Wednesday, 22 December 2010

2010 in Serenje

Every year we receive an annual report from Serenje, updating us and Tearfund on the progress of the project. I've been reading it this afternoon and have been moved to tears by the incredible work that is being done by Leah, the pastors and the volunteers and the impact it's having.

As we come to the end of this year I wanted to highlight what has happened since the last gift day in 2009. It's amazing.

Leadership and training
- 50 pastors and church leaders equipped in leadership skills and HIV/AIDS mitigation
- 85 community leaders trained
- 80 Volunteers were mobilised and trained

Agricultural support
- A total of 700 households/small scale farmers received beans, ground nuts and sweet potatoes
- 557 goats were given to 278 households
- Training was done in new farming methods, livestock rearing and vegetable growing. Farmers who received the inputs were supported in the planting period till they harvested.

Orphans and vulnerable children
- 890 orphans and vulnerable children were placed in schools and their school fees were paid for.
- 526 pairs of shoes were given to school going children
- 529 uniforms
- 890 jerseys

People living with HIV &AIDS
- 4 campaigns on HIV&AIDS were conducted in each of the 4 project communities
- 100 people living with HIV& AIDS are accessing treatment from government clinics
- 5 support groups for people living with HIV&AIDS have been formed for information sharing, learning and addressing challenges they face from day-to-day
- 70 of the 100 have received goats for livelihoods and nutrition support


In the busy run up to Christmas why not take a moment. A moment to thank and praise God for the amazing work He is doing in Serenje. To thank God for Leah and the pastors, and the volunteers. To remember our brothers and sisters in Serenje whose Christmas will be very different to ours.

Here are some photos that capture some of 2010 in Serenje.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Truly incredible

The current Serenje Gift Days' total is just over £111,000. This total is a combination of cash donations, standing orders and gift aid. It's just amazing, isn't it? Thank you so much to everyone who gave. Your money means the following is possible:

- 1700 orphans and vulnerable children supported to go to school(up from 890 this year)
- 1000 farmers provided with seed (up from 701 this yr)
- 100 volunteers trained to support people living with HIV and AIDS (same as this yr)

These numbers represent individuals whose lives are being changed. It's been great to hear some of the stories from the team who recently returned from Serenje and Alan Lander shared this reflection from the trip:

'A number of the churches meet in one of the larger schools in the town. I was asked to speak and arrived to find over 100 adults and children crammed into a classroom; kids on the floor, adults at desks. It was a new experience to have an interpreter as most of the adults spoke Bemba. Afterwards I was invited to Pastor Chola's home for lunch. He has seven children and this is what I wrote in my journal.
“I noticed a small bundle on the sofa. This was a baby girl only seven days old. I asked her name and was totally speechless when they asked me to name her. After I got over the shock they insisted and said they had given all their other children biblical names. In their culture they name a child on the seventh day, and as I was their 'honoured guest' then I was asked to name her. I said I would like to call her Hannah. What an incredibly humbling experience. Two of their children are being supported at school by the project and as I held Hannah ( feeling very emotional) I looked in her face and felt that this girl has a hope and a future because of the project we are supporting. Hannah will always stay in my thoughts.'

What a privilege to partner with God in what He's doing in Serenje.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Gift Day update

I heard today that we're up to £84,208 on our way to raising £100,000 for Serenje! How brilliant is that! It is amazing to be part of such a generous community of people.

Catrina is continuing her blogs about her Serenje trip and here is the another one:

Let me introduce you to Mrs Catherine Mumba. She is 42 years old. She is married to Peter, who is a peasant farmer. Together they have 6 children ranging in age from 2-21 years old. Catherine and Peter are both Volunteers for the Serenje Project.

Every morning begins with Catherine making a 1 hour walk into the villages to buy produce, like cabbage, onion, rape and tomatoes. She walks with a group of women for their pre-arranged appointments with different farmers in the villages surrounding Serenje town (the Boma). Catherine and her friends then carry the produce back on their heads and backs to the Boma to sell at their market stall from 6am to 6pm.

Remember she has 6 children too!

Catherine has 5 clients. Two of them are living with HIV and on ARV drugs. Three of her clients are on TB drugs. She also has some school-aged children to monitor. Some of Catherine's clients need seeing daily; all are seen weekly. The support she gives them include spiritual encouragement; physical help; hygiene and health education; perhaps also going to the clinic to collect medicines and food supplements. She will also often give some of her own food to her clients. As Charity (she heads up the volunteers) said of the volunteers: "They leave their families without food and they work tirelessly".

In response to my question "How do you do it all?" Catherine simply replied "I divide my time". The reality is that the volunteers are living in very similar circumstances to their clients - they are not meeting their needs from a position of having much. There is no monetary or earthly reward for what Catherine and the other volunteers are doing. They do it because the love of God has so transformed their hearts and lives. It's so very humbling to see how they truly are meeting their neighbours' needs.

The money raised from the Gift Days contributes to the training of incredible volunteers like Catherine.

Isaiah 58 v.6, 7 & 10
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. "

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Stories from Serenje

If you were at church this morning you will have heard the amazing news that the total from the Serenje Gift Days was just over £71,000. Thank you for your incredible generosity. If you missed the opportunity to give and you'd still like to then you can visit the Serenje Just Giving page at

Those of you who receive Catrina's blog you'll know she's been brilliant at sharing stories for her recent trip to Serenje. Here is her first one and I'll continue to paste the others here. Thank you Catrina!

There are 65 Volunteers - both men and women. Most of the volunteers are peasant farmers. They do an absolutely incredible job. It's these men and women who daily or weekly visit their clients. They support them - perhaps also collect their ARV medicines. They check up on the school children we're supporting - monitor their grades and attendance for instance. They work in the 4 communities (Kankoso, Kashitu, Chilisha and Mwasakano) plus the Boma (the Serenje town). This year they have been trained in home-based care. The reports back are that through this training they have grown spiritually and have gained much informaton.

Pastor Ngosa (Chairman of the Project) put it like this:
"We owe it all to the volunteers - you are our hands, feet, eyes and ears"

Leah presented all the volunteers with green t-shirts - greeted with spontaneous cheering, celebration and singing! It was so helpful for us to be able to identify this incredible team when we were out and about in the communities and schools; and they seemed to love wearing their shirts and thus being easily identified as volunteers.

Mrs Charity Nyangwe (pictured) is a local teacher and she is the Chairperson of the volunteers. George is her Deputy. together they lead the team of volunteers. They all meet together every 4th Friday of the month for prayer, encouragement, support, training and teaching. this monthly meeting is also an opportunity for volunteers to report back about the progress of their clients.

Please pray for the leadership and team of volunteers.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

News from Serenje

I want to start by apologising-I was pretty tired when I wrote the blog last night and when I talked about what the team are doing I missed out the amazing Alan Lander. When I realised today I felt so bad-I'm sorry Alan! Alan has been doing leadership training with with Simon, Sola and Colin. I heard from Simon today and it sounds like it's going really well. Colin has also been speaking to the worship teams.

Catrina and Val led the women's conference today, talking about the fruit of the spirit. Catrina said they had a great time of sharing together. They gave out all the letters from Kerith ladies, along with some postcards that Beccy Oliver designed. The women in Serenje are amazing and I wanted to share this story from Catrina's blog:

'We went on 2 home visits today in the Zambia Compound - visiting ladies that have HIV and that the project is supporting. We went with Catherine who is the volunteer assigned to the two families - she is an amazing woman - mother of 6 children - she goes to the villages at 4am every morning to buy vegetables then sells it from 6am at the market. She has 5 clients and visits them all weekly - some of them daily. Such free and selfless serving of others is so humbling - the volunteers also have so little yet give so much.'

Tonight Catrina is meeting with the Schools Committee to discuss the partnerships between schools in Bracknell and Serenje. Let's pray for her, she's had a busy day and when she texted earlier there was a power cut so dinner was on hold!

We're praying for the team and what's happening in Serenje at the Prayer meetings tonight and tomorrow-be great to see you there.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

News from Serenje

It's so encouraging hearing from Simon and Catrina that the project is going so well. Today Simon, Sola and Colin have been doing leadership training with the pastors and Catrina and Val have been visiting people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as visiting some of the local schools we're connected with.

Please remember the team in your prayers. Simon, Sola and Colin are continuing the leadership training Weds-Thurs. Tomorrow (Weds) Catrina and Val are running a women's conference! A lot of women come and are eager to hear from God. Let's pray it's an amazing time of sharing and encouragement. Please pray for Rob Plant as he does all the filming and editing of footage ready for Gift days this weekend.

The next 2 weekends are the Serenje Gift Days and we'll be raising money for the coming year, which will enable the following to happen:
- 1700 orphans and vulnerable children to go to school (up from 890 this year)
- 1000 farmers provided with seed (up from 701 this yr)
- 100 volunteers trained to support people living with HIV and AIDS (same as this yr)

How exciting to be part of seeing this incredible vision become a reality. Thank you SO much for all your support and prayers for what is happening in Serenje.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


Hopefully you've been receiving updates on how the team are getting on in Serenje through Catrina's blog and also Simon's Facebook updates.

If you would like me to copy their updates on this blog please let me know.

Today they've all been preaching in different churches and apparently Simon had his suit on despite the temperature being in the 80s! They also heard from 3 orphans, all of whom lost both parents and had dropped out of school. They're all now back in education. Let's remember these children and many more like them, in our prayers. Thank you to everyone who has given and made this possible.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Off to Serenje!

Tonight (Weds) Simon and Catrina, Val Cottee, Sola Osinoiki, Rob Plant, Colin Boyle and Alan Lander fly out to Serenje and they’ll land in Lusuka early tomorrow morning. Then they’ll head up to Serenje during the day (it’s a 4-5 hour drive).

Whilst the team are in Serenje they’ll be doing a number of things:

- Visiting the 4 communities that we’re partnering with in Serenje and seeing how the project has progressed.
- Meeting with families affected by HIV/AIDS who have benefitted from being given goats, seed and educational support for their children.
- Visiting the plot for the girls’ dormitory and the area where the girls currently stay (and are very vulnerable)-Zambia compound.
- Running leadership training for the Pastor’s Fellowship (around 26 pastors)
- Catrina and Val are doing a women’s conference with the local women.

Please pray for the team while they are away, for safety in travel, for good health, for a great time of sharing with the pastors and the people of Serenje, for mutual strengthening and encouragement, for wisdom and God’s guidance as they run the leadership training and women’s conference.

The team return on Saturday 16th October and the Serenje Gift Days are on Sunday 17th October and Sunday 24th October. We’ll be aiming to raise another £100,000. It will be great to hear from the team the impact that last year’s money has made and be inspired about the lives that will be touched and changed in the year to come.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Exciting news

I'm really excited to be able to share that Leah Mutala, who heads up what we're doing in Serenje, is coming to visit us! She arrives tomorrow and will be here until the 14th July. She is coming over especially to see us which is a huge privilege. She truly is an incredible woman of God, who impacts everyone she meets. She will be sharing at REAL, our women's conference and also on Sunday at church. We're hoping that she may also spend some time in the local schools that are partnering with Serenje. She'll also be spending time with friends she has in the UK and taking some well deserved time out. Every time we visit Serenje Leah does an amazing job of looking after us, so it's great to be able to return the favour. Please come and say hi to Leah while she is with us and pray that she is really blessed while she is here.

Howard and Elizabeth Reece-Smith, Ralph Allan and Mo Davies have recently returned from Serenje. Ralph spoke recently at church and shared about the developments with the plans for the girls dormitory. I know Leah and the team in Serenje found Ralph's input really helpful. Howard emailed me this week to share his reflections on the trip:

'I was there a year ago, so was delighted to see a big change in the response of the farmers. "We all have enough to eat now,and we have so much to eat that we can sell our excess", was the universal response as we sat with families and communities. We visited a school that had used the school fee money to build more classrooms,and expand their intake,gave out shoes to many barefoot children (very cold in the morning at present)and went to see the hospital again. The building to house the operating theatre was nearly finished, funded by a grant from the USA, so now Elizabeth and I can start to equip it for action. We will cycle from Nairobi to Serenje next year on a sponsored cycle. No back up to save funds, but had many questions about our trip. One evening ,driving back to our guesthouse,we came across two cyclists on the main road. They had spent 7 months cycling in Africa and could answer all our queries and more. How well God prepares the way!!

Elizabeth said this about her visit 'For me ,the trip to Serenje was like being the little boy with 5 loaves and 2 small fishes-we apparently had so little to give this community with their huge problems of HIV and poverty but God was working mightily there making the impossible possible and I look forward to seeing his hand in the future work there.The visit was truely a great privilege.'

It's so good to keep getting such encouraging news of all God is doing. I can't wait to hear more from Leah this weekend.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Encouraging signs

I met with Lindsey today and heard more about her recent visit to Serenje. Our passion is that what we're doing in Serenje is sustainable and empowering. I was really encouraged by what Lindsey shared. People in the villages where we're partnering told her how things have changed since the start of the project. One man shared how he sold his produce (grown from the seeds he was given by the project) for profit and put his children into school. He said ‘I have the means to control my destiny.’ Another woman is thinking about building a fish farm and said ‘before the project we were only eating one meal a day and now we’re eating three’. All her children are now in school.

These stories are just so exciting.

Lindsey also met the new project officer Ian David (based in Serenje) and said that he is very good. He is very keen on not creating dependency, but looking for stories of transformation. He seems to be building good relationships with the local pastors and the local communities.

It's brilliant to hear great news of what's happening in Serenje. Lindsey is heading off to Haiti this Friday and will be there for 6 weeks. Please remember her in your prayers. You can follow her blog at

Saturday, 15 May 2010

News from Serenje

I loved reading Lindsey's blog and hearing all that is happening in Serenje. Such a fantastic reminder that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The money you gave means that people aren't going hungry. More than 890 children are in school, because some people sent their children to school with profit from the sale of crops grown in 2008 distribution. It's amazing what can happen when the body of Christ, in the UK and Zambia, work together.

I've also heard from Lindsey that a new field officer for Serenje has been appointed and is a great guy 'with the capacity to really make a difference on the ground with a view to sustainability and empowerment.' That's a real answer to prayer-thank you God.

Would you like to go to Serenje and see what is happening yourself? Why not join us on this year's Kerith trip? The dates are around Mon 4th Oct-15th Oct 2010. The cost of the trip will be between £1500-£2000, depending on flights. The trip will be an opportunity to to go and see what has been happening, build relationships and then come and share with church, family and friends. There is unlikely to be practical work and most of the time will be spent visiting communities, to hear and see how the project is progressing and to spend time with them. Simon and a few other leaders will also be part of the team, to share with the Serenje pastors. If you're interested in coming please let me, Zoe Hayes, know as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Update from Lindsey

Lindsey Reece-Smith is currently in Serenje and she has written a detailed report of her visit on her blog. Click here to view.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Latest news from Serenje

The money we raised at our Gift Days last November and through Kerith relief came to a final total of £116,415. That's incredible! Thank you so much for your generosity. We recently received an update from Leah and her team in Zambia and it's fantastic to hear what's been happening.

This year 890 orphans and vulnerable children are being supported to go to school. How exciting is that! For those of you interested in the breakdown of the figures: 410 children at primary school, 480 at secondary and 383 are girls,
507 are boys. Here are some photos of the children your money is helping.

The photo above is of Patricia Mumba, who got the highest results in Serenje District to go to grade 8!

Let's remember all these children in our prayers. Leah said that many of the orphans and vulnerable children from outlying villages and communities looked stunted in their growth due to scarcity of food. They eat one meal a day especially during rainy season from December – March. Some of them are withdrawn and emotional as they had recently lost their fathers.

James 1:27 says 'Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.'

Please pray for children who have lost their fathers and wives who have lost their husbands. Pray for health and a good harvest so these families can eat well. Let's also pray for the amazing church volunteers who visit the children and their families and bring love and hope.

If you are interested in visiting Serenje we are taking a team out this October (probably 4th-15th). It will cost roughly £1500-1700 (depending on flights). It will be an opportunity to see what has been happening, build relationships and then come back and share with church, family and friends. If you're interested in coming please speak to me- Zoe Hayes or Simon Benham.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Skipping for Serenje

It's been really encouraging to hear how some of local schools have been connecting with what we're doing in Serenje. Helen Cottee went and spoke at Ruth Jackson and Amanda Wolfram's schools. Ruth emailed me recently to let me know what the children at her school (Crowthorne C of E Primary school) have been doing:

'So far, we have collected 'Small change for a big change' - we asked parents, staff and children to give any 1p, 2p and 5p coins as part of our money week. We raised £112 this way and plan to repeat it later in the year.

As part of our 'Money Week' each House was asked to set up a business, with all profits going to Serenje. They were given a £10 business loan to get their business up and running! Sandringham House decided to base their business on the Poppy idea, selling a flower to raise money for Serenje. They looked for a flower that grew in Serenje and game up with the Soy Bean flower! We are selling the flowers this week, before and after school.

We also had a skip to be fit day where the children were inspired to skip! Then we made this our sponsored event for the year. The week before we took each class to the hall and gave them a set time to skip. We then made a timetable for the day with each class having 3 sessions. The children had to set themselves a target for how many skips they thought they would do and then they were asked to collect sponsors.'

Thank you to Ruth and all the children at her school for all the money they've raised. It's exciting to see children here making a difference to the lives of school children in Serenje. Whether you're from Crowthorne or Serenje, it's fun to skip :-)