 5 of the 6 speakers were female, often representing male dominated fields.

The students loved Career Day so much it went on two hours longer than planned! The kids asked tons of questions and were extremely interested in what the speakers had to say. I asked a few of our students what they thought about Career Day.

One of our Secondary students said that Career Day changed his future because he didn’t even know about accountants and now wants to be either an accountant or an engineer. The key message another student took away from the day was to have discipline and respect and believe in yourself because anything is possible.

Maggie, one of our standout students and residential girls, said she learned that the good things we see from people are not attained easily, but through hard work. No matter what kind of job you want, you must work hard.

Seth, the COO in Tanzania, loves career day Career Day because it exposes our secondary students to careers they may be interested in but don’t know much about. It also gives them real life role models that could prove to be invaluable contacts or opportunities in the future.

For me, I think it is important to expose all of our students, both boys and girls, to female professionals in a variety of careers. I think it is also great that our girls are able to look up to female role models from their own communities.

We look forward to adding more Career Days to the school schedule in 2017, exposing our students to even more career choices.

Guest blogger, Melinda Wulf, is JBFC's Administrative Director. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Students Inspiring Students

On Tuesday, November 1st, the 5th grade at Bronxville Elementary School gathered together to have a little fun while also supporting our children in Tanzania through an annual lap-a-thon at their school. JBFC Founder and CEO, Chris Gates, was on the East Coast during this time and was able to be present for the event.

The weeks leading up to this day of fun had all of the 5th graders hitting their neighborhoods and streets, asking as many family members and friends as they could find to sponsor them in support of JBFC. And, their efforts paid off - the 5th grade raised over $2,300 in support of our school!

Before the fundraising began, however, it was all about education and learning about JBFC from their high school counterparts. Every year for the past 9 years, Bronxville High School has sent a group of adventurous students to our flagship campus in Tanzania. Many of these students have a life changing experience and wish to stay involved in JBFC throughout the year. This is why we created the JBFC Ambassador Program. These ambassadors wish to remain involved in JBFC and educate others within their communities about JBFC’s mission to alleviate extreme rural poverty in Tanzania.

In early October, the Bronxville JBFC Ambassadors, along with their chaperone, JBFC Board Chair, Jim Agnello, presented to the entire 5th grade about their experiences at JBFC in July, and about the various ways JBFC works with children in Tanzania. Excited by seeing what their high school friends were able to do in Tanzania, these 5th graders left the presentation inspired and eager to do what they could to help JBFC’s school - and the results were clearly amazing!

This is what’s great about JBFC - from our founding story to our volunteer program, every single person has the ability to make a wave of change across an entire community. So often, people, especially younger children, don’t think they can make a true impact on the lives of those around them, let alone the lives of other living thousands of miles away. But, that is exactly what this 5th grade class has done. They are impacting the lives of our students from halfway around the world!

Thank you to all the teachers, families, and most importantly, the 5th grade students at Bronxville School for your hard work in this year’s lap-a-thon.

If you are inspired by what these 5th graders have accomplished and what to find out what you, your school, or your community can do to make a similar impact on JBFC’s campus, please contact us as: