As I look back on 2012, I can’t help but sit in wonder at all that has been done here in Kitongo, Tanzania and with JBFC. We have grown, matured, taken on new challenges and explored new dreams for our girls. But for all that we have gained this year, I can’t think about the year without first considering what we lost.
The year started with a great challenge; the loss of our namesake and my beloved grandmother, Janada “Mimi” Batchelor. She was the driving force and inspiration behind the founding of JBFC and as we come to the close of a year, we are deeply humbled and grateful to be able to carry on her legacy and name.But the JBFC family in Tanzania and in the US have rallied around me and my family, helping us cope with our loss and have the kind of year Mimi would be proud of. 2012 has been our biggest year of growth yet.
On December 7th, we closed our school for the “summer” term. This marked the close of the first full year of our new secondary school (the Tanzanian version of high school). While a high school education may seem commonplace to most of us in the US, it is something greatly sought after here in Tanzania and something most of our students would not have been able to receive without the Joseph and Mary Secondary School opening its doors. 2012 also saw 100% of our 7th graders passing the Tanzanian national exam – that’s the third year in a row we can claim such success!
This year, we started seriously looking forward to our girls’ futures. While we have always focused on imprinting our girls with a variety of life skills, we decided it was time to take it to the next level in 2012 and opened Papa’s College of Tourism and Hotel Management. This weekend restaurant and getaway is aimed at not only helping JBFC reach its goal of self-sustainability in country, but also helping to train our secondary students to successfully enter the workforce.
As always JBFC’s campus in Kitongo has been a flurry of activity in the last year. We have expanded our farm projects, added several acres bringing our total footprint to 60 acres, started construction of a large central office building for our organization, and made many other improvements around campus.
However, as you all well know, it is not the buildings and programs that make our organization such a success. It is the people: you, our supporters, our entire staff, and all of our children. So, as we come to the close of this year, I want to leave you all with the reminder of the girls that we were able to save.
Many of you know about Esther, who came to us in January- only 14 pounds at four years old. But as she is getting ready to celebrate the New Year, she can walk, talk, boss her sisters around and is walking to preschool on her own! And, then there are Gertruda and Shida, two young girls whose parents passed away leaving them nowhere to turn. They were alone for months before joining the JBFC family.
They are the reason we keep moving, and they are the reason we are so grateful for everything ahead.
Thank you for everything you all have enabled us to do, during this year and we wish you the very best “mwaka mpya” (New Year)!
Chris Gates is Founder & Executive Director of JBFC, shown here with JBFC students Eliza and Saleh (April 2012, Cindy Johnson, Photographer).