Life Lessons

August 6, 2014 5:49 pm Published by

Thinking back on my childhood growing up in Portland, Maine (a long way away from Kitongo, Tanzania), one of my fondest memories is of grocery shopping with my father. I can vividly remember waking up on Saturday or Sunday mornings, jumping in the car, and heading off to the grocery store and the farmers market. There, I would help my dad pick out the groceries for the week, push (and sometimes ride) the cart, help pay at the cash register and carry the bags of food. Looking back now, these excursions into the real world weren’t just about the toy I’d be able to pick out at the end of the day (though at the time I was positive they were). These trips with my dad served an important role in my upbringing.

With all that is going on here on campus this year- transitioning to 100% solar power, moving the farm closer and closer to our sustainability goals, opening of a new dorm where we will accept new girls into our family, construction of our administration building, many dozens of wonderful guests- it is easy to forget the little things that we do here in our attempt to create well-rounded, caring, knowledgeable, girls who will one day be self-reliant citizens who make positive contributions to the world. Here are a few of my favorites, in three parts!

Family Market Day

For the past few months Mama Maggie, our head matron, has been taking small groups of girls with her to the market every Sunday to help her with shopping for things like cooking oil, flour, rice, soap, laundry detergent and spices. We started with the oldest girls first, usually taking four or five per week, and moving down grade by grade so that as many girls as possible would have the chance.

This particular Saturday morning was the youngest girls’ turn to go shopping with Mama Maggie. By the time I got out of bed and went to the girls’ home at around 8 AM, I found not four or five girls ready to go, but 13 girls dressed in their nicest clothes, carrying purses, and some wearing earrings. Bhoke had even applied lipstick.

While this may have been one of the cutest encounters of my life- it was surely a scene right out of “Little Rascals”- it was also an important day for the girls. During their field trip to the market the girls learn important skills that will help them later in life. They learn the price of food and supplies, learn how to barter at the market, are taught about family budgeting (although they may want to eat chicken and potatoes seven days per week, it just isn’t possible!), help in ensuring quality control by picking through and selecting only the best products, and learn teamwork through working together. 

At the end of a hot day in a dusty, sweaty market, the girls are treated to a soda as recognition for their hard work. While tough, it is an experience that the girls generally look forward to as they get to spend some time out in the world- always dressed in their Sunday best.

Global Citizens

With our guest and internship programs we often use the term “Global Citizens” in reference to the many wonderful people who pass through our campus. Through their experiences, we hope to give them diverse perspectives and a global outlook on the world to use as they navigate through school, careers, and family life.

 But how do we instill these same perspectives in our girls without traveling the many hundreds of miles to visit another country? One way is through media.

Twice per week, we buy JBFC’s secondary girls two English language newspapers. The girls then sit for hours thumbing through articles on elections in India (the world’s largest democracy), educating women in Afghanistan (astonishing advances have been made in recent years), violence in Nigeria (Boko Haram), peace talks in the Middle East, refugees in South Sudan.

 Sitting with these girls, discussing issues that they may have an impact on someday as leaders of their generation will be some of my best memories of JBFC. The girls can be found, long after dark, sitting outside under a tree debating the merits of one point of view or another.

Leadership Through Church

Through their experiences, we hope that all of the JBFC girls become leaders in their communities and role models for generations of girls to come. One way of creating confident leaders is through our prayer services and church here on campus. As anyone who has visited campus can tell you, various girls lead our nightly prayer services and Sunday morning Church services. Hearing Salome sing “Mambo Sawa Sawa” or Nyamisi lead “Mwamba Mwamba” are consistently guest favorites. They select the Bible readings, lead the prayers, call on contributors, and make general announcements regarding our JBFC community.

This past week, however, several of our girls have been provided a new opportunity to learn leadership through religion. One of the local churches in Kitongo has elected Eliza, Liku, Nyamisi, Nyamalwa, and Lau to be the representatives for all of the young adults and children in their congregation. With this opportunity, the girls will be given the chance to help plan services and events and to lead discussions with the young adults about the issues in their lives. On Sunday, I attended church with these girls and a couple of our guests (John, Ari, and James). What I saw was amazing. Not only did they help plan the service, but they were in charge of organizing all of the activities going on at the church that day- lunch, decorations, discussion time for young adults, child care for the toddlers. Eliza has been asked to teach Sunday school to the youngest members of the congregation- something I am confident she will excel at. 

With all of the big items on our daily, weekly, annual to-do lists, it is easy to forget that we are, in every way shape and form, a big family. We strive to make sure these 44 girls get all of the experiences that make a family, well, a family. We encourage them to try new things. We are proud of their accomplishments. We use moments of failure or frustration to teach and to build. Whether it’s cooking lessons from Dad, swimming with Melinda, or choir practice and Bible readings with Markus, we strive to give these girls as many tools as possible to succeed in the future. In the end, we are confident that the JBFC girls will look back on their time here with fond memories of a loving, productive childhood.

Seth Diemond is JBFC’s Campus Director.

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