Experiencing All Of MainspringsJanuary 30, 2018 9:42 pm
Guest Blogger Judith H. is a supporter and friend of Mainsprings. She wanted to write an entry about Mainsprings for her own blog, and has graciously allowed us to post her well-written work on our blog!
You can never tell where a cross-cultural experience may lead.
One day an involved and adventuresome grandmother visited a kindergarten class on the day her 5-year-old grandson Chris spoke of his ambition to become a veterinarian to exotic animals in Africa. This particular grandmother followed up with a promise to the boy that when he turned 16, she would take him to Tanzania on a safari.
With any two different people, the story might have ended there, but not this one. When the time arrived, however, there was one new stipulation. Chris’ grandmother required that, before the safari, Chris volunteer at a boys’ home near the Serengeti. He was reluctant at first, but agreed.
Chris fell in love with everything about Tanzania—its people, animals, culture, and land. As a way to keep coming back, he began volunteering at the Tanzanian Children’s Rescue Center (TCRC), a boys’ orphanage, during his high school summers. He noticed during this time that there was not much being done to care for girls.
He knew he wanted to do something to help, so he founded the Janada L. Batchelor Foundation for Children (JBFC) in Tanzania, named for his grandmother, to offer safety and housing for young girls from abusive backgrounds to keep them from further abuse or needing to enter brothels or domestic service.
Chris started JBFC before his freshman year at New York University and was able to oversee operations and development of the center while at college! By the beginning of 2007 the first home had been completed and accepted seven girls. However, those first girls attended a public school in the village with more than 900 students and only three teachers; healthcare was more than an hour drive for anyone in the village; and, despite plentiful land, many of the neighbors struggled simply to even feed their families.
Chris realized that safety and housing weren’t enough, and since its one-home beginning, JBFC, now known as Mainsprings, has grown into a 70-acre campus on the southern shores of Lake Victoria.
In the rural village of Kitongo over a period of ten years, Chris has built a campus of two schools, a community permaculture garden, water wells, and a popular on-site restaurant. Mainsprings now provides refuge for more than 50 girls ages 6-19; nationally top-ranked primary, secondary, and vocational education for hundreds of boys and girls; access to quality healthcare; and economic development through agriculture. Mainsprings now employs more than 75 people, almost all of them Tanzanian.
Today, in addition to the flagship campus, Mainsprings has begun developing a second campus approximately three hours west of Kitongo. Realizing and modeling that an entire community needs to prosper in order to ensure no child has to live a life of extreme poverty, Mainsprings is becoming a catalyst to create change in even more communities across East Africa.
But even that is not all.
It was volunteerism that originally brought Mainsprings Founder and CEO Chris Gates to Tanzania. And it was his summers working with a boy’s home in Mwanza that inspired him to start Mainsprings. He therefore built into the Mainsprings program a way for volunteers to be made welcome to its campus several times a year.
Ten-day Experience Mainsprings trips are offered three times a year for individuals, students, and families who are interested in coming to the campus. These trips give participants a taste of everything that Mainsprings has to offer, and allows them, too, to fall in love with Chris’ extended family and see for themselves the kind of phenomenal programs being developed almost totally under the media radar.
There is a very fitting Tanzanian proverb: Little by little, a little becomes a lot.
It was pure serendipity that I happened to meet Chris. I asked his permission to tell his story on my blog site, as evidence of making positive change in the world. We may not have his vision, determination, and resources, but his story can surely be a delight and inspiration as we pursue whatever is ours to do.
Perhaps you’ll be moved to volunteer your way around the world.
Please click here for more information about our Experience Mainsprings trips! Our July trip is full for 2018, but we still have a couple of spots open for the June 21-30 trip and plenty of space for our graduation trip in December!
This post was written by Mainsprings