Thursday, August 25, 2016

Checking Out the JBFC Library

Update: JBFC launched its library in 2013 with only a handful of books. Our library is now a point of pride for JBFC's students and teachers. We have the only lending library in the area and its now a place where our volunteers, students and their families can come together to share the joy of reading. Read below to see how our library has evolved over the last three years.

In the spring of 2013, we reported that thanks to a very generous donation from a supporter, a library had been built on the Kitongo campus for the Joseph and Mary School students. A handful of volunteers spent the summer decorating the walls of the large room with colorful reminders of how reading can inspire the imagination, however the handmade shelves in the library only contained a handful of books.

To fill the library, JBFC launched its Book by Book campaign, which aimed to fill the library with thousands of books.  The goal of the library was to serve not only the JBFC residential girls, students, and staff, but also the local community.

Literacy is a major issue in Tanzania, where nearly one in four people are illiterate. With the help of our volunteers from Sarah Lawrence College earlier this year, JBFC has worked hard to fight this problem head-on by implementing a new literacy program that targets JBFC students and their parents.

Each class in both the Joseph and Mary Primary and Secondary Schools visits the library once or twice a week for more than an hour. Reading has become a favorite pastime for many of our residential girls and students!

But it's not just our Tanzanian community who get to enjoy the library. Through our Reading Buddies program, any visitor to our campus gets to spend a little time in the afternoon reading a book and helping our residential girls develop a better understanding and command of English. The library has served as another stepping stone in helping build friendships between our girls and guests.

Over the past few years, through countless volunteer suitcases and duffle bags, more and more books have been added and cataloged to the JBFC library. We now have over 3,500 books!

If you are interested in donating dollars or books to our Book by Book campaign, please be sure to check out our guidelines by clicking here.

Thank you to everyone who has so generously donated books to our library, and to everyone who is helping us break down barriers to literacy, one book at a time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Meet the Girls: Class of 2016

Last year, JBFC graduated our first class of secondary students, including eight of our residential girls. Those girls are now continuing their educations at Form 5, colleges, and vocational schools around the country and we will continue to keep you updated on their progress.

This year, the Joseph and Mary Secondary School's graduating class will feature four JBFC residential girls. We would like to take this time to introduce them to you as they head toward their final semester of Form 4.


Kulwa is the President of the Girls' Government this year. Her favorite subjects in school are Math and Science, and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. In addition to helping organize and run the Girls' Government activities, Kulwa plays on the JBFC football team as their goalie and enjoys singing and drawing. Kulwa and her older sister, Sophie, who graduated last year, were among JBFC's first residential girls.


Neema's favorite subjects in school are English and Biology. She hopes to be a businesswoman when she's older, so she can have shops and sell clothes, food, and accessories. Neema loves to play soccer, cook pizza, read, and swim. She is in the Music club at Joseph and Mary Secondary School, sings in the JBFC choir, and is an amazing singer!


Rose is a very diligent student at Joseph and Mary School, and she enjoys Civics, Geography, and English. When she grows up, she wants to work for a nonprofit organization like JBFC, so she can help people like her sisters and herself. At school, Rose participates in the Creative Writing club. She is also a member of the JBFC choir and JBFC football team, and loves to cook and dance. She loves to make her sisters laugh and is known on campus for her sense of fashion!


Since the day she arrived at JBFC, Vero has been a great help to the matrons and a wonderful role model for all the girls. She is very kind-hearted and is well-respected by all of the younger girls at JBFC. She enjoys going to school and is an attentive and inquisitive student and hopes to be a journalist when she grows up. She loves dancing, playing soccer, and eating pizza!

For every 10 girls enrolled in primary school in Tanzania, only about four transition to secondary school. Just 41%. And even fewer actually make it to graduation day. At JBFC, we're so proud of a hard-working students. They're beating the odds and they couldn't do it without your support. If you're interested in helping them attend higher education, please click here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Trek Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro has long captured the imaginations of adventurers. Standing at 19,341 feet above sea level it is Africa’s tallest peak.

Climbing “Kili” is on a lot of people’s bucket lists. And about 35,000 tourists attempt to make the trek every year. Only about half reach the summit, including two of JBFC’s own (Melinda Wulf, our current Administrative Director has climbed Kili three times! And our former Assistant Director, Kayci Hebard, also made it to the peak).

You may not be able to travel to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, but you can walk in the shoes of a trekker (in a matter of speaking) and help JBFC at the same time.

Last year, our co-worker, Alyssa Doty, had a light bulb moment. We’d love to say she was reading Hemingway’s "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" or on a hike through Green Country, when she got a flash of inspiration, but she says she was probably surfing the internet. Her idea was simple: If you can’t make it to the mountain, let’s bring the experience of climbing the mountain to you.

And JBFC’s virtual Kili climb, Trek Tanzania, was born.
Trek Tanzania will kick off on October 24th and run through October 28th. During those five days, we’re inviting JBFC supporters to walk the same distance it would be to climb Kilimanjaro.

That’s 45 miles or 89,480 steps in five days.

You can go it alone or recruit friends to help you reach the goal.

And it’s all for a good cause. Trek Tanzania will benefit JBFC’s medical clinic. Our clinic aims to provide access to healthcare for JBFC’s residential girls, students, workers and their families. Typically, we see 20-25 patients a week for everything from scrapes and cuts to malaria and typhoid. Next year, we’re hoping to expand our clinic to provide more diagnostic testing and treatment for common ailments like malaria and parasitic infections.
You can help us bring better healthcare to JBFC’s community by participating in Trek Tanzania. You can click here to register for the climb, then click here to start a fundraiser to get friends and family to sponsor your trek (please register, before starting your fundraiser).

If you don’t want to fundraise, but still would like to attempt the virtual climb, you can still sign up (again, please register) and just pay an entry fee of $20 per person. Everyone gets a Trek Tanzania t-shirt (if you would like your company’s name featured on the back of the shirt email us at for sponsorship options).

We hope you will join us in Trek Tanzania (JBFC’s US Staff has a team, click here if you want to check us out). You and your friends and family can get fit and help make the world a healthier place.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

JBFC Girls Step Up

As far too many parents know, it’s extremely hard to say goodbye to our teens as they grow up and leave the nest. This time of year, Facebook is filled with stories of parents tearfully sending their kids off to college- a wonderful accomplishment, but difficult and emotional, nonetheless.

All of us at JBFC have been going through those same emotions as we have watched our eight girls who graduated last December head off to the next phase of their life. 
While it is extremely difficult to say goodbye to those individuals as they scatter across Tanzania pursuing their various dreams, the question that lingered last year for all of us is- who are going to be our new leaders now?

For those of you who have visited our campus, you know that we rely heavily on the older girls to be leaders within the JBFC family.

Some of the eight girls who graduated have been around for nine years. During that time, those little girls turned into great leaders within the family.

They helped to make sure the younger girls did chores, took care of their things and rooms, helped the matrons prepare dinner, and were all around incredible role models for their 40 younger sisters.

So, naturally, we were all a bit nervous about the thought of these young women leaving. However, within the first month of these eight graduates leaving campus, the next generation of leaders stepped to the plate and continue to "knock it out of the park." 

Girls that were once quiet and timid, like Kulwa, are now leading the Girls’ Government. 

Girls like Leticia, Jackie, and Happy are working harder than ever, helping out wherever they can. They even went to a Leadership seminar in Arusha this past summer and did an amazing job representing JBFC! 

These new leaders in the family are not only keeping up with the incredible example set by our graduates, but are finding new ways to lead- improving the chore rotation, creating different activities, and making sure that all of our girls are on the same page!

The examples set by our graduates taught this next generation of girls how to lead and conduct themselves. And, despite our worries, the JBFC family continues to grow, improve and thrive day by day because of these incredible young ladies!

Chris Gates is JBFC's Founder and CEO. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Mzee Kitula

Editor's Note: In continuation of our Staff Spotlight segments, JBFC would love to introduce our supporters to a man that is very much part of the backbone of our campus operations in Tanzania. Mzee Kitula is our Campus Manager, and oversees all of the farm workers on campus, building projects, and maintains our physical campus. Mzee is an example of another amazing local leader who is helping lead the charge for community empowerment in rural Tanzania. 

How long have you been working at JBFC?:

I've worked for JBFC for seven years.

What is your job title and what responsibilities come with your job?:

I am the Campus Manager. My first responsibility here is to make sure that all the workers and guests are safe and to make sure that everything in this campus runs properly: maintenance of buildings, solar power, water pumps, etc.

What is the biggest challenge you face?:

The biggest challenge for me is to make sure that all the workers know their responsibilities and tasks on a daily basis. Sometimes they are here, ready to work, but they don't know what they have to do.

What do you enjoy most about your job?:

I love everything. I like being a manager because I've been working here for a long time so I can show the workers how to do things.

What changes have you seen at JBFC since you started working here?:

I've seen very big changes! We started with six girls and two buildings...but now we have a lot! Also, there were only a few workers and now we have almost 100, so the change is huge!

Have you seen any sort of changes in the local village (Kitongo)?:

Oh yes, there have been huge ones. When I arrived here there were around ten houses with tin roofs, only five people had bicycles and during the rainy season (March-May) it was impossible to use the road, so communication was really difficult. Those are a lot of changes! Even in the village center there was only one house, and now look! There are so many!

What are you looking forward to in the future?:

I would like to see JBFC continue to grow. I'm really excited about the VETA program [at Papa's] (VETA is Tanzania's vocational education system. JBFC is opening a vocational program through its campus restaurant Papa's to train students in hospitality and training. JBFC just broke ground on the new classroom last month.)! That's going to change the lives of a lot of our students and girls. They are going to get a better education!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sponsors, You Mean the World to Us!

Guest Blogger, Alyssa Doty, is JBFC's Office Manager in the U.S. In addition to managing our donor database, she is also in charge of JBFC's Sponsor a Child program. After more than a year and a half with JBFC, she is visiting our campus in Tanzania for the first time.

A few months ago I wrote a little about my experience working with our Sponsor a Child program from the administrative side.  Up until this point I have worked on the Sponsor a Child program with more of an administrative viewpoint, never having met the JBFC girls and sponsored kids or most of you who sponsor our children.

This month I was able to experience the relationship side of Sponsor a Child when I visited our JBFC campus in Tanzania for the first time.  I spent less than a day on campus before I could see what the sponsor a child program means to these girls.  Words that we send out on paper in letters to our sponsors about their sponsored childcare, now come to life for me – “Your sponsorship means the world to your sponsored child.”

When I arrived on the JBFC campus, Ashli (JBFC's COO in the US) introduced me to the girls as working in the U.S. office with her and helping to run the Sponsor a Child program.  And when the girls came up to introduce themselves to me (with hugs and smiles) I knew that I had not taken my job seriously enough.  Because one of the first things they asked about was their sponsor- “Do you know my sponsor? (as in have you met them)?”  “Does my sponsor have children?”  “Where does my sponsor live?”

And I had, for the most part, to say “I have no idea.”  I pulled up from memory a few of the sponsor’s states (Can I use the excuse I had been traveling for almost 72 hours with very little sleep?).  For the most part, however, I drew a blank.  So I had to promise that the next day I would pull up my list and we could figure out where each of their sponsors are from.
However, many of the girls knew more about their sponsors than I did.  Not just their names, but also any information their sponsors had written to them about themselves- like how many kids they have and what their kids do.  Girls who had not received letters from their sponsors were sad, because they want to know about their sponsor’s lives.

In the first prayer time (a ritual they observe every night), they prayed for and gave thanks for their sponsors.  I am one of the world’s worst criers - anything emotional starts the water works.  And let me tell you, that prayer sent me over the edge.  To these girls you, the sponsors, are not just a name on paper that they have to write to occasionally.  You are people they care about, people they want to know more about.

So I know I’ve only been at JBFC for less than 24 hours, and I’m sure my list will grow to unmanageable proportions, but I have put the first two items on my to-do list for the future:

  1. While I’m here to learn as much as I can about each of these girls as individuals.  This was on my list anyway.  But I feel like it is even more important now, so that when I return to Tulsa I can help to convey to you the sponsors in some small way the personality and character and beauty of your sponsored child.
  2. When I return to Tulsa to learn as much about you the sponsor, so that next time I return to JBFC I can answer all of the girl’s questions.  

My hope though, is that the next time I come they won’t have any questions about theirs sponsors, because you will have written to them and you will have answered their questions.  The money you send helps us at JBFC to keep these girls fed, and educated and safe.

But YOU are what matters to these girls. 

The fact that someone on the other side of the world who has never met them would care about them is HUGE.  Showing how you care by sharing your life with them, not just your money, really will “mean the world to them.”

If you want to send a letter to your sponsored child(ren), please send it to:

Sponsored Child’s Name
P.O. Box 4541
Tulsa, OK 74112

If you want to become a part of this amazing family by sponsoring a child we currently have 3 kids who need to be sponsored at the scholarship level, and 3 JBFC girls who need residential sponsorship.

Sponsorship (Education): $400
This level of sponsorship provides for the Sponsored Child’s school tuition, books, uniform and school supplies to attend Joseph & Mary Schools. The sponsored child could either be a residential JBFC girl, or one of the community children who attend Joseph and Mary Schools.

Sponsorship (Residential): $350
This level of sponsorship will help pay for the sponsored child to live at 
JBFC’s residential home for another year. It provides for her meals, clothes, and any 
medical attention she might require.

If you want to sponsor a child, you can contribute online here. When it asks if you would like to designate your donation, scroll to Sponsor a Child in the dropdown menu.

You can also make a check payable to JBFC and mail to:
PO Box 4541
Tulsa, OK 74159

We currently don’t have any full sponsorships available, but are expecting more residential girls in the next few months.  If you want to be put on a waiting list for full sponsorship, email Alyssa Doty at: and we will reach out to you when we have more girls to sponsor at this level.

Sponsorship (Full - Residence & Scholarship): $750
This level of sponsorship not only provides for Sponsored Child’s residential needs, but it also pays for her tuition to attend Joseph & Mary Schools.

When you sponsor a child, we will send you a picture of your child with some biographical information on them.  You can also expect to hear from your sponsored child quarterly.  And, of course, always feel free to send them a letter or picture of your own.

Thank you to each and every one of you who already supports one of our children!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

JBFC Girls Government Update

In January of 2014, we decided to start a girls' leadership program at JBFC’s flagship campus in Kitongo, Mwanza, Tanzania for our 48 residential girls. The program, called the JBFC Girls' Government, was intended to provide the girls living in our residential program (Bibi Mimi’s Girls' Home) with a vehicle for self-representation and decision-making in their lives, an opportunity to help improve overall life on campus, and to learn team and leadership skills in the process.

In 2014, the first Girls' Government, led by Nyamalwa as President, was able to make the first inroads towards these goals by holding weekly team-building and leadership meetings, improving English usage on campus, starting a Girls' Garden, and improving overall life at the home by supervising chores, activities, and studying.

In 2015, the second Girls' Government, led by Neema R and loaded with many of JBFC’s younger residential girls, built on the successes of 2014 by implementing weekly reading time, a mandatory evening study-hall, Sunday afternoon debates, a charity (community service) garden, and campus cleaning schedule.
The Girls Government Charity Garden in 2015

The Girls Government Charity Garden in January 2016

The 2015 government participated in a leadership workshop with our neighboring Nyanguge Secondary School, attended a round-table discussion focusing on “Challenges Facing Female Leaders in Tanzania” with our District Commissioner. JBFC's Girls' Government also sent two girls to Arusha for a week-long leadership conference for young girls hosted by a partner organization.

In December of 2015, the Girls Government organized an election complete with a two-week campaign, ballots, fraud observers, candidate surrogates, and a committee to count the votes and certify the results. 

The result?

Our 2016 government, now entering the second half of their term, is making major strides by building off of the work done by their 2014 and 2015 predecessors. While much of the work remains the same- improving English through strict rules governing Swahili usage, reading novels, study-halls, and debates, improving our environment by planting trees, maintaining a garden, and supervising chores, and learning leadership as a team through weekly meetings and through a system of rotating three “leaders of the week,”- this year’s government has focused on defining the JBFC Girls Government for years to come.

In addition to continuing the work started in 2014 and 2015 (and adding a village “trash-pick-up” day!)- which they have done an amazing job of- they have undertaken two important projects aimed at focusing future governments.
The Girls Government hosting a debate

Expecting to have new sisters soon after watching JBFC’s first graduates leave home for an off-campus transition program, our Girls' Government wanted to find a way to instill the new additions to our family with a sense of who JBFC girls really are.

After a morning of brainstorming answers to the question “what are JBFC girls,” each pair of girls wrote a song about JBFC’s Bibi Mimi’s Girls' Home. Each pair performed their song to the entire Girls' Government which then voted on their favorite. In the end, the girls decided on a song based on Bob Marley’s “One Love” describing who the JBFC girls are, outlining their dreams, and defining their family. The song has become an anthem of sorts, performed randomly at prayer time as well as for visitors and volunteers.

Second, while most of their projects are pretty well-defined, the 2016 Girls Government realized the importance of having some form of guiding or organizing principles. In early July, the Girls Government took a trip to their favorite conference center at a nearby hotel and spent the morning participating in brainstorming and team-building activities meant to focus them in on a core mission. Broken into groups of three, the girls used Post-it notes to decorate three different walls describing what qualities a Girls' Government leader should have, what benefits JBFC gets from the Girls' Government, and what are all of the different goals of JBFC’s Girls' Government. Using this information, each group of three girls then wrote a mission statement. Since all of the mission statements were great, the girls proposed combining two of them into one (see below for the final version!). Now, as a result of the vision and hard work of 2016’s leaders, girls from JBFC’s Girls' Governments in the years to come will have a guiding hand from the past to make sure that their efforts are moving towards what they set out to do in 2014.

Is the 2016 Girls Government done? Hardly! In June, they sent a delegation of three girls to the leadership conference in Arusha (blog to come!) and plan to send two more to the conference in December. They are working on implementing an English curriculum, taught by the Girls Government, to help JBFC staff members learn and improve their English skills. A new “school store” is in the process of being planned as well as a t-shirt design that the girls hope to print and sell to help raise money for their projects. The Girls, led by President Kulwa and Secretary Leticia recently wrote a letter to Magu’s District Commissioner requesting to attend a round-table discussion similar to 2015. And, last but not least, the girls will have to plan a December election to choose their replacements for 2017.

JBFC’s 2016 Girls Government:

Kulwa Everest, President
Happiness Abel, Vice President and Dorm D Representative
Leticia Elisha, Secretary
Margaret Esrom, Treasurer
Nyamisi Mandaki, Time Keeper
Reka James, Health Advisor
Rose Abdallah, Advisor to the President
Jackie Yohana, Food Advisor and Dorm B Representative
Imma Emmanuel, Dorm A Representative
Siwema Sampson, Dorm F Representative
Shida Cosmas, Dorm E Representative
Kulwa James, Dorm C Representative
Mama Maggie, Matron Representative

Mission: “The Mission of JBFC’s Girls Government is to help the organization to be able to solve possible problems and to help to learn how to become good leaders by being examples, role models, and strong girls.”