JBFC Girls Growing Up

February 15, 2016 2:30 pm Published by

It was a day full of mixed emotions. They piled into the cars one by one, no longer little girls. But as the car headed down JBFC’s dirt roads, I can assure you it wasn’t just the girls, who had tears in their eyes.

At the beginning of January, JBFC hit yet another milestone (there have been a lot lately!) Our first eight residential girls, who recently graduated from secondary school, completed their time at Bibi Mimi’s Girls’ Home and have moved into a transition program, putting them on the path to independence.

We are beyond proud of Liku, Neema, Eliza, Immelda, Anna, Pelu, Sophie and Nyamalwa. Watching them leave, all I could think about were the countless lives they are bound to impact as they continue to grow into community leaders. On the other hand, we could all feel a sense that there was now a major void in our family- these girls, after so many years at JBFC, are going to be sorely missed around campus. Their laughter, their leadership, their presence as the “big sisters.” I am sure these feelings are not dissimilar to those that parents in the U.S. feel as they drop their children (first child!) off on their first day of college.

JBFC’s transition program is specifically designed with our core mission at its heart. If our first eight girls are going to fully develop into the leaders that they are meant to be, then there are some vital skills and values that we must continue to build on. We have raised eight strong, confident, and capable young leaders. But we know that our continued support will be crucial as they enter adulthood.

These eight young ladies have now graduated from secondary school, but they are currently waiting to see what the future will hold. In Tanzania, the end of secondary school is marked by a national exam. These exam results will determine what options are available to our girls and thousands of other students across the country. Based on these results, they will be able to pursue university education, a training college path or an apprenticeship-type program. Although the exams were completed in November, we don’t anticipate receiving the results of their exams until April.

While they wait, JBFC’s transition girls will be living together (with a matron) in a residential house in Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania about 45 minutes from JBFC’s campus. JBFC’s transition program will use a three-pronged approach to prepare the girls for the next phases in their lives while also continuing to provide for all of their basic needs.

The first aspect of JBFC’s transition program will teach the girls basic life skills that they will need to lead meaningful, independent, self-reliant lives. The girls, working with their live-in matron, will be responsible for budgeting for their food and supplies, their transportation funds, and their pocket money. They will be held accountable for adhering to their schedules. They will be writing a weekly “Progress Report” outlining what is going well, challenges they are facing, and their weekly goals. They will be responsible for going to the local hospital and learning how to buy their own prescriptions. They will have guest speakers teaching them about healthy relationships, opening bank accounts, Tanzanian law, and other vital life skills.

The second aspect of their transition program focuses on continuing education. The girls have started an “Introduction to Computer and Technology” course at Mwanza’s main VETA (Vocational Education Training Authority) campus. For three hours a day, Monday through Friday, the girls are learning important skills including typing, Microsoft Office, computer repair, and computer maintenance. These skills will help the girls compete in school and in a globalized economy.

The last part of their transition focuses more on character development. Building on the values and morals instilled at JBFC, all eight girls will be volunteering for three hours per day at a local primary school in their neighborhood. Helping teachers perform their daily duties at a local government school, the girls will continue to develop an appreciation for giving back to their community. While for many this would seem like a chore, all eight of our first Form Four graduates developed a love for volunteering, when they volunteered twice per month at our neighboring primary school. In their new roles as classroom volunteers the girls will be introduced to a professional work environment and be held to the same standards as other employees- punctuality, etiquette, and respect.

We are hoping this transition program will not only keep our girls busy while they wait for their exam results, but will also prepare these girls for when they’re living independently. This is the ultimate goal. JBFC doesn’t just provide a roof over these girls head. Or a safe place to call home. We hope to take vulnerable girls, many of whom were dealt a raw deal in life, and transform them into powerful, change agents in their communities. These girls are on their way… but they still need our support.

I miss lots of things about these girls. I miss Sophie’s shy smile; Nyamalwa’s soft sarcasm; Neema’s leadership; Eliza’s thoughtfulness; Immelda’s dedication.; Anna’s discipline; Pelu’s humor; and Liku’s empathy. In my heart, however, I know that these girls are on their way to becoming multipliers in our fight to alleviate poverty and will be a hard act to follow as strong role models for our remaining girls.

Editor’s Note: JBFC is still supporting these girls while they are in transition. If you’re interested in helping provide for their living expenses and the transition programs explained here, please consider making a donation to JBFC. If you’re interested in supporting their higher education, please click here and list higher education as your designation.

Blogger Seth Diemond is JBFC’s Chief of Operations in Tanzania.

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This post was written by Mainsprings