Friday, 19 October 2012

Stories of transformation

This time last week I was in Zambia and it was around 35 degrees. It was an amazing trip for lots of reasons but one of the highlights was meeting Tapson and hearing his story.
As we walked along a dusty track towards the mud hut where he and his family live, Ian (the Project officer based in Serenje) explained that this family used to have nothing. As we arrived at Tapson's home the first thing I noticed was that there goats and chickens everywhere!
Like many families Tapson had received 2 goats and given 2 away, but now he has many more! He will sell some goats on to make money to support his family. Tapson has 2 children of his own and also looks after 2 orphans from his brother.All the children are being supported through school and Tapson has received seed. He received groundnut and beans, but now grows cabbage, onion, maize, cassava and sweet potato. With a good harvest he was able to sell some of the food he grew and with the money he bought some chickens - he now has 36 of them! He can make $8 from the sale of one chicken. This has meant Tapson can feed his family well and buy the books and pens his children need for school. We heard many stories like this over the week. The next two Sundays are our gift days to raise £80,000 for the final year of the project. Come along and hear Simon share more about the trip to Serenje. Please been thinking and praying about what you give. Zoe

Friday, 5 October 2012

Off to Serenje

This Sunday Simon Benham, Andy Jackson, Howard and Elisabeth Reece-Smith and myself are flying out to Serenje. It is such a privilege to go. I'm looking forward to seeing all that has happened since our visit last year. We recently received an update from the project, which was so encouraging, here are some highlights: - 20% of the farmers who received seed in the 2011-2012 farming season don't need to receive it 2012-2013 because they've had such a good harvest. - From their harvest they've been able to sell the produce and raise income for their children's education and the family's health needs. - 350 families each received 2 goats previously, and their offspring has enabled another 139 families to receive 2 goats. - The mobile library is taking books to 13 schools. - 6 special needs orphans and vulnerable children are receiving school fees and transport to school. It's amazing, but that's not all, as the update also says 'Hunger is now a thing of the past.' Wow. While we're in Serenje we'll have the opportunity to see our friends there, friends that we have made over the last 5 years, some of whom you have met, like Leah, Samson and Bernard. And we'll be catching up with my great friends Sam and Hannah Fairs-Billam and their gorgeous girls Isla and Amba, who moved out to Lusaka this January. We are going to be chatting with Leah and the pastors about the way forward, for the 5th year of the project and beyond. We'll also be talking about the girls dormitory and how we can move this forward to ensure it gets built as soon as possible. We'd value your prayers for our trip and look forward to sharing all we've seen when we return. Zoe

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Amazing Patricia

I love getting stories from Serenje of amazing individuals who are being impacted by the support they are receiving and are transforming their lives. Patricia is 16 years-old and has been supported by the project since its inception in 2008. She is the only girl in the family of 6. Patricia’s dad died in 1996 when she was only 6 months old leaving her a single orphan. Her mother is 43 years and a peasant farmer who has benefited from the project food security support. She was only 27 years old when her first husband died. She remarried and had the two sons who are in grade 3 but the husband left because he could not accept responsibility of supporting 4 children from another man. Patricia came onto the EFZ educational support when she was in grade 6 at Kankoso Basic School which is near her village. She was hard working and noticed by her head teacher who had this to say, “Patricia is an amazing girl who is so determined and ever ready to do any piece work to buy school books and pens. She is focused even though she is an orphan and has been coming out number 1 in class. When she sat for grade 7 examinations, she got the highest marks in the whole district of Serenje which was (825 marks out of 1,000). She was recommended by the District Education Board to go to a boarding school within Central Province but she did not have finances to quickly send her acceptance letter and by the time EFZ got the news, it was late even though we still pursued the opportunity for her to be in a boarding facility. Patricia’s option was to go to a local Basic school where she passed grade 9 and was accepted at a High School within Serenje town. Her grade 9 results were again exceptional as she was among pupils with the highest marks in the District. Due to her good academic performance in school, one of her former teachers sacrificed to stay with her in the township near to the High School (Ibolelo Secondary School who Garth Hill College is partnered with). Patricia is very clear about her future goal, which is to be a medical Doctor so that she can help sick people. She is thankful for all that the project has contributed towards her education as well as her mother for the agric inputs support for food security and household income. Her mother also received two goats to facilitate educational needs of her children. Patricia is proud of her hard working mother and always goes to her village during holidays to help her. What an incredible reminder of the lives that are being changed, one by one, in Serenje. Let's be praying for Patricia and her family, and many like her, who are doing all they can to build a different future.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Dormitory update

If you receive Simon's blog or were at the Prayer Meetings this week you have had an update from Simon on the girl's dormitory in Serenje. Here is the latest information: • The plan is to start building work in August, ready for the girls to be in in January 2013 for the new school year • Zambian architects are now working on Ralph’s initial drawings, ready to submit for local planning consent by the end of June • At the same time EFZ are starting the process of choosing a contractor, to be appointed by the end of June • They prefer to use local Serenje builders if possible – that will give work to local people, and give the local community even more ownership of the dormitory • The whole building process will be checked by inspectors throughout • EFZ are committed to a high standard of child protection and anti-drugs policies, in building and running the dormitory • Matrons, guards and cleaners will be hired by EFZ, to run the dormitory • Serenje pastors and their wives will give the girls pastoral care once they are in the dormitory • The girls will raise chickens and pigs on some of the land, and grow vegetables – both to generate income for running the dormitory and to teach the girls environmentally friendly farming • EFZ are assessing what fees to charge the girls and how to ensure that even the poorest can use the dormitory • Boys aren’t forgotten – there will be a programme to explain to them and their families why only the girls have a dormitory • EFZ plan to set up a regional office for the Northern Province, where Serenje is located (about 400km from Lusaka and the main EFZ offices) – and a key role will be to oversee the dormitory Let's keep praying that it is all up and running by January 2013. And thanks again to everyone who has given to make the dream of building the dormitory a reality. If you have any questions then plase ask either Simon, Penny Lander who is overseeing the project or myself. Thanks Zoe

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Supporting farmers

This year 1000 Small Scale Farmers (vulnerable households who are affected by HIV and AIDS) are receiving training in farming techniques such as: Crop Rotation, Plant Protection, Land Preparation, Roughing and Harvesting, Isolation of Seed Fields, Fertilizer Application and Planting Techniques. They have also been given beans and groundnuts to grow.

As always the volunteers in Serenje have paid a key role. They have had a lot of work verifying the Small Scale Farmers Fields before they receive the beans and groundnuts. The farmers are required to cultivate their land in readiness for planting before the seed is received. During distribution, the Field Officer, the volunteers working from the particular community and a Pastor from the Agriculture Committee were present to witness and help in the distribution of seeds. In the photos below you can see the farmers being recruited, receiving their training and then being given the seed. It's great to know that 1000 families are receiving the training and seeds needed to ensure they can feed their families, and if there is surplus, they can sell it to generate some income.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Prayer request

The plans for the building of the girl's dormitory are coming along well, thanks to Penny Lander and Ralph Allan for all their work. If you were at the Prayer meetings last week you'll have heard the latest update and prayer requests-please see below.

- Please pray for approval by the planners in Serenje. The EFZ board have given the go ahead to the plans, but now there’s a whole procedure to go through with the local planners. Ralph Allen also has to produce more detailed plans for the planners.
- The EFZ board are meeting with the pastors in Serenje to put together a sustainability/management plan for the long term running of the dormitory – selection of girls, staffing, paying bills, all that will go into running it – so that it’s effective for years to come.
- Then there's the process of selecting a contractor – it’s a big building for Serenje, and for any builders. We want the right builders, with integrity, to build a high quality building, at the right price, and in good time.

It's so exciting to see this project moving forward. Please be praying for Penny, Ralph, EFZ and the pastors in Serenje as they all work on this together.