JBFC Summer Volunteers
Organized by: Jamie MacFarlane
In early June, a group of four Brunswick School teens and two adults traveled to Kitongo, Mwanza, Tanzania, as volunteers to help the Janada Batchelor Foundation for Children (JBFC) further its impact and improve its processes — all while forming connections with the 44 girls in the JBFC orphanage and the 300+ students in JBFC primary and secondary schools.
As volunteers, we did manual labor, such as clearing and leveling JBFC's farmland and painting JBFC's building walls, and educational work to increase students’ English literacy.
As a group of rising high school Juniors, the four teens hope to make the trip more than a one-time occasion as well as something to continue for high schoolers — not only from Brunswick, but from Greenwich and the surrounding areas — once we graduate, in two years.
We just want to be the start of something much greater, a continuous outpouring of support and volunteer work for those who are less fortunate and seem to have no hope at a better lifestyle. By raising money, we hope, for years to come, to make trips to JBFC something to open the eyes of high school students to other ways that people around the globe live and to provide an experience to see how change can be made.
Not only does the trip provide JBFC with supplies and labor to improve the infrastructure and education of the school children and the 44 girls at the orphanage, but it also provides an unforgettable experience and new perspective for the high school volunteers: The buildings around JBFC are mainly made from mud and straw roofs. Families farm and fish for a living. The public school has 700+ students. It would be near 1,000 if all kids went to school, but some parents don't value education. For the 700+ kids (in eight different grades), there are three teachers. The students have to split up into two daily sessions, so that all kids can have a teacher at some point in the day. In the fishing community, alcoholism is a major problem. The overwhelming diet in the area consists of rice, beans, and ugali (a corn-meal-based white substance that offers no nutritional value, but fills empty stomachs). There are children (two at the school and one in the orphanage) who have been affected by a form of meningitis that has made their legs below the knee useless so they walk around everywhere on their knees. The labor is difficult and the lodging rudimentary, with extremely limited and very slow internet access (only for chaperones’ use), but the experience of getting away from the unappreciated guarantees here in the United States really opens peoples’ eyes and allows them to recognize their good fortune.
There is so much in the world that needs changing, and the trip allows the students and chaperones alike a) to be a part of the solution; b) to learn and understand what it takes to make change; and c) to recognize fully that a lack of proper nutrition and education are more than a dinner-table discussion and a glaring issue. Coming back from JBFC, nobody looks at everyday things the same way, and that appreciation is invaluable.
JBFC currently has only the one campus, in Kitongo. But by summer next year, the organization is looking to operate another facility. It has the land for the new campus and plans for several buildings, but it’s clear that, besides monetary donations, labor and supplies will be key to the process of reaching a state of operation. We would love to be able to send two groups of students next year — one to each campus.
As a group, we have outlined possible ways that funds to our (growing) group will be utilized.
1. The funds can be given to a specific goal/project that JBFC is working on, based on the group's first-hand assessment of what would most beneficial. For example, the water that goes through the filter that JBFC currently has is not filtered completely, and is often green and containing bacteria. The organization currently buys bottled water from Mwanza City (more than an hour away) that is fit for the guests’ consumption. JBFC hopes to install a UV filtration system, which would filter all the water, so that they don't have to buy the bottled water and so the girls and the whole village of Kitongo would have clean drinking water.
2. Funds can go toward subsidizing the trip, so that finances do not prevent a kid from going on the trip and having a life-changing experience.
3. Funds can go toward buying supplies traveling students can deliver to JBFC. (With importation taxes and VAT, many international, and higher quality supplies, cost nearly 60% more in Tanzania than in the US.)
4. If donations far exceed expectations, some sort of trust to ensure that the trip continues for years to come may be set up. However, the first 3 items take priority.