In 2008, we began a five year project in partnership with Tearfund and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia aimed at tackling the impact of HIV and AIDS in Serenje, a rural district of Zambia.
The project had four main aims:
In October 2013, we celebrated the completion of the project and all that the churches and community in Serenje had achieved with the support we were able to give them:
The project had also developed significantly beyond the four original aims to include the building of a dormitory for girls to enable them to complete their education; the partnering of schools from Bracknell Forest with schools in Serenje; and, through members of our community, Howard and Elizabeth Reece-Smith, the construction of an operating theatre for the local hospital.
With the relationships we had built with the pastors, churches and community in Serenje, we did not want to suddenly stop our involvement in all that was happening.
We have therefore committed to continue to partner with Tearfund, EFZ and the Serenje Pastors in a project in Serenje known as Umoja.
'Umoja' is the Swahili word for 'Togetherness' and the ongoing project in Serenje will support the churches in the community to continue to build on all that has been achieved and to ensure that the development and transformation they have seen is sustainable.
You can find out more about Umoja projects on Tearfund's website here.
Umoja projects are running many countries around the world and are bringing remarkable transformation to local churches and their communities.
We will continue to give financially to the Umojah project as a church. If you would like to give individually then you can do so by giving regularly to Tearfund and by indicating that you want your gift to go to the Umoja p roject in Serenje. For more details on giving to Tearfund see here.
On one of the trips to Serenje, we heard that the local pastors wanted desperately to build a dormitory for girls in the town who live too far away from the area to walk to school every day.
During the week, these girls are forced to stay in areas of the town where they experience poor living conditions and where they are vulnerable to abuse. As a result, too many are unable to complete their secondary education.
We have been raising money to support the building of a dormitory and construction is making significant progress. We hope that the building will be completed by summer 2014.
The Serenje Girl's Dormitory will be a life-transforming place for each girl who lives there – a place she can call home while she lives and studies can complete her education in safety.
The church has already raised nearly £200,000 towards the construction and we now just need to focus on making sure the building has all the equipment it needs and can start taking girls in.
Two members of our church community, Sam and Hannah Fairs-Billam, have been working in Zambia encouraging and equipping church leaders in child protection and safeguarding which is a significant problem in the country.
Sam and Hannah are establishing the Tehila Trust to oversee their work and you can find out more about all they are doing and how you might support them here.