JBFC’s 10th Anniversary: 10 Years of Community Change

May 13, 2016 11:56 am Published by

Editor’s Note: As part of JBFC’s ongoing celebration of our 10th Anniversary, JBFC’s Board of Directors look back at a decade of making a difference in rural Tanzania. To read more about JBFC’s progress over the last ten years, click here.

As we continue to celebrate our 10th anniversary and look back on all that has changed and been accomplished, I can’t help but think about the drastic changes we have seen in our little village of Kitongo. 

In May of 2006, then Assistant Director, Jacob Ngalaba, and I were simply looking for a place to start. We wanted a piece of land on the shores of Lake Victoria, and we wanted a remote location. That was it. We dreamed of creating a refuge for orphaned and vulnerable girls, a simple and safe haven for them to call home – never thinking of the impact we could have on an entire community.
What Jacob found for us was a small, four-acre piece of land in a village called Kitongo. A narrow cattle trail (if you would even consider it that) was all that connected Kitongo to the tarmac road, about 3.5 miles away. At the time, a few lucky villagers owned bicycles which could carry them to the market and main road, but most people were solitary, truly living off the land, rarely leaving the confines of the area.  Furthermore, nearly all of the houses and buildings in the area were simple mud huts with dirt floors and grass roofs.

Our campus grew slowly. Every year, we would add a few more acres. We bought from our neighbors and about 10 acres were donated by the village government, because of our efforts to help the community. Gradually, our campus grew to encompass more than 70 acres. As our physical footprint grew, so did our operations and our staff. What started with a handful of employees grew to more than 70 full-time workers and can swell to more than 100 if you add in day laborers and construction crews. Soon, we had become an economic engine for the entire community.

At first that “cattle trail” was a constant challenge. But as JBFC grew, the district government took notice. Soon, they were working with us to help maintain an actual (dirt) road to the village center. With more jobs an opportunity came an influx of people, providing another reason to maintain the road.

Over time, more and more people were employed and more people came to Kitongo because of what was happening at JBFC.

Now, 10 years later, our road to Kitongo which used to see only a few bicycles and pedestrians. Now is travelled by dozens of cars, small buses, motorcycles, and bicycles every day.
There are several “guesthouses” (small hostels) in the village center, stores, markets, and a growing, much more diverse economy. The little village of Kitongo has seen an economic boom in the past decade. Today, people are not limited to employment solely as a farmer or fisherman. There are other ways to make a living.
And no longer does everyone in the village live in a mud hut with a grass roof. As I look across the hub of the village, many of the buildings have tin roofs and much, much sturdier walls and floors.

While much of this internal change has been sparked by JBFC, that’s all we can claim – we are a spark. We are a spark for helping people to improve their livelihoods. We are a spark for the local economy. And we are a spark that educates and empowers people and communities to reach for more.

Read about JBFC’s Origin Story here!

Want to know what the JBFC looked like 10 years ago? Click here to view photos!

Our Board Members reflect on the last decade of impact. Read their thoughts here!

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This post was written by Mainsprings