Monday, December 15, 2014

JBFC Campus Director in Training: Papa's


Editor's Note: Travis Purser is chronicling his training to become JBFC's next campus director. Read how Travis went from volunteer to full-time employee, by clicking here.

About four months ago I was promoted from Volunteer Coordinator to Campus Director in Training. I will take over as Campus Director here in Kitongo, once our current Campus Director, Seth Diemond, moves to JBFC's second campus.

To say the least I was (and still am) extremely excited and honored to be given such a unique and amazing opportunity.

Seth will leave behind some pretty large shoes to fill, so I've embarked on a training mission to learn as much as I can about JBFC's many programs. At it's core the campus director's job sounds simple -- manage the day to day operations of this 70-acre campus. But with more than 70 employees, as many acres, and dozens of programs happening at once -- this can be a big job requiring a lot of juggling.

The first step in my training process was managing JBFC's restaurant and hotel, Papa's.

This task gives me the chance to supervise and work with an all-Tanzanian staff, help overlook and improve the restaurant inventory, and help create, stock, advertise and execute Papa's ever changing menu.

At times there have been minor issues, usually involving communication. For instance, when I asked a server recently, "to please put out butter and jelly with a brunch item." The server quickly left for the kitchen and promptly returned with a lovely plate of butter and chili sauce. I realized very quickly that "jelly" and "chili" can sound the same to a non-native English speaker. "Butter and jam" is probably the better choice of words for next time.

The Papa's shopping requires me to go into the city of Mwanza, talk with venders and shop for whatever items is needed that week. This has helped me improve in lots of things, from my Swahili to learning how much a crate of soda costs and how to get a pail of ripe tomatoes. I now know how to navigate around Mwanza to all sorts of different stores and shops and estimate the amount of food needed to get us through the week without over-purchasing.

Another cool job I get to do is help create the weekly menu. Papa's is the only farm-to-table restaurant in the Mwanza area (which is very cool and unique) and every week we take produce from our farm and turn it into our menu! So every week I talk to our agriculture manager, find out the produce available then meet with our chef to create the menu.

I can't wait to start doing more and more things around campus as my training continues, but I cant reiterate enough what this first step is teaching me.

To all the Mwanza people reading this, come on out and visit us soon!

Check out the food, the lakeside view, and more on Papa's Facebook page.

Blogger Travis Purser is a native Tulsan. He's lived at JBFC in Tanzania for a year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

JBFC's Top Students

Editor's Note: JBFC's Joseph & Mary Schools' year has come to a close. The students are on their summer break until the new year starts at the end of January. The end of the 2014 school year was marked with a year-end assembly, where the top three students in each grade level were recognized.

JBFC is proud to announce that six of JBFC's residential girls earned those top slots. The following is a quick introduction to these stellar students. If you're interested in supporting a student's education, please click here.

Shida, Kindergarten
Before Shida joined the JBFC family two years ago, she had never regularly attended school. Now she's at the top of her class. Her teacher says her behavior is good and she received excellent marks in reading and writing.

Gertruda, 1st Grade
Like her sister, Shida, Gertruda also never regularly attended school until two years ago. But that hasn't stopped her from excelling. Her favorite subjects are Math and English and she received top marks in both.

Zai, 4th Grade
Zai continues to be a standout student. She made straight A's this year, despite spending more than a month visiting the U.S. in April and May. Math and English are her favorite subjects.

Laurencia, 5th Grade
Laurencia tends to be recognized for her soccer skills, but this jock is also an all-star in the classroom. She's at the head of the class and her favorite subjects are science and math. 

Abby, 6th Grade
Abby received top marks in science, which is one of her favorite subjects along with math and English. She's working hard in the classroom now, so she can achieve her dream of becoming a businesswoman when she grows up.

Maggie, Form 1 (8th grade)
Maggie finished her first year of secondary school near the top of her class. Her favorite subject is Biology, which she aced, but she also did well in History and Civics. She wants to be a lawyer when she grows up.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Tuesday

After the feasting and the football, comes the dash for deals. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are known for their bargains, door-busters, and holiday must-haves. While many of you have seen the ads flooding your tv screens and email inboxes, you may not have heard of the day that follows.

Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving -- a day dedicated to giving back. It’s recognized around the globe and more than 10,000 nonprofit organizations participate. On this day, people all over the world take time to volunteer, advocate for a cause, and donate to worthy projects.

This Giving Tuesday, JBFC is calling on our supporters to help us raise $2,015 for textbooks.

But these aren’t any ordinary textbooks.

These are books for JBFC’s first graduating class.

In 2010, when JBFC’s Joseph & Mary Schools first opened its doors, we had only primary school students. The school has grown, adding secondary students in 2012, and running up quite a track record – a 100% pass rate on the Tanzanian national exam every single year. Quite a feat, considering the majority of students in Tanzania fail the exam.

In 2015, JBFC’s Joseph & Mary will enroll its first class of Form 4 students… the equivalent of a high school senior in the U.S. These 30 students have worked hard to get where they are. Many students in Tanzania don’t make it pass the 7th grade; many more fail the national exam when they’re in 9th grade (Form 2).

Our students are defying the odds. They passed the national exam, they’re still in school, and they’re looking ahead toward college and other higher learning. A particular point of pride for us at JBFC is that roughly half of our Class of 2015 seniors are young ladies. In Tanzania, that’s practically unheard of.

So, our students have the drive, the determination, and now they need the knowledge and the tools to take this next step. You could help make sure our Class of 2015 seniors make it to graduation day, by donating this Giving Tuesday.

$15 gives the Class of 2015 2 textbooks.
$45 buys 6 textbooks for a JBFC senior
$100 would provide 13 textbooks for JBFC's first graduating class.

 If we work together, we can make sure that JBFC’s first graduating class has the best shot at finishing their secondary education. You can help make sure these students have a good education, a chance at college, a brighter future.

It’s a ripple effect that can change a village, a community, a nation… one high school graduate at a time.

Blogger, Ashli Sims, is JBFC's Director of Development.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What We're Thankful For

Editor's Note: Every Thanksgiving, we take a little time to talk to the JBFC Girls about what they're thankful for this holiday season. While Thanksgiving is an American holiday, gratitude is universal. And it's definitely in abundance at JBFC. Thank you so much for being a part of the JBFC family. We are all thankful for you!

Reka, 15

I want to thank all people who think about us and take their time to love us; I'm thankful for my loving family, we help each other everyday; and I want to thank God for everyday.


 Neema Mdogo, 10

I'm thankful for God and everything He has done; thankful for Donors who support me at JBFC; and thankful for My Family at JBFC.


Pendo, 12
I thank God for everything; I'm thankful for having shelter and food; and I'm thankful for the Mommas, who take care of me.

Happiness, 14

I'm thankful for all who help me in my education; thankful for food and a homes to sleep in; and thankful for Chris and all the teachers for teaching us how to be good people in the future.

Jackie, 14
I thank God for everything he has done; I'm thankful for the teachers for everything they have taught me and everything they have done; thankful for all the sponsors who give me food, and shelter and education.

Gertruda, 9

I'm thankful for all my sisters and Mommas at JBFC; thankful for my education; and thankful for Chris and everyone who care for me at JBFC.

Abby, 13

I want to thank the Matrons, Directors and teachers for everything they have done for me. I want to thank the donors for giving me an education and food and home. I'm thankful for everyday.

To watch a video from the JBFC Girls, click the link below:

Monday, November 24, 2014

JBFC Tech Update: Sharing the Joy of Learning

Editor's Note: Blogger Melinda Wulf shares the latest on JBFC's high-tech boost which aims to integrate technology like e-readers, tablets, and an intranet system to improve education at Joseph & Mary Schools. We would like to extend a special thanks to Nina McManus, a JBFC Ambassador from Bronxville, NY for raising the funds for the Kobos and Deerfield Teachers, Kristan and Ben Bakker for providing the RACHEL Pi program, which is giving JBFC teachers and students access to Kahn Academy videos and hundreds of other educational resources.

Oh, Technology! We love technology here at JBFC. We may be in rural Tanzania, but that doesn’t stop our teachers and students from enjoying Kobo tablets and eReaders here on campus. JBFC now has nearly 100 eReaders and dozens of tablets, thanks to a JBFC ambassador from New York, Nina McManus, who was committed to bringing technology to JBFC's campus.

The secondary school at JBFC has integrated eReader time into their English curriculum and scheduled library time during the 2014 school year. When we first introduced the program, the kids would ask me after school, “Can we PLEASE use Kobos tomorrow?” They love them so much we had some of our Form 3 students break into groups to articulate why that is.

The general consensus from all the groups was that the Kobos have taught them better English, including how to pronounce words, the meaning of words, and how to construct sentences with proper grammar and tenses. They are now able to understand the themes from the various books they have read.          

“As English is a second language to most of us students, Kobos facilitate easy reading and allow us to acquire more knowledge in reading and writing the language,” said one group that designated themselves the "Kobo Veterans."


The one thing that really made me proud of the Kobo program, though, was the fact that the students feel their self-confidence building because of the Kobos. They have no fear when speaking in front of the class about things they have studied in the Kobos and they say their vocabulary is growing day by day.

Click here to see JBFC students and the eReaders in action.

Now that we have the Arc tablets on campus, we expect to see this knowledge and confidence continue to blossom. Mr. Fred, our 7th grade teacher has been leading the charge with the tablets and noted that the students love them for the various applications like the dictionary, math and geography quizzes, story books and the Rachel pi program.

JBFC's internet access remains unpredictable to say the least. It was the Bakkers, two teachers from Deerfield, Massachusetts, who helped us find a way to introduce our students to the world wide web without worrying about network drops and sluggish uploads. They gave JBFC a RACHEL Pi - which stores some of the internet on a piece of hardware that a classroom of students can all access at once on different devices.

We introduced the Rachel Pi intranet program to a group of selected staff members last month. This program gives us access to Kahn Academy videos and activities, Wikipedia for schools, medical encyclopedias and countless textbooks and story books. When the 2015 school year begins in January, JBFC's students will get to benefit from these wonderful tools. Soon, whole classes of JBFC students will be able to follow along with a Kahn Academy video to learn physics and chemistry. It's an amazing opportunity for these students who have very limited access to technology like computers and laptops.

The teachers were really excited about the Kahn Academy videos and the textbooks. Our school nurse, who was working in the Learning Resource Center at the time, loved the medical encyclopedia so much she grabbed Mr Fred's tablet from him and wouldn't give it up!

 If you would like to support JBFC's technology initiative, you can donate to Nina's Share the Joy of Learning project. 
Please click here.

Click here to learn more about becoming a JBFC Ambassador.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Working for a Good Education

Guest Blogger Lauren Lesch shares how JBFC's work study students work hard for a good education.

JBFC runs the Joseph and Mary Primary and Secondary School on campus. Close to 300 students are enrolled including our 44 JBFC girls and other children that live in the area. It is a private school so there are school fees associated with attendance which can be paid with cash or surprisingly through bartering…say one family that raises cattle for a living can trade a cow for a daughter’s education or say another family are rice farmers, they can provide "X" amount of bags of rice for our school lunches for one of their son’s to attend school.

We also have scholarship programs for star students in the area that simply cannot afford it. These girls and boys vary in age and grade and have agreed to working after school to help beautify the campus in various capacities in order to contribute in some way to their school fees while donors and special friends of JBFC in the US cover the rest. Some days they pick up trash, tend to the gardens, plant seeds, water crops, etc.

Afterwards they walk home and some are then responsible for watching over their siblings, making dinner, and then doing homework. It’s a long day for these students but a good education is worth it all. An extra benefit is that when guests are on campus this group of students works with them after school which allows relationships to form and gives them an opportunity to practice their English.

All visitors of JBFC participate in a village walk that includes a tour of the public school that is within walking distance from the Joseph and Mary School. The differences between the two are vast. There can be an upwards of 300 students per class, per teacher. The classrooms are not tiled so some rooms have massive holes in the ground, chalkboards are unusable because they’ve been written on and erased so many times, there are not nearly enough desks so 3 students share 1, and breakfast or lunch is not served so students walk home (sometimes miles) for something to eat, which they may or may not get, and then walk back. Sometimes its just too much work to return, so they miss the rest of the school day entirely.

I am so impressed with how the Joseph and Mary school recognizes these challenges in the area and tries to create a school environment that combated them. Most of our star scholarship students walk past the government school everyday on their way to Joseph and Mary and as 6th grader Peter says “at JBFC we have more choices and better opportunities to study English and travel outside of Tanzania.” He hopes to one day be a doctor, another young man hopes to be a football (soccer) coach and another an engineer.

These students have such big dreams and at JBFC we want to do all we can to make sure each one of them succeeds.

Lauren Lesch is from Dallas, TX, she worked in Tanzania for six months.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Home Away From Home

Guest blogger, Travis Purser, came to JBFC as a volunteer and ended up joining the staff. After serving as the volunteer coordinator, he's now training to be JBFC's next Campus Director.

After 10 life-altering, wonderful months in Tanzania, I finally made a trip back to the United States for a little vacation and a chance to visit friends and family.

Besides having the opportunity to indulge in some old time guilty pleasures ( I'm talking about you What-A-Burger and Chick-Fil-a), I had the unique chance to witness the complete shock on my mom's face as I walked through the door for the first time in many months. I have a love for good surprises and couldn't pass on the opportunity to make her heart rate jump. I have to give a special shout out to Chris, Ashli and Carene for helping me in my devious trickery.

Coming back to America has reminded me of the previous luxuries I use to enjoy, such as the junk food locations listed above, air conditioning, fast internet, Sportscenter and, of course, Baseball. But shortly after my return I had a feeling of loss.

I miss Tanzania!

I miss the beautiful sunrises that cover the morning skies in mesmerizing oranges, reds and pinks. I miss the sound and sight of Lake Victoria waking me up every morning with breathtaking scenery.

I miss the smell of freshly dug dirt from our garden.

I miss my friends who I have become so accustomed to seeing, talking and laughing with on a daily basis.

But most of all I miss the beautiful smiling faces of the strongest, most amazing people I've ever had the gift of meeting.

Until you have witnessed first hand, you cannot understand the true joy that fills your heart when you see the JBFC girls laughing, experiencing the privilege of sitting together as a family taking part in the most beautiful serenade that is prayer time, the sweet hugs good night and I love you's spoken every night...Nothing on this planet has ever given me such joy and peaceful certainty as my new family.

To everyone who has ever been a part of JBFC, from Chris Gates to all of our Directors, the volunteers and ambassadors, the hard working Tanzanian staff who continuously keep our campus running smoothly, I am forever grateful! My life has been changed because of you.

 I miss you all, and can't wait to go back home!

Travis Purser is training to become JBFC's Campus Director. He now lives in Tanzania full-time.