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From Cookham to Ethiopia

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A PARTNERSHIP between Holy Trinity CE School in Cookham and the Gende Tesfa School in Ethiopia is going from strength to strength.

Children from Ethiopia celebrate the link with Cookham. Photo: Caroline Field.

Recently two initiatives have been launched for the charity Partners For Change Ethiopia. Over Lent children were encouraged to donate pennies for the Breakfast Club at Gende Tesfa. A Spring Clean for Ethiopia saw 281kgs of clothes handed in, which raised £112.40.

The link between Holy Trinity School in Cookham and Gende Tesfa School was initially set up two years ago by PFC Ethiopia Ambassador Sarah Parfitt whose sons Joshua and Jack attend the school. Sarah first visited the community of Gende Tesfa in March 2015 and returned in November 2016. Since then the school, Holy Trinity Church, Cookham Methodist Church and individuals have organised 14 fundraisers and raised over £14,000. A #woman2woman2017 campaign was launched by PFC Ethiopia on International Women’s Day. Sarah says: “The idea is to offer small business training and a recyclable loan to all the parents of the children at Gende Tesfa Breakfast Club. A donation of £100 funds a woman’s small business training and gives her a recyclable loan.”

If you are interested in becoming an ambassador, please contact Pete Jones on pete@pfcethiopia.org or call 07506 445515.

Unreported violence in Gambella

by the Rt Revd Andrew Proud

On Friday 15 April, Murle raiders crossed the border into Ethiopia from South Sudan to raid Lare and Niniyang, two Nuer towns I know well. 182 people, all ethnic Nuer, were killed; some were shot on the spot, others were pursued into the bush and gunned down. The under-resourced government hospital in Gambella town reported that it has treated 80 for severe wounds and official reports say 102 children were abducted and 2,000 head of cattle were taken in the raid.

Church members greet Bishop Andrew, running alongside his car on the cinder topped road at nininyang.

Church members greet Bishop Andrew, running alongside his car on the cinder topped road at Nininyang.

Gambella2

An Adult Nuer man who Bishop Andrew met recently.

This was a major incident, by any reckoning, but there were no mass protests with people carrying ‘Je suis Nuer’ banners and no one edited their Facebook photo to register their outrage. Amazingly, it made the BBC and, if you search for a few minutes, you can still find the occasional news piece, but none of them is particularly well informed. Why? Because the Gambella region of Ethiopia is still one of the most remote places on earth.

Despite investment in a new road which will take you from Addis Ababa all the way through to South Sudan, Gambella still feels a little like a wild-west town and I love it. The town, which is home to Annuak and Nuer, as well as many who have settled, or been resettled there, from the Ethiopian highlands, hums with life and energy. Eighty years ago the river here was navigable all the way through to Khartoum. It is still used for trade, but you can no longer reach Khartoum that way, so the main route into South Sudan is the wide, cinder-topped road that sweeps through Lare and Niniyang. There are Anglican thriving congregations in both towns and I have stayed with friends there many times. Believe me, there can’t have been anywhere for them to run to and nowhere to hide.

Talk to anyone in the Gambella regional state, particularly my friends among the Annuak, in Dimma (two days’ drive from there) and they will tell you that Murle tribesmen have been raiding across the border for years, stealing cattle and abducting children. Some believe the children are forced into marriage; others that they are sold on to slavers. We cannot begin to imagine how anyone could talk about that as if it were just a fact of life, but they do. So far, these raids have been small-scale but I know that they have been terrifying.
This raid was of a different order of magnitude entirely. They came in force, they were very well armed, they had plenty of ammunition, wore combat clothing and they were brutal. Speculation is rife and fear is running very high. Several of the raiders were killed and whilst some of the tribal markings [scarification] were definitely Murle, others were more ambiguous, which has fed memories of other ethnic conflicts. It also looks as if these raiders avoided the main road, but had made a long detour through the bush to avoid conflict-ridden, contested areas in South Sudan.

The people of the Gambella region are deeply shaken, the Addis government is about to send troops into South Sudan to deal with the raiders and the people in these towns and villages will be getting on with life as best they can, constantly looking over their shoulders as they collect firewood or walk to School or Church. They know we are praying; they would love us to stand in solidarity with them, too. Perhaps I shall change my cover photo now.

The Rt Revd Andrew Proud is the Bishop of Reading.

Cookham leaps for Africa

NOT many people would have chosen to climb a 13 metre pole, scramble onto a three foot wide platform and then leap onto a trapeze to celebrate the Leap Year on Monday 29 February.

But 75 intrepid people aged between eight and 60 did just that as part of Leap For Africa in Cookham, Berkshire. The event raised funds for  the Gende Tesfa Community in Ethiopia and the New Brainstorm School in Kampala supported by the charity EmpoweraChild. Holy Trinity School in Cookham has been raising money for the Gende Tesfa School, in a community affected by leprosy. Cookham Rise Primary School has formed a similar partnership with the New Brainst

Lisa Peters of Cookham Rise School triumphant after her leap.

Lisa Peters of Cookham Rise School triumphant after her leap.

orm School, a school for street and poor children in desperate need of land and buildings to carry out its work.

The schools got together with the Cookham Community Social Action Group led by the town’s Anglican and Methodist churches to carry out fund raising events under the banner of ‘Cookham Leaps for Africa’. Sarah Parfitt representing Holy Trinity School, and Lisa Peters and Richard Rhodes from Cookham Rise Primary School arranged the leap at the Longridge Activity Centre in Marlow. More than £1,000 was raised.

The leaping was not just confined to the pole. In the schools the pupils did star jumps in their playtime and the Cookhams Benefice priests, Father Nick Plant, the Revd David Joynes  and the Revd Jo Ellington leapt off a bench in the churchyard to show their support.

All this was part of the wider mission of the Benefice of the Cookhams to foster its links with schools and the community and to make a difference in the lives of children. The Social Action Group founded by the local churches is one way of bringing local community resources together to further this aim. It is hoped that Leaping for Africa will now inspire other schools and churches to get involved and do their own ‘leaping’ for the children of Africa.

See pictures of this event on www.facebook.com/leap4africa and www.twitter.com/leap4africa.

A Leap of Faith on 29 February

PEOPLE aged from seven to 70 in Cookham, Berkshire, will be making a leap of faith to help children in Uganda and Ethiopia who do not have enough food, have to drink unsafe water and some of whom cannot go to school.

The #Leap4Africa Day on Monday gives everyone the chance to use Monday 29 February to make a leap of faith to raise money for those people.

Organised by Cookham’s Social Action Committee, in association with Holy Trinity and Cookham Rise Primary Schools, all the schoolchildren will be involved in a sponsored star-jump, and for those a little older, you can join in by jumping, playing hopscotch or leapfrog, or by doing the thrilling Leap of Faith at Longridge, all to raise money to make a difference to children’s lives in Africa.

The Longridge Leap of Faith is for anyone over the age of eight, and starts with a climb to a platform at the top of a 13-metre pole. Next, you have to leap to the trapeze as your peers all watch from the ground below. It costs £15 and all participants will receive a certificate.

All proceeds from any sponsored jump will be donated to the New Brainstorm School in Uganda and PFC Ethiopia, whose project is Gende Tesfa School.  Over the next two years, the Cookham Social Action Committee wants to help support these causes through various fund-raising events and individual donations.

Through the inspiration of one of their parents, Sarah Parfitt, who ran a marathon for Gende Tesfa School last April, Holy Trinity School has been fundraising for PFC Ethiopia. So far they have raised £5,000 funded a new sports ground, which is currently being built, and a breakfast club. In Gende Tesfa, which is located in Dire Dawa in Eastern Ethiopia, one or more family members have been affected by leprosy and it also a very poor community.

The money from the #Leap4Africa Day will be donated to school facilities like the breakfast club and better sanitation that benefits the school and the whole Gende Tesfa community.

Sarah says: “I am so excited about our #Leap4Africa Day – we hope that people will really embrace the idea. Please get involved wherever you live, and post your photos and videos on Facebook and Twitter.”

Cookham Rise Primary School has formed a partnership with the New Brainstorm School in Kampala Uganda. This is a school with little support and resources to educate children who would otherwise have little access to any education and is only kept afloat by the work of its dedicated staff. Cookham Rise School has already raised money just to keep Brainstorm open, but now they want to fund more permanent facilities.

Cookham Rise Deputy Head, Mr Rhodes says: “The Saving New Brainstorm School initiative not only gives much-needed help to an underprivileged community in Kampala, but the work to support them helps build even greater community links in Cookham.”

For more information contact Andy Draper on asdraper@btinternet.com or 01628 526913 or for media inquiries contact Sarah Parfitt on sarah_parfitt@mail.com or 07900 411715.

 

Transforming Lives

ca1This Christian Aid Week (10-16 May), people across the UK can help transform the lives of women like Loko.

Loko’s choice in life is simple: “If I can’t collect firewood, my children will die.”

Four times a week, in a remote corner of Ethiopia, Loko makes a back-breaking eight-hour trip to gather wood. It’s a task she dreads, but she steels herself to do it because if she doesn’t her children will starve.

She prays to God as she walks. “I ask him to change my life and lead us out of this,” she says.

Oxford-based intern Jonnie Walker recently returned from Ethiopia where he met women facing such hardships but also heard stories of change and optimism thanks to the support that Christian Aid partner HUNDEE is giving in these communities.

HUNDEE works with the community to identify the poorest of the poor. These are often women who have no community support, nor any livestock to generate income, yet have to provide for their children and therefore work tirelessly in order to survive.

Jonnie met a woman called Adi Abdura, who had been in a similar place to where Loko presently is. Adi’s life has changed dramatically over the last few years. Through our partners’ work, Adi received a cow and two goats from. These livestock produce milk for her children, provide an income through selling butter and importantly, as assets, they give Adi greater status within the community. She is respected and valued within her community.

Through workshops run by HUNDEE within the community, a dialogue has begun between men and women about the issues they face and about steps they could take towards a better, fairer society. With Adi’s voice, amongst other women’s’, now being heard, laws are being passed that will benefit women throughout the community. Child marriage, excessive drinking and traditional harmful practices such as FGM have been banned, meaning that some of the longstanding problems that have adversely affected women will not affect the future generations. Some of the constraints of poverty are being lifted.

Adi also joined a self-help group where she learns literacy skills and about the importance of saving. The group loans money to members so that they can start up businesses and through this Adi now trades sugar and tea within her village. She has even built her own shop. Her life has really improved. Yet there are still many women who do not yet have this story to tell.

Just £5 could give Loko a loan to start her own business buying and selling tea and coffee, freeing her from her desperate task and allowing her to spend more time caring for her family.

Loko says: “My hope for the future and for my children rests in God. I work day and night and I pray to Him that my children will have good, successful lives.”

From 10-16 May, churches the length and breadth of Britain and Ireland will come together to pray, campaign and raise money to improve the lives of people like Loko.

This is a fantastic opportunity for Christians to demonstrate how their faith motivates them to take action, to show love to our global neighbour and help those in need. As Christians we can take the message of good news out into the community. We can speak of the hope that Jesus brings to peoples’ lives, bringing light in the darkest situations. We can also show how living out Jesus’s commands can bring physical transformation though the love and generosity that we show to others.

In thinking ahead to Christian Aid Week, Jonnie said “For me it was just incredible to see the work of our partners in Ethiopia and to hear stories of tangible change and genuine hope for the future. I want to encourage everyone to get involved in Christian Aid week in whatever way they can, whether this is praying for Christian Aid’s work or helping raise money to fund our amazing partners around the world.”

For more information visit www.caweek.org.

Land grabs: a personal reflection on Gambella, Western Ethiopia

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Ethiopia, a country renowned for its famines, is leasing land to foreign investors for food production, writes Dr Janice Proud. It sounds good, the motivation for Ethiopian government is positive, to bring in foreign currency to support economic development and to contribute to food security. However, the costs to the local population and the environment are high.

Nearly a third of the land in Gambella region, western Ethiopia, is up for grabs, having been classified as under-utilised. However the low lying tropical region, prone to both drought and flooding, is home to thriving populations: the Nuer who are pastoralists moving with the cattle and the Anuak who fish and grow crops as the flood waters recede. Their survival and their identity are tied to the land and the rivers that run through it.

Investors now farm the area on an industrial scale. One farm stretches for 80 miles growing rice, palm oil, maize and sugarcane mainly for export back to India. The forest has been cleared and burnt, wetland drained. There has been tremendous environmental devastation and it is still on-going as dams are built for irrigation and defences built to prevent the floods that wiped out the first maize harvest. But the local population then suffers as the flood waters are displaced and affect established towns in previously safe areas.
Tension is mounting in the area as decisions are made by central government without respect for or consultation with the local population. People have been cleared from their land through a process of villagisation, planned to facilitate access to education and health. But the promised services have been slow to arrive and the communities are too large for the capacity of the land, so people are left dependent on food support.

There have been benefits, new roads and bridges have opened up the area, the phone network now reaches the border with South Sudan. But the package offered to investors to secure the deals does not guarantee that crops produced will be available locally or nationally, so tensions will mount at times of hunger. Tension will also escalate as the movement of people with their cattle or to the river is further limited by industrial scale production and as more outsiders move in to work in the fields. Regional conflict could also be sparked if the flow of water into the Nile is reduced.

When I first heard talk of under-utilised land in Gambella I was concerned. When people were being moved without a harvest and left in barren land two hours walk from water I was horrified and angry; the Anglican Church trucked in and distributed food. I was equally horrified when I saw the forest being dug up and burnt, when people struggle to get wood to build their homes and their churches. But restriction on protest, particularly by foreigners, meant I had to keep quiet and not stir people up; to do so would risk being thrown out of Ethiopia, but worse the Anglican Church being closed down. Since then I have heard of fear, intimidation, imprisonment of those who protested, both locally and nationally. Some more intense agriculture would have brought benefits, but it should not have been done without respecting and involving local people.

Dr Janice Proud lived in Ethiopia for nine years with her husband, Bishop Andrew, the Bishop of Reading. She worked in agricultural research and with the Anglican churches in Gambella.