Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Amanda Winge

Guest Blogger, Amanda Winge, is JBFC's new Executive Assistant. She previously worked for JBFC in 2013 as the Guest Coordinator in Kitongo. Here, she weighs in on why JBFC remains important to her. 

Several years back, when people asked what I was studying and I’d respond with “International and Area Studies”, their next question was typically “And what do you want to do with that?” This question always left me a bit dumb-founded, because the field of international studies is open to quite an array of possibilities. I chose to study what I did because I wanted to be able to make a difference in the world, interact with people of other cultures, and hopefully, have the opportunity to travel a bit. Of course, one certainly does not have to have a degree to be able to make a difference, but I felt that I would be better prepared to enter the professional world I wished to be in if I had a background and solid understanding of foreign cultures and global issues. My main goal, however, always remained the same – I wanted to be part of something that would have a profound impact on peoples’ lives.

A decade after my dear friend, Chris Gates, decided he was going to start a non-profit organization to help street girls in Tanzania, JBFC has served over 1,000,000 meals, pumped nearly 28 million gallons of water into the local village, harvested more than 14.5 tons of food, provided quality education to over 350 local children and a loving home to 48 vulnerable girls. JBFC has done so much more than provide a safe and nurturing environment to street girls. It is easy to see the impact that JBFC has made in the past ten years when the figures are listed out, but what can’t be calculated is the emotional impact that JBFC has on its supporters, volunteers, and staff.

Over the years, I watched in awe as my friend’s non-profit organization grew and grew. In 2013, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Tanzania for five months and work as JBFC’s Guest Coordinator. The organization had become a point of interest for so many volunteers wanting to visit during the summer months, that JBFC needed an extra body on campus to help organize and coordinate their activities. I arrived on campus late in the evening, so it wasn’t until the next morning that I was really able to take in the full-scale of the campus and see all of the children and staff. I was simultaneously overwhelmed by the sheer size (it’s one thing to read about the size of the campus and another to see it in person) and impact that JBFC was making, and completely full of pride for my friend and all that he had accomplished. I remember thinking at that moment, "I want to be a part of this movement and stay a part of this movement."

That summer remains one of the best of my life so far. I was far from home, but was welcomed into a new family with open arms, and many of the girls, students, and staff acted as if they’d known me my whole life. All the volunteers, and myself included, were witness to just how drastically one person’s dreams could impact so many. That is one of the things I love most about JBFC. I love the mission, I love the girls and students and staff, and I love the JBFC family feeling, but most of all, I love the full-circle impact that JBFC has.

Whether supporters have been able to journey to Tanzania or not, they support JBFC because they want to see change in East Africa and they want to provide brighter futures for children. And the impact the supporters are making on the JBFC community is never ending. Look at the student who, prior to coming to JBFC had never been to school and is now ranked first in their class. Or the once malnourished girl who is now running around campus full of life. Or even the local farmer who is able to fully capitalize on their farm thanks to techniques they learned at JBFC. The look on our supporters' faces when we share these accomplishments with them is absolutely amazing. They know they are making a difference.

I left Tanzania in the Fall of 2013 and spent the next two years living in South Korea where my husband served at Osan Air Base, but JBFC and the amazing people I met were never far from my mind. I am beyond blessed and proud to work for JBFC once again, this time as its Executive Assistant. I take pride in knowing that the organization I work for isn’t just changing lives in Tanzania, it’s impacting people across the globe and leaving them with the knowledge that they, as one person, can impact many. There is simply nothing better than seeing our JBFC children succeed and watching how their success affects our supporters. It is the best feeling knowing that a difference is being made on multiple fronts. Together, we are truly changing the world!

Friday, May 13, 2016

JBFC's 10th Anniversary: 10 Years of Community Change

Editor's Note: As part of JBFC's ongoing celebration of our 10th Anniversary, JBFC's Board of Directors look back at a decade of making a difference in rural Tanzania. To read more about JBFC's progress over the last ten years, click here.

As we continue to celebrate our 10th anniversary and look back on all that has changed and been accomplished, I can’t help but think about the drastic changes we have seen in our little village of Kitongo. 

In May of 2006, then Assistant Director, Jacob Ngalaba, and I were simply looking for a place to start. We wanted a piece of land on the shores of Lake Victoria, and we wanted a remote location. That was it. We dreamed of creating a refuge for orphaned and vulnerable girls, a simple and safe haven for them to call home - never thinking of the impact we could have on an entire community.

What Jacob found for us was a small, four-acre piece of land in a village called Kitongo. A narrow cattle trail (if you would even consider it that) was all that connected Kitongo to the tarmac road, about 3.5 miles away. At the time, a few lucky villagers owned bicycles which could carry them to the market and main road, but most people were solitary, truly living off the land, rarely leaving the confines of the area.  Furthermore, nearly all of the houses and buildings in the area were simple mud huts with dirt floors and grass roofs.

Our campus grew slowly. Every year, we would add a few more acres. We bought from our neighbors and about 10 acres were donated by the village government, because of our efforts to help the community. Gradually, our campus grew to encompass more than 70 acres. As our physical footprint grew, so did our operations and our staff. What started with a handful of employees grew to more than 70 full-time workers and can swell to more than 100 if you add in day laborers and construction crews. Soon, we had become an economic engine for the entire community.

At first that “cattle trail” was a constant challenge. But as JBFC grew, the district government took notice. Soon, they were working with us to help maintain an actual (dirt) road to the village center. With more jobs an opportunity came an influx of people, providing another reason to maintain the road.

Over time, more and more people were employed and more people came to Kitongo because of what was happening at JBFC.

Now, 10 years later, our road to Kitongo which used to see only a few bicycles and pedestrians. Now is travelled by dozens of cars, small buses, motorcycles, and bicycles every day.
There are several “guesthouses” (small hostels) in the village center, stores, markets, and a growing, much more diverse economy. The little village of Kitongo has seen an economic boom in the past decade. Today, people are not limited to employment solely as a farmer or fisherman. There are other ways to make a living.
And no longer does everyone in the village live in a mud hut with a grass roof. As I look across the hub of the village, many of the buildings have tin roofs and much, much sturdier walls and floors.

While much of this internal change has been sparked by JBFC, that’s all we can claim - we are a spark. We are a spark for helping people to improve their livelihoods. We are a spark for the local economy. And we are a spark that educates and empowers people and communities to reach for more.

Read about JBFC's Origin Story here!

Want to know what the JBFC looked like 10 years ago? Click here to view photos!

Our Board Members reflect on the last decade of impact. Read their thoughts here!

Monday, May 9, 2016

JBFC on the Road: Los Angeles

Editor’s Note: JBFC’s Founder & CEO, Chris Gates, and COO-USA, Ashli Sims, are back on the road, raising money and awareness about JBFC and its mission in Tanzania. The JBFC Team travels several times a year to speak to young people about global citizenship, share with supporter the impact of their donations, and recruit more people to help end poverty one child at a time. If you’re interested in JBFC visiting your area or would like to host a fundraising event for JBFC, please email asims@jbfc-online.org.

Coming off of a successful fundraiser in Tulsa, OK, Ashli and I have hit the road. We have spent the last week in the Los Angeles area with the Gortner family.

Cindi Gortner and her daughter, Devyn, visited JBFC over 6 years ago. After that first trip to Tanzania, they were hooked and wanted to help us spread the JBFC mission to their community. Cindi Gortner has rallied her friends, helped raise money and served on JBFC’s Board of Directors. Five years ago, the Gortner family hosted the first JBFC-LA fundraiser at their house in Thousand Oaks. Thanks to their dedication and support, the Los Angeles community has grown into one of our strongest communities of support.
JBFC’s Sponsor a Child program wouldn’t be what it is without our California friends. The Los Angeles community sponsors more residential girls than any other area of the country. This network of supporters provide food, shelter, and education for 14 girls. Collectively, they donated more than $10,000 last year, which paid for 14 school tuitions, more than 12,000 meals, and hundreds of medical check-ups.

We got a chance to catch up with the Frazier family, who sponsor four girls. It was wonderful to see the girls are really a part of their family, with the pictures and cards from Tanzania displayed around the Frazier home. The Frazier's got a chance to visit the girls they sponsor and JBFC's campus last summer. They invited us to speak at Sophia Frazier's school, Viewpoint, about the experience. Sophia told her friends and classmates about her summer. And I was able to talk about 40 middle and high school students about JBFC's mission, how I started JBFC, and how they can make an impact in their world. (It's always great to see the faces of teenagers, when I tell them I started JBFC when I wasn't that much older than they are now!)
I also got a chance to speak to middle and high school students La Canada. Kyle Kevorkian started a JBFC Club at La Canada. About 30 members came to the meeting eager to learn more about what we do and how they can continue to raise funds and collect supplies for our students at JBFC. This past year, they have collected more than 500 books they plan to ship directly to Tanzania.
And finally, we ended our school tours with an all-school presentation at Wesley, a K-8 school in North Hollywood. Wesley’s 2nd graders have taken part in a pen pal program with students at JBFC’s Joseph & Mary School. I was thrilled to be a part of their presentation to the whole school about what they’ve learned this year.

To wrap up our week in LA, the Gortners and several other California friends hosted a fundraiser for JBFC at the Gortner home. More than 70 people came to learn about JBFC and the work we do in Tanzania. Many people joined our mission by participating in our Giving Tree, purchasing much needed items like books, school supplies, and chickens in support of the JBFC Girls’ Home. This was a great time for the whole family. The kids at the party were able to make t-shirts for the JBFC girls.
We are so grateful that so many people in the Los Angeles area have not only welcomed us into their homes, but their hearts. We truly appreciate all of the support they have shown us. JBFC wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of their community and others like them.
Ashli and I will continue on the road through the first of May. Our next stop is San Francisco. Stay tuned for more updates.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tanzanite Nights!

JBFC celebrated its 10th Anniversary in style at its annual spring fundraiser, Tanzanite Nights!

The event was held Friday, April 22nd at the IDL Ballroom in Downtown Tulsa. Hundreds gathered to help JBFC celebrate the last decade of impacting lives in rural Tanzania and raise some money to continue to make a difference over the next decade.

The event featured a live auction that included a chance to bid on a Tanzanian safari, a jewelry pull that featured $5,000 in jewelry, and a market stocked with unique gifts from Tanzania.
And the party lived up to its name, with thousands of dollars worth of Tanzanite, a bluish purple gemstone only found in Tanzania, sparkling throughout the night. JBFC had two stones donated by Swala Gems and Cultural Heritage Museum in its Live Auction. There were three chances to win Tanzanite in the jewelry pull, including loose stones from Massoud's Fine Jewelry and a pair of Tanzanite earrings from Israel Diamond Supply.

And JBFC launched the sale of its 10th anniversary commemorative URU bracelets, which feature the JBFC star stamped onto the bracelet.

Long-time JBFC supporter and friend, Terry Hood, from the News on 6 was the mistress of ceremonies. And kept the night moving with stories of success from Tanzania. JBFC Board Member, Kristin Bender, who has been involved with JBFC since 2009, was the honorary chair of the event. She spoke about JBFC's 10-year history and accomplishments, including the graduation of eight of our residential girls.

Thanks to our generous supporters JBFC raised more than $130,000 in one night.

The proceeds from the event will go to support JBFC's operations in Tanzania. Thanks to all of those who bid, purchased, and donated, JBFC will be able to continue to provide a home for 48 girls who were abandoned and abused, quality education for more than 330 boys and girls, access to healthcare for our community and jobs for more than 70 people.

JBFC would like to thank everyone who made this event a success. Thank you so much to the following sponsors and vendors who donated goods and services to make the event possible:

Cultural Heritage
Swala Gems
Exotic Expeditions Ltd.
Tanganyika Wilderness Camps
Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge Ltd.
Mbalageti Serengeti Lodge
Trader Joe's
Tours of Tulsa
Woody Guthrie Museum
Gilcrease Museum
The News on 6
Doubletree Hotel
Brookside By Day II
Tavolo (JTR Group)
Pinot's Palette
In The Raw
The Fresh Market
Shanga Glass
Massoud's Fine Jewelry
Isle of Gems
Israel Diamond Supply
Tulsa Diamond House
Luxe Studio
Kendra Scott
Rustic Cuff
Stella & Dot (Patty Heckenkemper)
Alex & Ani
Objets d'Envy
Oppenheimer Photography
Elisa Marie Photo

And we would also like to thank our fundraising committee and volunteers, who put a lot of work into making this event successful:

Sarah Alfred
Nancy Baumann
Jane Beckwith
Judith Blackwell Gardner
Kendra Blevins
Diana Booren
Scott Booren
Andrea Cutter
Kerney Daniel
Catherine Denton
Alyssa Doty
Terri Doty
Tim Doty
Carene Gates
Michelle Gray
Julia Gross
Susan Gross
Gail Hebard
Kayci Hebard
Cathy Herrin
Dana Hutton
Cara Kovach
Olivia LaFortune
Kathy LaFortune
Tori Lieberman
Katie McElhaney
Cathy Meador
Janice Moore
Anne Nunnelee
Gerald Nurdin
Jane Purser
Travis Purser
Ashli Sims
Mallory Smith
Peggy Smith
Barbara Walton
Sammye Walton
Jack Wheaton Rothermel
Amanda Winge
Taylor Winge
Melinda Wulf
Valerie Vaughan
Vicki Vrooman

Monday, May 2, 2016

Imagine Pen Pals

Editor's Note: JBFC is building ties that span continents through our pen pal program. Hundreds of students from around the U.S. are paired up with students or whole classes at JBFC's Joseph & Mary School. Volunteer Coordinator, Diana Booren, shares some of the experiences of one pen pal partnership with Imagine Early Learning Center in New York City.

At JBFC even our youngest students are loving their cross-continental friendships through Pen Pals!  This year, we’ve partnered with two classes at Imagine Early Learning Centers to do pen pals with some of our very youngest grades.  The students have sent class letters back and forth sharing about their classrooms, their schools, and some of their favorite activities and foods.  It’s evident how much the students love getting the pictures from their pen pals. 

Imagine classes made an “All About Us” Book and every student drew a picture or attached a photograph to a page.  They included a class picture and different chapters, including “Some of our Favorite Things.” 

The books traveled from New York to Tulsa to Tanzania, and JBFC students created their own.   Our students also drew lots of details about Tanzania and JBFC including a page showing their school, their playground, and even the plants and trees that grow on our farm. 

The books traveled again from Tanzania back to the Imagine classes so the students could see our JBFC chapters that were added to the book.  

Imagine students and JBFC students also read the same story, The Lion and the Mouse.  Soon the classes will be exchanging a video, so the students can really get a sense of each other’s schools and environments. 

This has been such a fun partnership this year!  We love helping our earliest students to gain a global perspective and make friends around the world. 

Guest Blogger Diana Booren is JBFC's Volunteer Coordinator. You can reach Diana at dbooren@jbfc-online.org.