Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Graduating the Class of 2016

Last Friday, December 2nd, JBFC saw its second class of Joseph and Mary Secondary School Form 4 students graduate. This graduating class of seventeen students included four of JBFC's own residential girls. Only 1 in 4 girls in Tanzania ever start Secondary School, with even fewer finishing, so completing their Secondary School education is such an achievement for all of our students. 

The graduation ceremony began with our Guest of Honor, Mr. Shindika, District Education Statistics Officer, and the JBFC leadership entering the beautifully decorated dining hall. The graduates marched into the hall afterward, and their entry was followed by performances from both Primary School and Secondary School students.

A truly moving moment of the ceremony was when three of JBFC's residential girls, Happy, Jackie, and Leticia, sang a medley of songs by Adele. These girls had been hard at work practicing these songs for the past two months as a way to send off their older sisters with something memorable. There were lots of emotions around the dining hall as the girls sang their rendition of "Hello", and it was clear to all present that our JBFC residential girls have an incredible amount of love and support for one another!
After the moving performance, it was time for speeches. First, graduates Nasogani and Kulwa gave a speech on behalf of the Form 4 students. This was followed by a speech from Mr. Kidapanda, the Head of Secondary School. JBFC Administrative Director, Melinda Wulf, then addressed the crowd and encouraged students to work hard, be kind, and to make themselves and others proud.

Seth Diemond, JBFC's COO in Tanzania, then took to the stage to encourage students to be thankful to those who have helped them get to where they are, encouraged them to never forget the lessons of their parents and guardians, and asked them to each be a leader in their families and communities. He also reminded students about the importance of being careful with social media and networking.

Special Guest of Honor, Mr. Shindika, then spoke to the crowd and encouraged the graduates to see finishing Form 4 as just the beginning, and discussed strategies for how to deal with life's challenges.

The speeches were then followed up by presentation of class superlatives, academic certificates, and finally, the diplomas!

Once the diplomas were in hand, all guests enjoyed a lunch of rice and pilau, chicken and beef, fruit and greens, and of course, soda. It was a fantastic day for all of our students, staff, and especially graduates.

Here are some quotes from the day:

"Graduation was fantastic. My favorite part was the time of giving certificates. I loved the food too.  loved the speeches by Seth, Melinda, and the Guest of Honor. I was so proud of JBFC. What can I say, I will really remember this!" - Rose (Form 4 Graduate and JBFC residential girl)

"I was so happy. I was happy because I was singing to say bye to the Form 4 students. And happy because we have been practicing for so long- at least twice per week for over two months I felt sad singing "Hello", because the song is so emotional- all of its words. It felt good because I sang from my heart and I was happy because they (the audience and graduates) felt the way I was feeling. I will keep on singing..." - Happy (Form 2 and JBFC residential girl)

"The graduation was great. All around great! Good for our JBFC family and for the students. Everyone enjoyed it!" - Mzee Kitula (Campus Manager and father of Maryciana Kitula, who was part of the graduating class)

"It was amazing. Of course there were challenges, but overall it was good! My favorite part was having the disabled students from our school help hand out superlative certificates and gifts to the students and the JBFC girls." - Samo Matiko, Dean of Students

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Girls' Government: Election 2016

The end of the year always sees a lot of changes. With Joseph and Mary Schools students, this means national exams, moving up another grade, and graduation. The JBFC Girls' Government is no exception, with the President, Vice President, and cabinet members each serving one-year terms, the end of the year means election time.

In preparation for the election of next year's government, the current Girls' Government planned two weeks worth of introductions of the candidates, speeches, question and answer periods, debates, and finally, a "moderated" debate last Saturday afternoon for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates in front of all the girls and matrons.

Happy, Leticia, Rose, and Maggie (the "cabinet" members), planned the activities and spent a lot of time preparing for the moderated debate. They came up with ten questions for each candidate, and even strategized on how to press the candidates if their answers were found to be insufficient. 

They decorated the dining hall and set up tables for the moderators and candidates. All of the girls attended, and for the most part, paid close attention to the answers. Some of the sample questions were:

"As the Vice-President, what will you do if the President is doing something that you don't think is good, or she is being unfair to some girls?"

"What is the biggest mistake that this year's Girls' Government has made?"

"What has inspired you most about this year's Girls' Government?"

"To you, what is leadership?"

The day after the moderated debate, the annual election was held. Once again, the cabinet took care of all the planning, covering everything from the day/time of the election, to the ballots, rules and procedures, ballot counting, and announcing the results.

Each block of dorms had their own voting stations, ballot receptacles, and supervisors. Even the matrons participated in the voting. Like any election around the world, there were lines at the JBFC polling stations with all the girls eager to cast their votes and let their voices be heard.

Positions up for election were: President of Girls Government 2017, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Health Advisor, Food Supervisor, and Dorm Leaders from 3 dorms (dorm leaders are elected to two-year terms so that only three dorms per year elect new leaders). Some of the positions saw only one girl sign-up for the election, in which case she had to receive at least 24 votes (50%) in order to be elected.

With the ballots cast and counted, we are pleased to announce the JBFC Girls' Government for 2017:

President: Vale
Vice President: Jennifer
Secretary: Zai
Treasurer: Abby
Health Advisor: Dotto
Food Supervisor: Rachel
Dorm A Representative: Reka (also senior advisor)
Dorm B Representative: Shida
Dorm C Representative: Lau
Dorm D Representative: Kulwa J
Dorm E Representative: Justina
Dorm F Representative: TBD

We know all of these girls will do fantastic jobs in their new positions!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giving Thanks

Though Thanksgiving is a North American tradition, we at JBFC think taking time to stop and reflect on what we are grateful for is important regardless of regional boundaries. We are thankful for our healthy and happy children, our JBFC team, and our countless supporters around the world. You mean the world to us! 


"Firstly, I am thankful for my sponsor. Secondly, I am thankful for Massawe (Seth) for teaching me basketball this year! Third, I am thankful for all of my teachers - BIG THANKS!"

Veronica Lucas

"I am so thankful for my sponsors for helping me until I graduate Form 4. And I'm also thankful for Brunswick for putting solar electricity in our home."

Neema Mathew

"I am thankful for my sponsors for paying for everything like my school fees and food."


"Thank you to JBFC for taking care of me and everyone who has supported us. Thanks to everyone for keeping us from bad things."


"I am thankful for surviving. But I am most thankful for having so many visitors this year and for my sponsors."


"I am thankful to know a new game - basketball. I am also thankful for graduating Grade 7 and for passing my exam!"


"I am thankful to have learned a new game - basketball, and I am thankful to all my teachers for continuing to give me knowledge."

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! 
We are so thankful for YOU!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Mr. Kidapanda

Editor's Note: To continue our Staff Spotlight segments, JBFC would like to introduce our supporters to Mr. Kidapanda, the head of Joseph and Mary Secondary School.

How long have you been working at JBFC?:

I have been working for 2 years now. This is my second year.

What is your position at JBFC?:

I am the Head Teacher of Joseph and Mary Secondary School.

What are your responsibilities at JBFC?:

Being the Head of Secondary School, I have two things to do - teach in the classroom (I teach English), and supervise the teachers while accomplishing their teaching activities. Also, I overview the school discipline for both teachers and students and I give daily progress reports to the administration. I'm the middle man to take the information from the administration to the teachers and vice versa. This communication promotes unity between the teachers, students, and administration.

Why did you want to be a teacher?:

I decided to be a teacher in 1983 when my English teacher inspired me in the way that he was teaching. In that year, some of the students in my class came to me asking some questions and I found that I really enjoyed teaching. While answering their questions, I was using the blackboard and my classmates were saying that they liked my handwriting and so did my teacher, so after that I had the responsibility of writing on the blackboard during class time.

What is your favorite part of your job?:

My favorite part of my job is teaching English, especially Literature, because I relate past situations and compare them to present realities in our society which catch my attention. There is so much that we can learn from the past to make a better future. I feel happy when my students are engaged in my lessons, answering questions, etc. That makes me feel like I'm doing a good job.

What is the biggest challenge you face with your job?:

The biggest challenge that I face in my day to day activity is when the teachers fail to perform their activities at their maximum standard. I make meetings to remind them about the importance of quality education. Another challenge I face sometimes is the students' attitude. Some of them don't really like coming to school, and it takes a lot of time and effort to keep them engaged and make them understand the importance of education.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

JBFC Trunk Show 2016

 It’s getting to be that time of year when our U.S office is filling up with treasures large and small! We’re approaching our Fall Trunk Show, one of our fundraisers each year, where we sell all sorts of handmade items from Tanzania. Volunteers and staff spend months carrying these hand-selected items back to the states from Tanzania, but as the Fall gets into full swing, things start to get crowded! We find ourselves searching for storage space for all kinds of items ranging from large baskets, to toys, to jewelry. Each year we have some of our fan-favorite items, but we also select and search out brand new items to offer.

One of the greatest things about our Trunk Show is that we are helping not just JBFC, but also many partner organizations throughout Tanzania.

We love ordering items from Shanga, an organization that employs Tanzanians with disabilities to make all sorts of beaded and fabric items, as well as hand blown glass products from recycled glass.

We’re thrilled to work with Aid Tanzania this year as well to offer some beautiful hand-beaded items, especially a variety of ornaments. Aid Tanzania works to encourage the development of cottage industry amongst the Maasai women. Over 110 women have been involved in this past year, generating income for their families by making these wonderful beaded items.

Of course, the woven baskets from WomenCraft have been a favorite for many years running. WomenCraft employs over 300 women who make stunning woven baskets that can be either functional or artistic pieces. The organization facilitates sharing these women’s beautiful craftsmanship with international markets. WomenCraft aims to ultimately be artisan owned and operated.

For the first time, we are excited to offer JBFC Kanga aprons, hand sewn by our tailor, Edwin. He also makes school uniforms, staff uniforms, napkins, quilts, and repairs the girls' clothing.

And lastly, it wouldn’t be complete without a few special items made by our JBFC girls. Look for ornaments and art pieces this year made by our residential girls.

Our Trunk Show will be held November 16th from 4:30-8pm at Holland Hall Upper School here in Tulsa. This is an opportunity to showcase the beautiful skills of local Tanzanian artisans, empower those who are supporting their families by creating these pieces, and of course, to help JBFC to continue to pursue our mission to change lives in Tanzania, one child at a time. If you’re near Tulsa, we hope you’ll stop by and say “Hi”, have a glass of wine, explore the many treasures, and maybe even get your holiday shopping done early!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Career Day Inspirations

Editor's Note: The Office of Student Development at JBFC's Joseph and Mary School hosted its first ever Career Day for all our secondary school students. Based on a survey they gave to all secondary students to identify the careers that the students were most curious about, the Office of Student Development invited an engineer (Ms. Neema Mosha), an accountant/business woman (Ms. Ester Jackson), and the Director of the Bugando College of Nursing (Mr. Kija Malale), to speak to the secondary students. Joseph and Mary School students Leticia and Athumani presented certificates to the guests at the end of their presentations. This blog has been edited slightly by the JBFC administration from Leticia’s writings about this experience.

Careers are the goals and ambitions that one has to reach or fulfill in their life.

From the program that has recently been conducted at our school (Career Day) - where they bring people with different careers - they helped students explain about their careers, how they reached the top, and what we should do to reach there. Our speakers to the program were of different careers; we had a businesswomen/accountant, an engineer, and a doctor.

All of the speakers taught us and advised us very well, but the one I liked the most was the business women because she started by giving us a real example about her life, how she has been experiencing different things and how she copes with the challenges that she does meet when doing her business. Although she has had many troubles, she never once thought of backing down. She still moves on and her dream is to be the most famous business lady in the world. This is the thing that inspired me the most because my dream is to be a business woman.

I learned different things from those three professionals. First, I learned to never give up - when you start something, always do it until the end and don't [back] away from it. Second, I learned when you do things by specific plans and goals like when you really want to reach something just go for it. When it is your destiny to finish an activity, don't worry about people's words and how they want to fight you from reaching your specific goals. Another thing I learned from them is not to follow others/have peer pressure. For example, don't always listen to what your friends are telling you and follow it. Also, I learned that with specific goals you have to have a good attitude too. You have to be confident, a great leader, and believe in yourself. Lastly, when you want to be somebody, you have to do and practice that thing whenever you have time.

This program was important because it is helping all the students understand in their future careers what they really have to do and learn to reach where others are now. The speakers are helping us to understand ourselves better and what careers we are trying to be in. It is also giving us some experiences on how to do our careers in the future life. It is really encouraging for us to be like they are because when we see them and how they are, we really are jealous. This makes one struggle even more to reach to the peak as that person who is already a professional.

Guest Blogger, Leticia, is a Form 2 student at Joseph and Mary Secondary School and a JBFC Residential Girl. She is a member of the JBFC Football club, Girls Government, and is currently ranked 1st in her class.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spreading the Joy of Reading

Something magical has happened at Joseph and Mary’s library in 2016- and I am not just talking about Zai’s love for Harry Potter (though that is pretty magical!).

First, a little background. JBFC offers quality, affordable education to our surrounding community, one of the central pillars in our holistic approach to development, through the Joseph and Mary school. From the littlest learners in pre-school through the young adults in Form 4 (equivalent of 11th grade), JBFC is changing lives and helping young Tanzanians reach their educational goals.

In order to help give our students a competitive advantage in what is fast becoming a global economy, Joseph and Mary students are taught all of their subjects in English from their first days on our campus. One of our favorite tools in helping our students learn English is to instill them with a love for books. In order to do so, JBFC has built an on-campus library and stocked it with over 3,700 books for book-lovers of all ages, thanks to our Book by Book Campaign. It's the only lending library in our village, in fact the only library for miles around in any direction.

Joseph and Mary’s library has been popular with staff and students since its grand opening in the summer of 2013. But this year sparks have flown, light-bulbs have gone off, and Magic School Buses have started soaring beyond our wildest dreams.

At the end of last year and the beginning of this year, JBFC administrators and school staff began brainstorming ways to expand the impact of our library/literacy programs and to make our services more readily available to a broader section of our community. At the same time, visitors from Sarah Lawrence College in New York proposed the idea of starting a “Family Literacy Program” based on projects that they had run in various parts of the world in the past.

And, just like that, Joseph and Mary’s library became magic.

Since January’s push-start from Sarah Lawrence College professor Kim Ferguson, Joseph and Mary’s Dean of Students, Samo, has organized family literacy workshops for students and their families from six different grade levels at our school. Over the course of a five-week program for each grade, students and their primary caregivers attend a weekly Wednesday-night family literacy session at our library from 4:00pm to 6:00pm.

With the goals of promoting literacy at home, encouraging parents to actively participate in their children’s educations, and expanding accessibility to Joseph and Mary’s library, families gather together weekly for various story-telling games, art activities (bookmark making, for example), and a community dinner. Samo, along with our Literacy Coordinator and various classroom teachers, help instill parents and caregivers with the tools they need to support our students at home. On average, roughly 20 parents come per session, including many JBFC staff members.

Our students and their families aren’t the only people who have gotten a little bit of magic out of the Family Literacy Program. As part of their required community service for school, Joseph and Mary’s Form 2 students have played a major role in the development, implementation, and follow-up of the Family Literacy Program since its start. Assisting with everything from pre- and post-surveying, translation, food preparation, and even providing child-care to parents with young children, our Form 2 students have become experts in this community-based initiative.

Having completed the five-week program for pre-school, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, and Form 4, 2016 has been a successful year. Mr. Samo, Mr. Simon, and our Form 2 students, however, have a different idea. With the end of the year fast approaching, our Family Literacy Team will be completing the program for fourth graders and fifth graders in 2016 before picking up the program again next year.

One measure of the success of a program is the amount of community buy-in that it gets. On this point, our Family Literacy Program has been a home-run. I asked Samo, our Dean of Students and the person in charge of the program, what his favorite part was and got an immediate, playful chuckle from him. “The best part? The best part is to see the parents come, listen, and also realize ‘Oh! We are part and parcel in educating our kids!’”

If you are interesting in donating books or dollars to our Book by Book Campaign, please review the guidelines by clicking here!

Guest Blogger, Seth Diemond, is JBFC's Chief Operating Officer in Tanzania.