Creating Global CitizensNovember 25, 2013 11:20 pm
Traveling across six states in three weeks can definitely take its toll. But nothing lightens the burden of travel more than running into old friends and family. JBFC is blessed to have so many friends around the country, many of them high school volunteers. Many of these volunteers have opted to become JBFC Ambassadors, which is basically their commitment to raise money and awareness to help JBFC continue its work in Tanzania.
It is incredibly uplifting to see all of our JBFC ambassadors and hear how their experience at JBFC has changed their life in some way. While it’s not explicitly part of JBFC’s mission, our role of creating global citizens is something we hold very near and dear to our hearts. It is central to our founding. An experience like the one we offer young people across the world is how I first fell in love with Tanzania, and that one experience ultimately led me to founding JBFC.
When I was in kindergarten, I stood up during career day and told everyone I wanted to work as an exotic animal veterinarian in the Serengeti National Wildlife Park in Tanzania, East Africa. It’s that dream that led to my first trip to Tanzania with my grandmother. She was the woman who dangled my prized safari as a way to get me to commit to two weeks of service, which led to my love for Tanzania and its people, which ultimately led to the founding of JBFC.
It’s a story about the power of service (and strong-willed grandmothers); one that I hope inspires both young and old. And it’s a story I see reflected in the eyes of the young volunteers who come see me every summer. Anytime someone visits the JBFC campus, it is clear that change is possible. It is clear that one person can make a difference. And it is clear that if YOU don’t get off the couch (or put down your iPhone) to make a difference, no one else will.
And I’m proud to say this message is taking root with JBFC’s volunteers and ambassadors. When I was at a JBFC event in New York, I ran into a mother whose daughter visited JBFC three years ago. She told me that even though several years have passed, since her daughter’s trip to Tanzania, it’s still a part of her life and she talks about the girls all the time. She told me her daughter is now passionate about helping people and changing the world. She says her daughter’s college education has been shaped by those passions, and this mother says she knows the moment when her daughter’s perspective on the world changed – three years ago when she returned from JBFC.
And then there are our more recent ambassadors, who have not only taken our message to heart, but put it in action. Emily Wilson, a senior at Holland Hall in Tulsa, set out to raise enough money to pay for a handicapped bathroom so her friends with special needs would have it a little easier. Through her Art for Africa project, Emily has now raised more than $12,000 – which is enough for the bathroom and a biogas system to help JBFC produce its own energy and keep our costs low.
In Bronxville, NY, senior Nina McManus raised $18,000 to share the joy of reading. She asked her family and friends to support her project to purchase eReaders for JBFC students so they could have more access to reading materials.
Ellie Hanrahan, also from Bronxville, NY, teamed up with her friend Brian Forst and raised more than $40,000 to help JBFC finish its secondary school. Now, she’s coordinating a pen pal project between Bronxville 3rd graders and the girls of JBFC.
From Holland Hall senior, Sara Jones, who traded birthday presents this year in favor of asking friends and family members to give a donation to JBFC instead, to the 5th graders at Bronxville elementary school who ran dozens of laps to raise thousands for JBFC – we are humbled and impressed.
These are just a few examples of dozens of projects Ambassadors have done and are doing to help make sure we’re alleviating extreme poverty in Tanzania. Many have some amazing projects planned for this holiday season and next year to accomplish a variety of projects on JBFC’s campus. All of our Ambassadors have shown great ingenuity, dedication, and true passion to help JBFC make a difference.
And it’s a difference that not only reverberates throughout JBFC, but throughout the world. Our ambassadors are growing up to become global citizens. Young adults who see the world’s problems not with apathy, but with empathy; not as threats, but as opportunities.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for our many volunteers, ambassadors, and supporters. I am grateful for my grandmother who made me a global citizen and whose legacy lives on through those who take up the mantle of global service. And, I am thankful the JBFC experience remains a life-changing moment for hundreds of volunteers, no matter their age.
Chris Gates is JBFC’s Founder & Executive Director.
This post was written by Mainsprings