Our Founding

A look at how we got started.

Meet Chris Gates.

The founder, visionary and leader of Mainsprings.

At the age of 5, Chris Gates proudly announced to his kindergarten class on career day that he wanted to be an exotic animal veterinarian in the Serengeti National Wildlife Park. He made his grandmother, Janada “Mimi” Batchelor, promise to take him on a wildlife safari when he was a teenager. When his 16th birthday arrived, Mimi stuck to her promise, but the bargain had a twist. Despite the fact that Chris said “you know I don’t like people, let’s stick to the animals”, Mimi wanted her grandson to see the real side of Tanzania- not just the luxury lodges. Dragging his feet, Chris went to volunteer at a local center for street boys in Mwanza, Tanzania. It was the trip that changed his life and made him fall in love with Tanzania. The stories he heard from the boys at the center, combined with seeing the struggles the people in the area faced changed his perspective on the world and ignited a passion to enable change in our world, especially Tanzania- which still exists to this day.

After three summers of volunteering at a Tanzanian boy’s home, Gates realized there were very few options for young girls living on the streets and other vulnerable situations. Going into his Freshman year at New York University, Chris decided to found Mainsprings, then known as “The Janada L. Batchelor Foundation for Children” or JBFC, named after Mimi. Initially, the dream was to be able to provide a loving, safe home for vulnerable girls who had nowhere else to turn. Starting with just 4 acres and being able to only build one home during 2006, Mainsprings accepted its first 7 girls in early 2007.

From that small start, Mainsprings started to grow, based on the needs of the community. Living and working in the small village of Kitongo highlighted the basic needs people living in extreme poverty need to lift themselves up, and after several years of working with the community and providing for those most basic needs, the Mainsprings model that exists now was developed.

Today, Chris is passionate about using the Mainsprings model and everything he has learned over the past 22+ years in Tanzania to help further develop the organization while simultaneously helping other individuals and organizations alike do what Mainsprings does- especially in Restorative Agriculture and Education. He is involved in a variety of Boards of similarly-minded organizations and is the Co-Founder of the Earth Allies Restoration Network (EARN).

Interested in partnering
with us to impact Tanzania?

Come & See

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