JBFC’s Origin Story

March 3, 2016 6:44 pm Published by
I have always used the month of March as a period for reflection. March is the month when JBFC was born, so it has always been a good time to look back at all that JBFC has accomplished. This is especially true this year, as this March is JBFC’s tenth anniversary. 
But this journey began long before 2006. I was in kindergarten, when I proudly announced on Career Day that I wanted to be an exotic animal veterinarian in the Serengti National Wildlife Park. No one in my family really knows where this aspiration came from, but my fascination with Africa, in general, and Tanzania, specifically, remained throughout my childhood. My grandmother and best friend, Janada (Mimi) Batchelor, promised she would take me to see the Serengeti when I was 15. In the summer of 2002, my grandmother kept her word, but added a twist. She wanted my trip to be about more than just looking at wildlife. She decided before the safari, I had to serve.
She took me to do community service at the Tanzania Children’s Rescue Centre (TCRC) in Mwanza, Tanzania, where I came face-to-face with the grim realities many Tanzanian street boys endure. This single experience, which I didn’t want to do in the first place, molded my future. I returned to Tanzania to continue to volunteer with those same street boys at TCRC. I learned the language and what it meant for these boys to live on the streets. I watched as some of the boys I had become friends with literally left their sisters at the doorstep. The only way they could have a safe place was to leave their sisters behind. And I decided to do something about that. Three years after my first trip with my grandmother, I decided to start a nonprofit organization to help abandoned and abused street girls, who had no place to turn.
At 19, I had big dreams, lofty goals, and a family who thought I was more than a little crazy. While everyone admired my idea of starting a nonprofit in Tanzania, many had some concerns. I had just finished high school and getting ready to head off to college at NYU. Everyone said it was a great idea, just not the right time. Being young and bull-headed, I didn’t listen. I began the paperwork to register the Janada L. Batchelor Foundation for Children as a nonprofit in September of 2005. On March 6, 2006, JBFC was born, receiving our federal registration as a 501c3. My dream had become a reality (or so I thought), now I just had to get to work.
But the paperwork was only the beginning. I needed money, a facility, a staff, and I was moving to New York City and starting my course work in the school of social work. My experience volunteering in Tanzania paid off and I was able to reach out to a retired pastor, Jacob Ngalaba, who I had met while working at TCRC, the boy’s home in Mwanza. What many people don’t know is Jacob is the person responsible for finding the land that JBFC sits on today.
He scouted several locations, helping negotiate prices, and making introductions to village elders. I’ll never forget my first glimpse of our property in Kitongo. It was four acres of raw, undeveloped land on the shores of Lake Victoria. It was rocky, covered with reeds, and absolutely perfect. It was the safe haven that I was looking for, the kind of place that girls who had been living on the street could feel safe and secure.
While many folks still doubted my sanity and my commitment to this fledgling organization, my grandfather, Ray “Papa” Batchelor, believed in me. And it’s because of him that JBFC got off the ground, literally. He provided the first donation to this organization. He’s the reason we were able to purchase land and construct our first building. With his recent passing, I will never forget that Papa is a bedrock of this organization.
In the summer of 2006, we had our first four acres and hired our first four staff members (Jacob Ngalaba being our very first staff member). We began construction on our first building that summer. There wasn’t even a road to our property that first year. We had to carry supplies in by hand. I helped lay the rocks that would become the foundation for the first house on campus. And ten years later, here we are.
Four acres has grown into more than 70 acres. One rock house has multiplied to include three houses, six dorms, two schools, two dining halls, three livestock barns, and several other permanent buildings. Forty-six girls call JBFC home. And we have 330 students enrolled in our school. Our humble beginnings have turned into a movement that has elevated an entire community.
We are so incredibly grateful and humbled by all of the love, support, and encouragement everyone has given us throughout these past ten years. Our organization could not be prouder of our girls, students, and staff, and the incredible work that they do day in and day out.
We are celebrating JBFC’s birthday all month long with several special events. For those of you in Tulsa, there are several ways to join the party. We are partnering with several local restaurants to Dine Out for JBFC. Tuesdays in March you can dine out at the following restaurants and JBFC will receive 10-15% of the proceeds.
March 8th, please join us at Elote (514 South Boston Avenue) from 5pm-close
March 15th, please join us at Hop Bunz (3330 South Peoria Avenue) from 5-9pm
March 22nd, please join us at Hideaway Pizza (Kingspointe Village, 5966 South Yale Avenue) from 5-9pm
And on March 6th, we’re throwing a birthday party at The Tropical from 5-8pm (8125 E. 49th Street, Tulsa, OK 74145). Come meet the staff, hear more about our decade of impact and enjoy good food. The Tropical has kindly agreed to donate 10% of the evening’s proceeds back to JBFC.
Throughout the rest of this year, we will be sharing more about our early years and looking back on all YOU have enabled us to accomplish these past 10 years, so please stay tuned…
Blogger Chris Gates is JBFC’s Founder & CEO.

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This post was written by Mainsprings