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.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Felista

Editor's Note: This Staff Spotlight highlights Felista, JBFC's Social Worker. Since her arrival, Felista has made a massive impact across our entire campus and community.  In addition to her work as our Social Worker, she serves as an advisor to our girls, leader on our management team, and programmer in various areas at our school. Since last year, she has managed our transition program and has been responsible for helping our graduating residential girls gain various skills before heading off to either Advanced Secondary or college.

How long have you been working at JBFC?

"I’ve been working here more than 1 and a half years."

What is your work? And your responsibilities?

"I am a social worker. I am a link between the government and the organization, especially with Bibi Mimi’s Girls Home. Another duty is counseling the girls on the educational life and other situations that they have passed through. I support them so they know how to face these kinds of situations. Another duty is making a follow up to the academic performances of the girls. I also supply the needs of transitional girls and I make sure that they continue with other studies or they engage in any other activities that they choose/want/prefer for their life. I prepare seminars for girls like: health, career development, self-defense, etc. Another responsibility is having meetings with the matrons so that we discuss challenges they face and solve them."

What is the biggest challenge?

"The biggest challenge that I face is that some girls are shy so they fail to be open with what they face."

What do you like the most from your job?

"My favorite part of the job is counseling the girls because it is where you help a girl know how she is supposed to live so she can reach her goals. For example, one of the girls had qualifications to join advanced level education but she said: “I won’t be able to make it” so she preferred to go to college and finish her studies so she could start working soon. After talking to her, she understood that she was more than able to do it so she changed her mind and she joined a High School and for now, she’s doing very well!"

Have you seen any changes since you arrived? Which ones?

"Before my arrival, many girls didn’t know what to do to reach their goals. For example, if she wanted to become a businesswoman, what she is supposed to do. Now, we are able to prepare different seminars giving them different options and explaining how to reach those goals."

What are you looking forward in the future?

"When I reach 50 years I want to be able to look back and see that I’ve been able to help thousands of girls at JBFC."

Chief Operating Officer, Seth Diemond, says "With her work across various areas on our campus, Felista has been truly responsible for moving many of our programs forward over the past 18 months. She has developed a very close relationship with many of our girls and students and can often be seen getting huge, multiple hugs at a time, when she gets off her motorcycle in the morning! Thank you, Felista, for all that you do!"

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Salome and Leticia On The Road: Part 2

Editor's Note: Now that Salome and Leticia are back on the JBFC campus in Tanzania, they have had a lot of time to reflect about their past few weeks of travel and all of the things they were able to experience during their trip to the U.S. To follow up with their first blog, the girls decided to use this blog to share some of their favorite memories from the trip. During their trip, the girls visited schools in Los Angeles, Tulsa, and Bronxville, and they noticed quite a few similarities and differences between education in Tanzania and the United States. Given that they are now well-seasoned travelers, Salome and Leticia also share advice for volunteers coming to Tanzania!

What are some of the most memorable moments from your trip?:

 Leticia: "I have many memories from my time in the U.S. First, meeting different people who I had never met before and that they made my time here so wonderful and meaningful. I was also happy to see people who I had already met before but who I didn't get to see for so long. My days in the U.S. were all full of joy and it was because of the people I met. Second, going to Disneyland was so great! I liked when people said, "It doesn't matter how old you are as long as you're having fun and enjoying the day!" I also really enjoyed Tanzanite Nights - I met so many people and took pictures with almost everyone! Also, I really enjoyed going to the different schools. I admired the schools and how the kids learned. I enjoyed going to New York and seeing many familiar faces there, like the Paul family and Jim and his students."

Salome: "I really enjoyed the day at Santa Monica pier. The day at Disneyland also has to be one of my favorites because I have always wished to meet princesses and I did! Also, going on the roller coasters was very nice and screaming was fun! I also really enjoyed Tanzanite Nights. It was good to meet everyone and taking photos. Singing at Tanzanite Nights was my favorite part, and I also liked how the auctioneer spoke - I wish to hear everyone talk like that! I was also glad to go to different schools and meet all of the different students. I also really liked going to New York City and watching the Boston Celtics basketball game on tv!"

Speaking of visiting different schools, you all visited La Reina in California, Holland Hall and Bishop Kelley in Tulsa, and Bronxville in New York. What similarities and differences did you notice between these schools and Joseph and Mary Schools?:

Leticia: "The similarities between the schools I visited and Joseph and Mary is that we both wear uniforms and the classes are similar with what we study. One difference I noticed is how we study at Joseph and Mary, we use the same schedule for the whole school, but the schools we visited, they have to change and everyone has his or her own schedule and they have to change rooms. At Joseph and Mary, we stay in a single room for all classes. Also, they use computers, iPads, and watch videos on TVs but we use pens and exercise books to keep our notes and write anything.

Salome: "I noticed that the schools we visited have almost the same subjects like English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. They study the same subjects, but not exactly as we do. There are many differences. They wear shorter skirts than we do at Joseph and Mary Schools and they are allowed to use tablets in finding answers for questions during exams and class times. They go with calculators to examinations and also take phones to school. They buy food but at Joseph and Mary we do not buy food in school because it is free. The American students also change rooms for certain classes but we change teachers and not classrooms. Also, they use "8th Grade, 9th Grade, 10th Grade" and we say "Form 1 to Form 4"."

Now that you have traveled across the world and experienced a totally different culture, what advice would you give to our volunteers who are coming to Tanzania for the first time?:

Leticia: "For the volunteers coming to Tanzania for the first time, they should be charming and not nervous! And another thing - it doesn't matter how old you are as long as you are having fun and meeting people you never met before. Thank God as long as you are happy and enjoying your days!"

Salome: "The advice I would give to volunteers is to enjoy themselves the first time they come! The second time they visit, they should bring new people and advise them to volunteer too! Also, they should be charming and never give up on what they are doing. The girls will love them and be happy to see them!"

What advice would you give your JBFC sisters who may visit the U.S. in the future?:

Leticia: "To my sisters who visit the U.S. - first, always be thankful, helpful, and enjoy every second! Second, listen to whatever you are told and do as you are told, because you will learn so many new things! And always remember, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"

Salome: "The advice I would give to the other girls who will also come to the U.S. is that they have to be confidence and happy for everything. Also, get ready for everything that they will be asked to do and try everything!"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Easter in Tanzania

This Easter was our first one being married and we weren’t sure what it would look like here in Tanzania.

We arrived at Bibi Mimi's Girls' Home at 8:00 A.M. to a lot of girls sitting around: some preparing food for their Easter dinner, while others were eating their morning chapatti and eggs or just hanging out. We decided to join them and enjoyed a cup of chai (tea) as the girls slowly started to appear wearing their “Easter dresses.”

The girls usually wear their “Sunday best” but this was even a step up from that. They wore dresses made from kitenges (African waxed cloth) to fit just right in bright traditional Tanzanian patterns. Their hair was oiled and braided in even more elaborate and intricate designs than usual. I was glad that I had decided to wear my bright blue and red dress that the girls think is particularly fancy.

Before long, the dala dala (taxi bus) was here and the designated ‘round one’ of girls, including mostly those who were in the choir, were ready to climb, pile, and squish aboard the flat-faced, public transport van. All the choirgirls first; Jeff and I next. Then came all the littles, sitting on laps and squeezed between passengers. The final touch was a few local kids and random churchgoers catching a ride along the way. It was crowded, but couldn’t be more fun. Every bump and hill was the equivalent to the kids’ first roller coaster ride. With heads hanging out windows, it was the ride of their lives. Amidst lots of bouncing, shouting, and laughing, we arrived.

The girls proclaimed they were not nervous for their performances but you could feel the excitement from all of them. We got our prime seats under a mango tree in case those overcast clouds decide to open up or alternatively, the sun burns them off and the heat gets too much. ‘Under the mango tree’ is a phrase we hear often and I’m starting to understand it’s because it’s the perfect place to be in almost any weather.

There was no missing when things got started since the microphones were connected to mountains of speakers. Their amplified voices didn’t stop them from quite literally yelling Hallelujahs. The day included many things. Lots of joyful proclamations, a heartfelt sermon, four different offerings, and of course the singing.

There were all different choirs there to perform for Easter. To see the girls included in their ranks really made us proud. The choirs all had matching outfits made from kitenges. They always had a few main vocalists while everyone else focused on their dancing. The singing was fantastic but the dancing is what made the hours pass. The girls did great with their number and all danced in step with one another.

Somewhere around 1pm things began to wind down for lunch and admittedly, we were a little relieved. As fun as it all was, it was a lot and we have come to fully appreciate how exhausting it is to have your brain constantly trying to understand a new and foreign language. It became apparent that we would be staying for lunch. I was mostly just impressed that they planned on feeding this many people. Low and behold though, everyone lined up and filled their plates with rice, beans, and even the occasional piece of meat. As foreigners, we were offered a special meal in a church elder’s home and despite trying to refuse, we eventually struck a compromise bringing some of the girls with us.

This point in the day found Jeff and I in pretty good spirits. I mean it was pretty great to be here with the girls celebrating and learning their Easter traditions. Plus, it was done earlier than we had mentally prepared for. Then “HALELUJAH!!!” burst out across the microphones. I looked to Jennifer, sitting beside me while bouncing a little cherub, I’m sure with a mix of slight anxiety in my eyes and asked, “Is it starting over?” “Mmhhhhmmm.” Wait, wait, wait, is that a yes or a no??

To be fair, the afternoon was even better and I really enjoyed it. It was more free-style now that the bigger choirs had finished. This meant that the girls were up for several more songs or were welcome to grab a microphone and lead the singing while everyone now joined in the dancing. I’m sure the singing and dancing couldn’t be contained even if someone was silly enough to try.

Somewhere nearing dinnertime Momma Maggie asked if we were tired. If a dala dala was going, we were ready to be on it. Not so surprisingly, the older girls were not ready to leave so the littlest girls and us filled up the dala dala once again and along we went, bouncing and giggling home.

At home, we found ourselves heading to prayer with the girls. It’s amazing that they not only had the energy to enthusiastically sing more choruses and praise songs, but they wanted to so much! Afterwards, we shared a special Easter dinner with the girls. They were excited for the special meal and you should have seen how high they could pile their plates. Then the mayhem and giddiness commenced that finally reminded me of home. There were kids everywhere chatting and wolfing down yet one more plate-full. There were bottles of soda everywhere and it’s a wonder they all stayed upright. There was a general feeling of merriment and contentment and I found myself feeling right at home; this place where all things could be foreign while still feeling like family.

Guest Blogger, Bethany DeViller, is JBFC's Health Education Coordinator, and is married to JBFC's Volunteer Coordinator, Jeff DeViller. Bethany and Jeff moved to Tanzania four months ago. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Salome and Leticia On The Road: Part 1

Editor's Note: This year, two of our residential girls, Salome and Leticia, came to visit the United States to explore our support communities, visit volunteers who have been to our campus, and learn more about the United States and its education system. This was the first trip overseas for both Salome and Leticia, and as you can imagine, quite an eye-opening experience for the both of them! This blog will be the first in a series over the next couple of weeks, where the girls themselves share about this incredible experience!

What has surprised you most about your time in the U.S.?

Leticia: "That most people pay with cards! I was surprised people don't pay in cash, and how people buy tickets on their phones and use them right off their phones! I was also very surprised at how developed the U.S. is. There are so many buildings and everything is so developed, I was so shocked and amazed!"

Salome: "The most surprising thing to be in America is I did not know how they put your money in the cards. At La Reina (a school we went to visit in California), they even pay using a fingerprint! I was very surprised to see someone doing that and the student said that's what they do and money will come out of your account when you buy things for lunch. I was also really amazed when we went to a museum and I saw a helicopter, airplane, and four cars INSIDE of a building. When I asked our host how they got inside, she said they separated the wings and put them inside and then put the wings back on. I didn't know they could do that!"

What were you most nervous about before the trip?:

Leticia: "Before the trip, I was so nervous about the interview at the embassy. After I passed that, I was more nervous about the long flights and being off the ground for 23 hours! It was scary, but I made it!"

Salome: "On our way to Mwanza when we were leaving, it was raining so I got nervous that our plane would be cancelled. When we arrived at the airport, it became a little bit sunny so I became happy!"

What has been your favorite food or restaurant on this trip?:

Leticia: "Pasta has been one of my favorite foods. That and sandwiches and toast and peanut butter. And I love Italian restaurants! They are my favorite!"

Salome: "My favorite food in America has been the cheese and beef burgers and pepperoni and sausage pizzas because they taste really delicious. I wish I would know how to make them, so that one day I will be able to eat my own pizzas and burgers made by myself!"

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Nurturing Brighter Tomorrows

This past Saturday evening, JBFC hosted its annual Spring fundraiser, Tanzanite Nights, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For us at JBFC, this event is definitely one of the highlights of our year here in the US. It gives us the opportunity to share news and updates with our supporters, answer questions they may have, and most importantly, join together to celebrate all that they have helped JBFC accomplish!

While last year's Tanzanite Nights celebrated JBFC's 10th anniversary, this year's fundraiser proved even bigger and better. The focus of this year's event was "Nurturing Brighter Tomorrows", and highlighted JBFC's expansion to a second community and increased impact on our flagship campus in Tanzania.

Guests were welcomed to the 60th floor of the CityPlex Towers and were treated to stunning views of Tulsa. They mingled with JBFC staff (including our Chief Operating Officer, Seth Diemond, visiting from Tanzania), and met our two visiting residential girls, Salome and Leticia. Prior to dinner and the program, guests also had the opportunity to read about JBFC's history via our timeline, enjoy shopping in our market filled with unique items direct from Tanzania, and try their luck at our Mystery Boxes! This year, thanks to some very kind supporters and sponsors, JBFC was able to fill boxes with unique items, gift certificates, and very unique experiences, which supporters could then purchase and see what prize they received!

Another big highlight of the evening was the unveiling of a campus map for JBFC's second campus in a town called Kahunda. An architectural firm in Tulsa created a site map of our second campus which showed all of the patrons to Tanzanite Nights what JBFC plans to put on our second campus. It is an exciting time to talk about nurturing brighter tomorrows!

To continue the theme of nurturing and growth, this year's amazing Tanzanite Nights Decorations Committee created beautiful table centerpieces out of fresh produce which can all be found on JBFC's 35-acre farm. A dinner also inspired by JBFC's farm was served to guests, family-style of course since this is how JBFC's residential girls eat, while Chris Gates emceed the program. Supporters were treated to a special song from Salome and Leticia, and a speech by Chief Operating Officer, Seth Diemond, before watching a newly created promotional video about JBFC.

The evening concluded with a lively live-auction, which featured some really spectacular items such as a Tanzanian safari, courtside tickets to an Oklahoma City Thunder Game, beautiful Tanzanite stones, and a Labradoodle Puppy.

Thanks to our generous supporters, this year's Tanzanite Nights raised over $150,000 - a record for JBFC! The proceeds from this 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 56 vulnerable girls, quality education to over 390 boys and girls, access to healthcare for our community, and jobs for more than 80 people on its first campus, and begin to affect change in a second community through our second campus in Kahunda!

Thanks to you, JBFC can continue to nurture brighter tomorrows!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Edward

Editor's Note: This Staff Spotlight features Edward, JBFC's Farm Manager.  Chief Operating Officer, Seth Diemond, says that "Edward is a fan favorite across various departments - our volunteers love learning permaculture from him, he was recently voted as one of three 'employees of the year' among our staff, and the girls refer to him as 'Uncle Eggplant'. Edward is primarily responsible for overseeing JBFC's farm production, livestock, and permaculture outreach. 

How long have you been working
at JBFC?:

I have worked here almost 2 years.

What is your job position and what are your responsibilities?:

I work both on the farm and with the livestock. I am the manager of the farm, so I also have to supervise all of the farm workers.

What is the biggest challenge you face?:

The biggest challenge is the lack of water because of climate change. When there are clouds, the solar pumps can't pump enough water for the farm, so irrigation becomes a problem.

What do you enjoy most about your job?:

My favorite part of the job is to produce enough vegetables for the girls, making sure that they are getting enough vegetables to eat. Also, I enjoy working here at JBFC because I get to know a lot of people from different countries and I learn a lot from them.

Have you seen any changes in the two years you have been at JBFC?:

Yes. During the whole of 2016, we have maintained the production of vegetables. This can be the biggest difference when we compare with the other years. Also, we've increased the production of chickens and eggs. Altogether, this is providing better nutrition for the girls.

What are you looking forward to in the future?:

I look forward to continuing to improve production on the farm.

"Under Edward's leadership, we have witnessed immense growth in production and only expect to see more in 2017. This year, Edward will also oversee the expansion of a permaculture curriculum into our school. He has become a critical member of our team since joining the JBFC family" - Seth Diemond, COO