Saturday, 31 December 2011

Crowthorne CE Primary School

Crowthorne CE Primary School is partnered with Kashitu Basic School in Serenje. Ruth Jackson is the Deputy at Crowthorne and over the last year they have been doing lots of fundraising activities, including a sponsored skip! Ruth was part of the Kerith schools trip earlier this year and visited Kashitu School for the first time. She was able to see the huge difference that the money her pupils had raised would make.

Kashitu Basic is a rural school based about an hour from central Serenje and the journey to the school is a bumpy one down hilly dirt tracks and through the countryside. The school had been facing a number of problems, such as a lack of study books for the pupils in grade 8 and 9 and no science equipment (pupils only knew the science apparatus by names but had not seen them physically). They also lacked mattresses for children who travel long distances and therefore sleep in one of the classrooms on the floor during the week. It was also felt that a decent structure needed to be constructed for the male pupils who are weekly boarders. These pupils had been sleeping in a two roomed thatched shelter which was almost collapsing.

With the £4629 raised by Crowthorne CE Primary, Kashitu school have been able to buy:

- 240 books for all the key subjects such as Maths, English, History, Geography, as well as atlases and dictionaries. The headmaster Mr Chisulo said ‘This has brought a lot of joy to pupils especially the grade 8 and 9. The school is now fully stocked with study books for the pupils.’
- 40 mattresses for the girls and boys who board during the week.
- Building materials for the boys’dormitory. The construction of this building will commence in April 2012 once rains have almost wound up. Mr Chisulo says ‘This will change the face of the school. Pupils are so excited about this good news. The school authority at Kashitu Basic School is so thankful to the Crowthorne CE School for the support and wishes the school administration all the best in their endeavours. The contribution made to the school will go a long way in helping build the future of many children within and outside the community who are going to learn from this school.’

Thank you to Ruth Jackson and all the pupils and staff at Crowthorne CE Primary school. It's amazing the difference that this will make to the lives and futures of the pupils at Kashitu Basic School.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Thank you

Back in October we set out to raise a total of £170,000. This included £80,000 for year 4 of the project and £90,000 for Project 125, the building of the girl's dormitory.

If I'm honest I felt a little daunted by the figure of £170,000. It's a huge sum of money. And yet as we head into Christmas we can celebrate that we have reached our target! It's incredible - what a faithful God and what a faithful church. Thank you so much to everyone who gave, who believed, who prayed.

I'd like to say a special thanks to our young people who raised thousands of pounds towards Project 125. They conga'd to windsor, did sponsored silences, washed our cars and much more. Thank you to Amy Mehta and Alice Benham who were the driving force behind so much of this.

Christmas is about hope and you are part of bringing hope to the thousands of people in Serenje. Thank you for making the following possible:

3000 orphans & vulnerable children receiving support (school fees, uniforms)
1000 families receiving agricultural support (training and seeds)
117 church and community volunteers visiting and supporting people living with HIV and AIDs.
110 (50 church leaders and 60 community leaders) receiving leadership training.
100 girls will have a safe place to live and sleep while they attend secondary school.

Merry Christmas.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Gift Days

Over the last fews weeks it's been so encouraging to hear all that has been happening in Serenje. It was amazing having our dear friends Bishop Samson Kasele and Pastor Bernard Ngosa with us and then to hear further news of what is happening with the prayer requests from Leah.

How are you getting on with the rice and beans challenge? It's been great reading people's Facebook updates and knowing we're sharing in this!

This Sunday is the last of the 3 Serenje Gift Days. We are aiming to raise a total of £170,000. This includes £80,000 for year 4 of the project which will enable the following to happen:

3000 orphans & vulnerable children receiving support (school fees, uniforms)
1000 families receiving agricultural support (training and seeds)
117 church and community volunteers visiting and supporting people living with HIV and AIDs.
110 (50 church leaders and 60 community leaders) receiving leadership training.

And then £90,000 for Project 125, the building of the girl's dormitory.

There will an opportunity to give at all 3 services this Sunday or you can give online at

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Prayer requests

Part of why we're doing the rice and beans week is to focus our minds on the people in Serenje. And it's great to use that to stir us to pray. I received an email from Leah at EFZ today with some prayer requests - so it's great timing! She asked if we could:

- Thank God for the church to church links programme co-ordinated by Tearfund which brought about EFZ/ Serenje – Kerith Church Link, resulting in the fulfilment of the biblical mandate on mission (Mathew 28: 19- 20: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.).

- Pray for commitment by the guardians of orphans and vulnerable children, to ensure continued attendance despite long distances from their villages.

- Year 4 started October 1st 2011 and is also the beginning of the farming season. Pray for good rains.

- Pray for volunteers as they serve the communities in view of the huge scale up in the number of orphans and vulnerable children (1700 last year to 3000 this year) and new farmers.

- EFZ Staff - Ian Kapongo, Chewe Nalomba and Leah Mutala will need your prayers for wisdom and strength as they co-ordinate the various stakeholders in the project.

- Pray for project beneficiaries to commit themselves to the sustainability strategies already being implemented.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Rice and beans

It was great to spend last Sunday celebrating all that has happened in Serenje over the last 3 years of the project. If you were there last weekend you'll remember us talking about the rice and beans challenge. We're encouraging everyone to eat rice and beans for lunch and dinner this week.

It's one thing to hear about people going hungry and having to eat very basic meals, but another to experience it personally. Often it's not until we experience what others go through that we can truly understand something of what it must be like. As we take part this week, my hope is that the people of Serenje are in our thoughts and prayers, and that we have a fresh appreciation of how blessed we are to be able to eat what we want, when we want.

I've had lots of questions about what is ok to eat this week and what is not! If you want to go all out it's rice and beans (any kind of bean will do). Some people I've spoken to are choosing to give up eating meat this week, others are cutting out snacks and treats. Whatever way you choose to take part, can I encourage you to blog and share via Facebook/Twitter how you're finding it.

'I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.' Philippians 4:12


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Project Tehila

Hannah and Sam Fairs-Billam have exciting plans to go to Zambia in Spring 2012. An opportunity has arisen for them to volunteer for EFZ for 12 months. During this time they will aim to implement a new Child Protection Policy across the organization. The vision is to take forward a process of change in perceptions, which will see children and young people’s lives changed forever. They will aim to develop and facilitate a training programme, equipping people with the skills to recognise and respond appropriately to a child that may be at risk from harm. This will be good for the children, their families and for Zambia. Hannah and Sam are inviting people to journey with them and in particular they are asking if anyone would be interested in offering
financial support. To read more about Project Tehila please visit or contact Sam/Hannah Fairs-Billam 07737675064.

Don't forget that this Sunday all 3 services are a celebration of what's happened in Serenje over the last 3 years of the project. As so many people in Serenje walk long distances to get to church, we're encouraging as many people who are able, to walk to church this Sunday. Wouldn't it be amazing if the church car park was empty this weekend!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Walking in someone else's shoes

As I mentioned in the previous blog, on Sunday 16th October all three of our Sundays services will be a celebration of all that has happened in Serenje over the past three years of the project. The two following Sundays will be the Serenje Gift Days where we are aiming to raise £80,000 for the coming year in Serenje, plus £95,000 for the Project 125 girl's dormitory.

We're really excited that at the celebration services on the 16th we will have two of the amazing pastors from Serenje with us - Bishop Kasele and Pastor Bernard Ngosa. They will be sharing at each of the services and they are not to be missed!

It's been said that compassion is the willingness to walk in someone's else's shoes, in order to truly understand something of their reality. We have two opportunities to show compassion coming up.

Firstly, on Sunday 16th October we want to encourage everyone who is able, to walk to church. In Serenje district people often walk long distances to get to church, some up to 2 hours.

Secondly, for the week between the 16th and the first Gift Day on Sunday 23rd Oct we want as many people as possible to try living on rice and beans for the week. This is an opportunity for us to really experience what many people living in Serenje eat every day of the year. Meat is a luxury and some families eat just one meal a day. Maybe you want to give the money you would have normally spent on food that week to the Gift Days.

Please be thinking and praying about you can get involved in all that's happening. See you on the 16th for is going to be a fantastic day!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Lives changed

Last week I received an email from EFZ telling me about Mr Edward Ngulube who is aged 56. He is looking after his two orphaned grandchildren (their parents died due to AIDS related illness six years ago) and three of his own children. The five children go to school and are in grade 4 and 2. Mr Ngulube received groundnut seeds, cassava cuttings and sweet potato vines and beans seed in 2008 when the project started.

Mr Ngulube is so grateful to the project for helping him with seed in the start of the project. He had this to say,
“I used to suffer in term of feeding my family and sending my children to school because I did not have the means to do so. When the Kerith project came to my community, it was a relief that they gave us seed to plant so that we have enough food in our household. I made sure that I planted all the beans seed I received and my harvest that season was so encouraging that for the first time in my life I was able to harvest 4 x 50 kilograms bags of shelled beans. Even if the project phased out today, my family is already stable in terms of food security, from my harvest, I have reserved enough food to see us to the next harvest for my household. I was able to sell the surplus to earn me some money, I am now able to provide decent clothing to my family unlike before, I am now able to buy my school going children with uniforms, school shoes, pay for their school fees and buy them books”.

It is so encouraging to stories of amazing people like Edward, who have received some seed and through his hard work and initiative it has transformed his family's life.

On Sunday 16th October all three of our Sundays services will be a celebration of all that has happened in Serenje over the past three years of the project. We will be hearing more stories of lives changed and praising God without whom none of this would have happened.

To God be the glory great things He hath done.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Photos from our trip

We've been back from Serenje a month and a half, and it's amazing how time has flown and life's got busy again. But it's great to be able to go look through photos from the trip which bring the people, the memories, the sights and sounds to life.

Here are a few of the pictures from our trip. I hope they bring Serenje a little bit closer for you.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


It always lovely to receive a letter isn't it? Especially when it's coming from thousands of miles away. Thank you to all the Kerith women who wrote letters for us to take to Serenje. We handed out the letters during a community meeting and it was great to see the women's names called out and them enthusiastically come forward to receive their letter-some of them even did a little dance as you can see in the photo! They ripped the letters open straight away and read them.

This weekend at our women's conference REAL there will be the opportunity to register your interest in being a pen-pal to a lady in Serenje. It's a great opportunity to connect with some of the amazing women in Serenje, to bless and encourage them. And then you can look forward to receiving a letter back :-)


Friday, 10 June 2011

Inspiring stories

One day Leah and I were chatting and she shared the inspiring story of a girl called Kunda. Kunda was at teacher training college. However she was asked to leave when the course requirements changed and her maths grade wasn't high enough. Leah explained how upset Kunda was to leave college and cried for some time. Things got worse when Kunda's mum died, followed by her father. Kunda then moved to stay with her aunt, but she also died. Kunda moved to another aunt's house, but she died too. Then she went to stay with her grandfather, but he died. Finally Kunda lived with the brother of the grandfather. She needed to support herself, so she got a job. She needed to help support the family she was staying with so she wasn't able to save much for her education. Whilst she was working she got some private tuition and passed her maths exam. As a result she got reaccepted at teacher training college. Kunda is now being supported by the project to finish her teacher training.

What incredible perseverance. Please pray for Kunda, that she would complete her training and go on to become a successful teacher. Pray that she would know God's blessing on her life.

Monday, 6 June 2011

What a week

We arrived back from Serenje on Saturday night, after an amazing week. The day we go home is always strange - seeing the sun rising in Africa and then arriving in Bracknell by 7pm. It makes you realise how small the world really is.

We had an incredible time and it's hard to know how to where to begin, but over the next few weeks Catrina and I will be sharing some of the highlights and photos. But here are a few to get us started:

- being part of a fantastic team who embraced everything with enthusiasm and interest.
- seeing how the team of volunteers doing community visits has grown and has become such a key aspect of all that is happening.
- seeing children who are loving being in school,proudly wearing their school uniform and shoes.
- meeting headteachers who have a passion and a vision for their school.
- being a handed a live chicken!
- seeing the new operating theatre and medical equipment sent over by Howard Reece-Smith and hearing how this will save lives.
- the generosity of the volunteers who gave so little themselves, sharing their lives and all they have with those who have even less.
- seeing the goats and their kids running around.

Thank you for all your prayers while we were away. It was a truly a privilege to be there and see all God is doing.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

Thursday, a visit to a Community

Today we visited one of the communities that we're supporting. They sang 'Come and see what the Lord has done' and said they used to depend on wild fruits but now their children eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. We sang and danced with the amazing volunteers. They really are making such a huge difference supporting families. This afternoon we visited the new operating theatre and saw the equipment Howard Rees-Smith has sent. This really will save lives; so exciting! Tomorrow we head back to Lusaka and fly home on Saturday.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Tuesday Kankoso School Visit

Today we visited Kankoso school, which Sandy Lane are partnered with. It was great to see one of our team members Liz Norris and the head of Kankoso meet for the first time. Later we visited some of the childrens homes and saw firsthand the impact of the volunteers who support them and the goats they've received. The team was really encouraged to see how lives are being changed.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Ibolelo High School

Today we went to Ibolelo High School for grades 10 - 12. They face lots of challenges. There are 1500 at the school and sometimes 65 in a class and two sharing one book. We sat in on the classes and were really encouraged by the amazing teacher and pupils.

A Fantastic Sunday

We had a fantastic morning at Bread of Life Church. The worship was amazing and the team were really moved by the joy and freedom they showed. After church we shook hands with everyone in the church, as is traditional. We felt so welcome. We're looking forward to visiting Ibolelo school on Monday, who Garth is partnering with. Can't wait!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

We've arrived in Serenje

After nine and a half hours on a plane and five in a car we have arrived in sunny Serenje! The earthy, dusty smell of Africa is as welcoming as ever and it's great to be back and to bring new friends. We've met with Bishop Kasele and now we're off for dinner. Tonight is an early night all round and then church tomorrow!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Project Update

The Serenje project is in year three of its implementation. The targets for autumn 2010-2011 are:

1700 orphans & vulnerable children receiving support (school fees, uniforms)
1000 families receiving agricultural support (training and seeds)
117 church and community volunteers visiting and supporting people living with HIV and AIDs.
110 (50 church leaders and 60 community leaders) receiving leadership training.

We've received a report from EFZ in Serenje on the latest developments and we'll be blogging some of the highlights.

The period October – to March is the busiest time of the year in the project as it covers the farming season as well as identification and verification of new OVCs (orphans & vulnerable children) to the program which falls November – January.

Farmers in the project sites were positive that the harvest yields of their crop looked promising and would be able to meet household needs as well as market some for income.

The HIV and AIDS prevalence rate is 10.3% in the rural areas such as Serenje. The ART (treatment for HIV) is still being accessed freely. The challenge, however in Serenje is that medical personnel are inadequate to cope with the demand. Many people living with HIV walk long distances to access the medication at rural health centres and stigma is still quite high.

There was a further huge scale up of beneficiary targets of both orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and on food security on households affected by HIV and AIDS referred to as “ small scale farmers”. For the OVC, the target increased from 890 in 2010 to 1700 pupils in 2011. The small scale farmers target increased from 700 in 2010 to 1000 in 2011. This involved a lot of mobilisation since some villages are far apart. The Serenje Pastors Fellowship of EFZ and volunteers from their Churches facilitate the implementation with technical support of the EFZ field officer based in Serenje. The volunteers’ network has increased from 80 to 117. These come from the Serenje churches as well as the four target communities of the project implementation which are Mwansankano, Kashitu, Chilisha and Kankoso.

Agricultural support
• We distributed seed input to all the 1000 farmers
• 600 farmers received each 15 kilograms of groundnuts seed
• 400 farmers received 15 kilograms of beans seed.

Monitoring went on well especially with the field Officer due to adequate transport to reach farmers. The field officer, now with a motorbike accompanies volunteers during their field visits. Field monitoring is being done in all the four communities on a monthly basis. All the 1000 farmers were physically visited to ensure that there is evidence of what is on the ground.

Family sizes in the project sites range from 6-9 members per household.

This 2010 – 2011 farming season farmers have estimated high yields citing that the rain pattern was good unlike in the 2009 – 2010 farming season. During visitations in all the four communities, an average of 30 farmers per community have harvested each 20 kilograms of beans in the first planting which comes up in December. We still expect a second harvest on beans by April month end as they plant twice in each farming season. The expected harvest in the second round will be slightly more than what has been harvested in the first round. Much of the quantities will be reported in May when they will have completed harvesting and drying the beans. The groundnuts should be harvested by end of June. There is a lot of progress in terms of farming yields as compared to the 2010 farming season which had heavy down pours.

Our farmers have not just relied on the seed from Serenje Kerith project but have also planted other crops like maize, sorghum, and finger millet. It was impressive that at least 65% of our farmers have at least one of those crops in their fields. So the beans and groundnuts we gave them have facilitated the growing of maize. The sales of the beans and groundnuts have enabled beneficiaries to diversify their crops.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Off to Serenje

At the end of May we're sending a team out to Serenje for the half term break. This trip is going to be different to previous ones, in that the focus will be on developing the links between our local schools here and those in Serenje. Many of you will know that Crowthorne C of E Primary school, Sandy Lane Primary and Garth Hill already have connections with Serenje. On 27th May Catrina Benham (Sandy Lane), Ruth Jackson (Crowthorne C of E)), Jacqui Webber Gant (, Liz Norris (Head of Sandy Lane) and her daughter Annabel, Rachel Morgan (Education staff Sandy Lane) and myself (Zoe) will be heading off (and yes we may sing ‘here come the girls’ as we go!).

Our dream has always been to connect our wider community here with Serenje and it’s so exciting to see the relationships between the schools growing. The trip will be an opportunity for our team to visit the schools they are partnering with in Serenje and see what life is like for the teachers and the pupils, both at school and at home. We will spend time sharing ideas and encouraging one another and also meeting with the Schools Committee in Serenje (a team set up to coordinate the school links).

We would really value your prayers – for Leah, Susan and the pastors in Serenje as they prepare for our arrival, and for the team, many of whom haven’t been to Serenje before. We'll send news of how we're getting on while we're there and you can read about it via this blog.

Thank you for all your prayers and support.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Stories from Howard and Elizabeth

Howard and Elizabeth have recently returned from their African cycling adventure to raise money to equip the operating theatre in Serenje hospital. Here are some stories from their trip and some great photos - thanks to Howard for sending these.

We left Nairobi at first light on the 13 Febuary, armed with directions from the lodge staff as to how to find the road to Zambia. There began the most amazing example of God's provision for us. The excellent directions along a poor road took us safely to the Namaga road,we stopped in Kajaido to find a bed for the night,and were directed by the police to a lodge which had no rooms because they were still being built. The Anglican church, however had a guest house and would organise a meal. It poured down as soon as we arrived and did not stop until we were ready to leave the next morning.

Having completed the first day we were a little saddle sore but were pleased to be really on our way after all the months of planning. I will not bore you with a blow by blow account of the following days, but will narrate some highlights. We had no visa for Tanzania,had tried to get one when we were there a few days before but they would not issue a multi entry visa. Nevertheless the border officials waived the fee, sorted out our papers immediately and sent us off with their good wishes.

On the fourth morning we were cycling along at first light and came across a South African (Richard) jogging from Cape Town.He had covered 5900Kms on foot,so our effort looked pretty tame. He recommended us to stay in Trinidad lodge in Babati and laughed when we told him our route."You will be walking a lot" were his parting words. We arrived at said lodge and I left Elizabeth doing the washing whilst I attempted to find out about the road ahead. I asked the first group of people that I came to,whether they spoke English. "I do" said Jovin. "Do you know anything about the Dodoma road" said I. He explained that he knew a lot about it as he was the civil engineer responsible for building the new Dodoma road, but was adamant that we could not cycle it,walk or bus,and then if it does not rain. He fixed us up with the bus and then explained that he had only been at the guest house because it was a Chinese public holiday and so all his Chinese workers were away, so he was working from the guest house!

The bus was awful but we arrived safely, and then continued by bike up hill and down dale. Where we were told there were no guest houses and wuld have to camp,we found that a guest house had opened the week before. Where there was no guest house at all in Chioso, a delightful chap called Sunday,said he would ring a chap and sort something out. The phone call was made and we were told there is a lorry loading diesel on the road opposite,it will give you a lift to our lodge. We had to pay the next day for a lift back to where we had stopped,but had an excellent meal and a good nights sleep.

The only guest house we came across that was full,directed us to another that again had just opened-and was much better. We always had a cooked meal-had to cook one meal even though we were in a restaurant! Never had to use the tent, always found a drink when we needed one,kept in good health,and avoided the buses and lorries,which all try to push cycles off the road. On the last afternoon we were met by two pastors,who had arranged accomodation where there was not supposed to be any.

On the last day(3 weeks after we set out 5 march we were escorted into Serenje by 15 pastors on bikes. The field worker on his motorbike,and a police motorcyclist who stopped all buses and lorries until we had passed.Eventualy we were met by a crowd of about 100 volunteers,pastors,doctors,nurses,and the District Commisioner. Were sung a beautiful African song and presented with the Freedom of Serenje!

And then we flew home. Rather weary, a trifle lighter,very pleased it was over but amazed at how God had provided for us every step of the way.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Latest news from Serenje

Howard and Elizabeth completed their mammoth cycle ride from Nairobi and arrived in Serenje safely - what an impressive journey! They had a Serenje police escort plus 10pastors and a photographer accompanying them for the last 20 miles. Then an interview with the press and a procession with the District Commissioner to the hospital. See the previous blog for details of how to sponsor them. So far they've raised £7,105.

We've just received a report from Serenje, outlining all that was achieved from October to December 2010. It's so encouraging to read all that has been happening and the next few blogs will be sharing the progress that has been made.

The number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) being supported increased from 890 in 2010 to 1700 in 2011 which is a huge and significant scale up.

Scale up from Year 1 to Year 3:
Year 1 (2009) Year 2 (2010) Year 3 (2011)
190 890 1700

375 Females and 435 Males were registered in year 3 scale up

In terms of school fees, the project is going to pay 75% to all secondary school going OVCs where 25% will be paid by the guardians to the children. The Primary school going children will receive uniform and shoes. This will have helped the OVCs a lot and it is encouraging that these sponsored children regularly attend classes though some of them have to cover long distances especially those in secondary. Some children walk to cover 20 Kilometres every day to and from school.

It's just incredible to think that there are 1700 orphans and vulnerable children in school. Local people have noticed that there are less children on the streets during the day than there used to be, because now they are in school. Amazing.

In the next blog we'll be hearing about farmers, vegetable farming and goats!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Howard and Elizabeth's adventure

In 2009 Howard Reece-Smith was part of the team visiting Serenje. As many of you will know Howard is a surgeon and so he visited the local hospital in Serenje. Whilst there he met a 16 year old girl who was in labour and needed a caesarean section. But the hospital didn't have an operating theatre, so the young girl had to be driven 100km to the nearest hospital where they could operate.

Since then an operating theatre has been built and Howard and his wife Elizabeth decided to do 1,500 mile cycle ride from Nairobi in Kenya to Serenje in Zambia, to raise the money to equip the operating theatre. They are looking to raise about £25,000, with any money over and above what is needed going to Project 125, the Girl's Dormitory project.

They began their journey on 13th Feb and are expecting the journey to take them around a month. I am so inspired by their vision and commitment (and their fitness!) Please been praying for them as they travel.

You can sponsor Howard and Elizabeth here.