Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Katelyn Jackson

Editor's Note: As a continuation of our Staff Spotlights, we would like to introduce our supporters to a new member in the U.S. Office! Katelyn Jackson worked in our office last Fall as an intern while she was finishing her Bachelor's Degree at Oral Roberts University here in Tulsa. After months of impressive work, JBFC offered Katelyn a position as a Development Assistant in our office. She has been working as an official member of our team since January!

From a young age, I’ve been fascinated by different cultures and helping others. I remember in the 1st grade standing up in front of the class on Career Day saying I wanted to be a missionary in a foreign country. That passion to help others stayed with me, but as I grew older I wanted to make a difference in a more practical and lasting way. Who knew that my journey would start in Tulsa, OK.

I grew up in northern Alabama, and in the Fall of 2013, I set out to attend Oral Roberts University though still not knowing exactly what to major in. During that first semester, I discovered that there was a major called International Community Development (ICD). The next semester I enrolled in a couple of classes required for the ICD major, and I fell in love. I had a feeling of peace knowing that I was walking in my purpose, that this is what I am supposed to do.

Fast forward to the Summer of 2016, when I first found out about JBFC. I was looking for an internship for my last semester at ORU. As I was browsing ORU’s career service website, JBFC came up. The more I read, the more it was like a dream come true. It’s rare to find an international organization that has headquarters in Tulsa. That Fall, I applied for the internship and thankfully was accepted. I was able to help the staff with sending thank you post cards and preparing for the Trunk Show by counting and pricing inventory.
Katelyn teaching a group of local Girl Scouts about JBFC last Fall.

But soon my time as an intern was coming to end, and I was searching for my next steps. My last semester was wrapping up quickly too, and I needed a plan of action. My first choice was to stay in Tulsa working within my field. And if that didn’t work, I was willing to go anywhere else. I searched from Seattle, WA to Savannah Georgia, but nothing was coming up.

I was ecstatic when the position for a Development Assistant at JBFC became available.  Intertwined with the excitement was that peace of this is where I am supposed to be. This is where I belong.

Now my days are filled with data entry, thank you letters, creating videos, and helping around the office in any way I can. What I enjoy the most about working with JBFC is the teamwork. Every day I get to see how each staff members’ talents and ideas come together to create something wonderful. And it's all for an amazing cause to help girls have a place to call home, to help children receive a quality education, to help villages have their medical and agricultural needs met, all to ultimately break the cycle of poverty that has crippled families for too long. And yet at the same time I’m learning so much. The lessons and classes I completed at ORU are coming to life. These things I’m learning while at JBFC are knowledge and wisdom that I can take with me for the rest of my life. It’s molding me into the best I can be and developing my character as well with the challenges it brings. From pushing back the fear of failure to step out of my comfort zone and complete tasks I’ve never done before, to the patience it takes to be in the US and only hear and see from pictures and videos all the work being accomplished in Tanzania.  I look forward to that day of going to Tanzania like a child awaits his or her birthday. But right now I couldn’t ask to be in any other better place in my life. I’ve been blessed with this opportunity and I strive to make the most of it.

Wherever life takes me in the future with the surprises around each corner, I will embrace each with open arms and carry my experiences from JBFC with me. But as for now, I know I’m where I am supposed to be.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Children of Africa Day 2017

It's that time of year again - the time when the JBFC campus, particularly the area around Bibi Mimi's Girls' Home becomes one gigantic birthday party.

Children of Africa Day, or Watoto wa Africa as it's known in Tanzania, is celebrated every June 16th, and this is the time of year when we at JBFC celebrate the birthdays of all the children in our care.

"Birthdays and big holidays are exciting for any child, and this is true for our children in Tanzania. We are excited to be able to celebrate all of the girls' birthdays and give them the childhood that they so rightfully deserve," says JBFC Founder and CEO, Chris Gates. "Thank you to all of our supporters for helping make this day so special!"

This year, thanks in large part to the visiting group of Holland Hall volunteers, the girls will be treated to a "Winter Wonderland" themed Children of Africa Day celebration. They have planned necklace and jewelry making, face painting, a water fight, and a dance party. The dining hall at Bibi Mimi's Girls' Home will be decorated with snowflakes, snowmen and women,
and reindeer. We expect it will be quite the sight for the girls! Stay tuned for more pictures!

If you would like to help make Children of Africa Day extra special for the girls, you can donate by clicking here!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Meet Our Summer Interns!

Editor's Note: This summer, we are delighted to welcome back two college students as our interns on the Kitongo campus. These interns have both been to JBFC before, and we know they will be a wonderful addition to our team during these busy months! 


My name is Abigail Campbell from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am a student at Auburn University in Alabama and I am studying Biomedical Sciences and Spanish. I graduated from Holland Hall, which is where I first heard about JBFC. When I was a freshman at Holland Hall, a group of students who had gone to JBFC gave a presentation to the school about the organization and some of their fondest memories. After that presentation, I knew I wanted to visit JBFC sometime during my time at Holland Hall, and it finally became a reality the summer after my senior year.
I have only volunteered at JBFC one time, so I am excited to be back on campus to get to know the girls better and learn more about Tanzanian culture and customs. One of the best things about JBFC is definitely the people. Not just the people that work for JBFC, but all of the people that JBFC brought my in contact with while I was on campus. For instance, working in the Joseph and Mary School and meeting so many of the students, meeting and getting to know the residential girls living in Bibi Mimi's Girls' Home, working on the farm with Edward, meeting some of the people that live in the Kitongo village during village night, spending time with the Maasai, and interacting with the matrons and mamas that work in the guest house and in the girls' home. The relationships and personal interactions that volunteering at JBFC gave me are invaluable.

I applied to be a JBFC intern this summer in hopes of being able to experience it all again. I am eager to work with the Joseph and Mary students, eat Tanzanian food, laugh sing, and dance with the residential girls, among other things. This summer, I will be working as the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator, which gives me the opportunity to work closely with the residential girls and students, but also with JBFC staff and volunteers. This internship will give me the unique ability to help ensure that each volunteer who visits campus has an experience as rewarding as my first trip to JBFC. I am so lucky to have been selected for this internship and I can't wait to see all of the girls again this summer!


Hi, I’m Kristen Graybill from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m a senior at the University of Oklahoma studying Elementary Education. I first became involved with JBFC through Holland Hall. While I was still a Holland Hall student, alumnus Chris Gates spoke to the student body about JBFC. His vision for and stories about JBFC, made me immediately interested in visiting Tanzania to find out what JBFC was all about. Since I first heard about JBFC in 2011, I have been to JBFC three times. In the summers of 2012 and 2013, I visited JBFC as a high school volunteer with Holland Hall. Last summer, I visited JBFC as a college intern. I can’t wait to serve as a college intern once again and return to JBFC for my fourth time this summer!
Stepping out of my comfort zone and into the small village of Kitongo in Tanzania, Africa, I never imagined falling in love with a place halfway across the world. A lot of people tell me how amazing it is that I am willing to sacrifice my summers to influence the Tanzanian people. But, I can assure you that that is not the case. These people are the ones changing my life and are what I love most about JBFC and visiting Tanzania. The people I have met through JBFC have opened my eyes to an unexplainable joy I have not experienced anywhere else. The singing during prayer time, the chatter on the dorm porches, and the laughter on afternoon walks to the library are what I remember most between visits to Tanzania. My trips to Tanzania have allowed me to develop and maintain deep relationships characterized by silly stories, inside jokes, and friendship bracelets. I can’t forget all of the priceless pictures, videos, and selfies the girls have taken on my camera!

I desired to be a 2017 JBFC intern because I have fallen in love with the organization’s mission, the community’s people, and the Tanzanian way of life. I consider it a privilege to return to campus year after year. Especially, since girls have started graduating from Joseph and Mary School, maintaining long term relationships with them is particularly important to me. Not only do I appreciate coming back to JBFC’s campus to spend time with the girls, I also value experiencing how campus evolves over time. During my visit to campus in 2012, I helped establish the first plants in what is now JBFC’s permaculture garden. In 2013, I dug holes for what is now the fence around JBFC’s girls’ home. Last summer, I helped the girls make crafts and write letters that are now in the homes of many JBFC supporters. 

As an intern this summer, I am most looking forward to not only observing changes throughout campus, but hopefully contributing to campus growth as well. By serving as JBFC’s social media intern this summer, I hope to share JBFC’s mission with as many people as possible.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Impacting Tanzania's Public Health

Since 2103, JBFC and expert facilitators from Kenya have worked together to provide sexual and reproductive health education (ASRH) to both our primary and secondary students, as well as our teachers and staff. After three-plus years, we have seen a noticeable change in the attitude and understanding of this awkward subject. Even in cultures where “Sex-Ed” is a norm, topics like puberty, contraception, STI’s and appropriate hygiene are often times uncomfortable. But, in a conservative culture where there is no such thing as “Sex-Ed”, most people just want to run for the hills. We are very proud of our teachers and students that despite the awkward conversations, they have shown great maturity in acknowledging the importance of these conversations and no longer cringe or squirm when we have our classes.

Joseph and Mary Schools' Office of Student Development team receiving training a few days prior to the seminar.

We are proud of our program and are happy to know that 400-plus people receive valuable education through this program. But JBFC is one of the few schools in the district that considers education and exposure of these subjects an important aspect in reducing the hardship of rural poverty. So we started wondering how we could make an impact to not just our students and staff, but as many people as possible. The way we saw it, if we could get teachers from other schools to see the importance of ASRH, and if they taught their students important healthy behaviors, then we could increase the amount of people exposed to healthier practices exponentially. So we reached out to our friends from Nairobi, and they happily agreed to perform a two-day seminar.

The first step in JBFC’s plan to expand the reach of Sexual Reproductive Health education is over,
and it was a great success! Last week, with the help of these two facilitators from Nairobi, Kenya, JBFC was happy to host 56 teachers from different schools and organizations throughout the Magu district, to participate in a two-day Adolescent Sexual and Reproduction Health (ASRH) seminar. This seminar covered many of the important sexual health practices as well as problems facing Tanzanian youth. Almost all of the schools invited attended the seminar and every party had a great experience, learning more than expected.

With Part I of the program complete, the aim of Part II will be to conduct multiple visits to each school so we can review and assess the successes and challenges each school is facing in installing their own ASRH program into the curriculum.

We would like to give a special thanks to Ben and Josephat, our facilitators from Nairobi, for their continued support and hard work in this process. We also want to thank the Segal Family Foundation for connecting us with several of their partner schools in the country who were also able to attend this seminar. Collaboration between like-minded organizations will only bring greater reach of ASRH education.

Guest Blogger, Travis Purser, is JBFC's US Expansion Coordinator

Friday, May 26, 2017

Inspiration Comes In All Sizes

For most of us, there will be several times throughout our lives when we are witness to something that truly moves and inspires us. And while it is easy to think about or say you are going to do something to help change the world for the better, in reality, it's often quite daunting to actually do it. Many of us think, "What sort of impact can I really have?" But the truth is - quite a lot. And that is just what two Tulsa teenagers are planning to do.

Robert and Thomas Sharpe have just completed the seventh grade at Holland Hall School in Tulsa, OK. What began several years ago as pen pal correspondences with students in Tanzania, turned into true friendships when those students, who had written letters that crossed thousands of miles, actually became classmates.
Robert and Thomas Sharpe (in blue and green) with Holland Hall classmates Paul, Danny, and Austin at Tanzanite Nights 2017.

Through their interactions with their new classmates, Robert and Thomas began to learn more and more about JBFC and its mission, and a passion for the organization was born. Inspired by their new Tanzanian classmates and what they had learned about JBFC, the ambitious twins decided to set a challenge for themselves that would ultimately benefit the organization they had come to care for so deeply. They decided first and foremost that they wanted to visit the campus they had heard so much about - to have the opportunity to meet more students and staff and learn about this community.

Then, the boys decided they wanted to raise money for JBFC. But, not just any amount would do. They decided to set their goal at $19,431. An odd number to most of us, but not to those who are familiar with Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. Mount Kilimanjaro is 19,431 feet high, and after visiting JBFC this summer, Robert and Thomas intend to tackle the mountain with their parents, TomM and Jen, climbing that entire elevation themselves.
The Sharpe family at Tanzanite Nights 2017, pictured with JBFC residential girls, Leticia and Salome, and Holland Hall classmate, Paul

When asked what they were most looking forward to about their upcoming trip in July, Thomas Sharpe said, "I'm most looking forward to reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro after months of training and preparation. Knowing that we will have raised needed funds for JBFC will make the accomplishment unforgettable. I'm excited to get to the JBFC campus and experience it firsthand."

Twin brother Robert said, "I can't wait to to see the JBFC campus and meet all of the children. It will be fun to see where my Tanzanian friends grew up! I am passionate about JBFC because I know the impact it has on the lives of children there. I am also looking forward to seeing the plants and animals we will encounter on our climb."

Regarding their lofty goal, their father TomM says, "I feel that the boys have set a big, audacious goal in trying to raise nearly $20,000 for JBFC. And I love it. I love the audacity in the pursuit of helping others. Big dreams and big thoughts stir big action. I couldn't be more proud of them for pursuing this."

Robert and Thomas are two perfect examples of people who were inspired to act, and now their story is inspiring others. "I hope that this story inspires anyone who hears of it to give in some way wherever they are, to whomever they can help," says TomM. "Cheerful giving of all varieties feeds the soul and it creates positive ripples. The world needs more of that kind of uplifting."

If you are inspired by the story of these two young men, and would like to do something similar on your own, please contact us at If you would be interested in learning more about the Sharpe’s goal, we invite you to visit their website at Two4Oneness.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The "O" Word

Since JBFC’s founding more than 11 years ago, we have often been called an "orphanage”. While our vision is to provide a safe and loving home to orphaned and vulnerable girls, that’s not a term we like to use at JBFC for two main reasons.
When people think about the word orphanage, it conjures up a picture of a desolate, hopeless place. And, when they often think of the word “orphan”, the mind naturally draws a picture of a child, without family, waiting for the possibility of a hopeful future. That image is not JBFC. 

The girls who live at JBFC are home. They are part of a family. They are full of hope, loved, cared for, and empowered for the future.  It may not be a traditional family, but these girls are sisters, their matrons are their mothers, and our staff and administration are parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Anyone who has ever visited JBFC can testify that our girls are some of the happiest, most energetic kids around. They are not waiting for a family; they are one.

But also, our organization is so much more than just a residential program or girls’ home. Our mission is to END POVERTY, and that can’t be done with just one thing. That is why our campus model was developed not only to provide refuge for these young girls, but to be a catalyst for change for an entire area. 

We are educating the next generation of Tanzanian leaders in our top-ranked school, we are ensuring that our surrounding community can live healthy lives, and we are giving the tools necessary to lead a sustainable life to both children and adults alike. We are not just a home, we are not just a school, we are not just a farm, and we are not just a clinic. But we are a family, and a movement that won’t stop until we see thousands of lives lifted from grips of extreme poverty.
Chris Gates is JBFC's Founder and CEO.