Bloggers Take on a Tearfund Challenge in Cambodia #TFBloggers

Last year I had the privilege of visiting Uganda with Tearfund to report back on the work they are doing… I was totally sold – so great to see another team heading out, to Cambodia this time, to “see for themselves“… I’m looking forward to hearing what they get up to…

This March, three UK bloggers will travel to Cambodia with Tearfund to visit communities living in poverty who are being transformed through the local church.

In December 2013, Tearfund launched the Cambodia Bloggers Challenge, which invited bloggers in the UK to be a part of a storytelling trip to Cambodia. They would meet people who are being given a hand up from poverty thanks to the generosity of regular givers in the UK.

Illustrator and designer Rich Wells, writer Anita Mathias and advocacy manager Danny Webster were selected from the long list of applicants by a judging panel of Krish Kandiah (Evangelical Alliance), Reverend Sally Hitchiner (Anglican priest and broadcaster), Reverend Richard Littledale (Baptist minister, blogger and author) and Tearfund’s Head of Corporate Communications Katie Harrison.

“Cambodia is a place I am excited to visit with Tearfund and hear the stories of lives transformed by the generosity of many who sacrifice a little to save a lot,” says Danny Webster, one of the bloggers going on the trip. “I want to tell the stories of how poverty can be overcome, and the daily suffering banished. I want to shine a light on the dreadful status quo, and I want to show what you and I can do to make a difference.”

The bloggers will meet people living in poverty like 13-year-old Seng, who used to worry for his family and about how his mother, Rim, will be able to feed them with no income. With training and support from Tearfund, Seng and his family’s lives are beginning to change for the better. Rim joined a chicken raising group started by Tearfund, and is now learning new skills and earning enough money to be able to provide for her family again.

This social media led trip will challenge the bloggers to use their unique, creative skills to encourage people to donate towards the transforming work of local churches around the world, for people like Seng and his family.

The trip is part of Tearfund’s See For Yourself initiative, which allows supporters to follow a community in Asia, Africa or Latin America, and watch as their donations transform lives before their eyes through regular photo, video, email and prayer updates.

In the same way, people will be able to follow the journey of the bloggers in Cambodia by following their updates on social networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as Tearfund’s website – creating a very live experience. The bloggers will be using a variety of media to tell their stories, including micro-blogging, video, illustration and photography.

‘Bloggers can change the world, or at the least they can change the way people view the world.’ says Krish Kandiah, Executive Director of the Evangelical Alliance, Tearfund Vice President and member of the judging panel. ‘We hope these bloggers can use their skills to help many people see the country and people of Cambodia through God’s eyes.’

Blogging with @Tearfund for #TFBloggers

Last year I went to Uganda with #TFBloggers, as we sought to share stories of the work that Tearfund does, to encourage others to support it. For 2014, there’s an opportunity for 3 more bloggers to visit Cambodia and share the work that is done there:


Entries will be open from December 9th to January 5th – see the Tearfund site for how to enter.

Syria Crisis Appeal @Tearfund

As you’ll have seen from #tfbloggers etc, I’ve been an interested supporter of Tearfund for many years, and the visit to Ogongora & other villages just strengthened that as we saw how effectively the money was put to use. There’s much debate about whether we should “just give”, but I find the idea of knowing “how” money makes a difference makes me feel like even my small contributions make a difference (is that the ego talking?) …

Thanks for Giving

So, having talked to @katieharrisonTF (who came with us to Uganda) about her recent trip to Syria, receiving the transcript of an interview Katie undertook in Syria, and seeing a range of adverts on TV, despite being rather skint, again – it seemed important to make a stand for the Syria Crisis.Having given my few pennies (I’ll turn my heating down a bit/add an extra jumper … in order to heat a whole family) … I thought it was a really nice touch to see a ‘thank you’ video from David Bainbridge, International Director at Tearfund, indicating just how the money would help… feels personal although you know it’s the same for each giver.

Thanks from Tear Fund

I’ve been really impressed by Tearfund’s use of digital in general – and we get some of the stories via Holly & Katie on BigBible :-)

Extract from Press Release

The widespread fighting in Syria has affected over 4 million people, displacing many from their homes. Every day thousands of refugees are fleeing across the borders into neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and many more are living with family and friends or in public buildings in Syria.

David Bainbridge: “The bitterly cold weather and the sheer number of displaced people means that we have to act. Ultimately we want to help people to return to their homes but their immediate needs are food, somewhere to stay and ways to keep warm.”

Family in Syria

Photo Credit: Eleanor Bentall/ Tearfund

Extract from Katie’s Interview:

Katie: Could you tell us your story of how you came here from Syria and who came with you?

Aamil*: We were living in Deraa when something like 20,000 soldiers came into our neighbourhood.  They started shooting and killed about 300 people. They also burned our houses.

So we left our homes carrying nothing, no money, no food, no clothing, only the things that we are wearing, that’s all.

They were pursuing us with tanks so I took my whole family and left that neighbourhood. We left immediately and went to Zaatari in Jordan.

(Zaatari is the big official refugee camp.)

*Name has been changed.

The interview continues to say that the family could only survive one week in the camp, where it was very cold, and hard to care for an elderly father, and a disabled son, so the family has rented a room – expensive, unheated, and with food hard to access. The family has an appointment with the UN Refugee Agency, but not until June 2013 – before which they don’t have a card which will allow them to buy food.

You can donate to the appeal by calling 0845 355 8355 or at

#TFBloggers: We’re on the Move

So, this afternoon I’ll get the train to London, before heading for Uganda with Tearfund tomorrow… Although I’ve travelled extensively, including to some pretty poor countries, I’ve not made it to Africa before (closest is Egypt) and most of my knowledge of Africa is from the odd film – mainly Africa UnitedAfrica United

I’m notorious for not getting round to reading my travel guides until after I’ve been somewhere – preferring to rely upon suggestions from others (easy these days on social media)…

I think part of my reason is that I like to experience the culture ‘fresh’ – how do experience it, rather than through a “critics” eyes, but on the other hand it’s good to be prepared – to know what to expect, and to build on the knowledge of others for recommendations as to good places to visit – and I can become a bit of a “tick box tourist” – take a photo and move on…

For this particular trip, we’ve had a cultural orientation day, and our time will be pretty much full .. but I have picked up a 2004 Bradt Travel Guide to 2004 and a long plane journey might give me an opportunity for a proper look…  and I’ve had a bit of a look on Lonely Planet: Uganda… but this is really going to be my favourite kind of trip – being shown around by the people who live there, and are in the know… and in this case, are keen to share with us their journey!

Getting Ready to Go with #TFBloggers…

The backpack is filling up … what to take and what to leave behind? Every time the same debates in an attempt to pack small, but I can tell you, whatever – I’m not going to look like the only picture I could find on of a woman with a backpack!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve fought our way through snow, rain and wind, and I’ve hovered in front of my woodburning stove… part of me thinks – what is life going to be like next week… aside from hot and a great contrast to what I’m becoming used to “oop north”! I’m not sure that I can anticipate … but definitely open to the possibilities!

Some of the things I’m still thinking about:

  • We’re truly going to see for ourselves – we can’t all go, but we can allow Tearfund givers to ‘see for themselves’ – through our lens – to see where our ££ are going.
  • I truly hope that the community gains something from our visit to, and that it’s seen as a joint journey … rather than us visiting a former colony!
  • For many of us, all we’ve ever seen of Africa is the sad images of swollen stomachs … but this trip is about stories of a community that has been transformed – largely through its own efforts – with support from Tear Fund. We all need to work more collaboratively and I’m excited to see that in practice…
  • We’ve sometimes had debates as to whether to digital should be as much of a human right as food and water .. how will this trip sway my views?

In all of this, the power of digital is in allowing us to share stories. Social Media in particularly relies upon networks of networks, and each individual share/comment, etc. is to be treasured… as each gives us an opportunity to share with a slightly wider audience. (We often talk in terms of Twitter – if you have 500 followers, and someone with 5000 followers retweets you — then your potential audience has grown to 5500 – actual audience will be much smaller, but the law of statistics…)

So, as we prepare to head off, camera in hand… what questions would you like to ask of the people living there? Do we go deep, or look for one of those ‘whiteboard’ type “The Bible means…” type content? We can then put some of those questions to them!

Mobiles in Africa? #TFBloggers

I’ve often said in training sessions – look at Africa as an example of how mobile/digital devices have changed lives – in a world where the infrastructure for fixed lines was never possible, the mobile functions without the same physical barriers.

In 2007, President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, said: “In 10 short years, what was once an object of luxury and privilege, the mobile phone, has become a basic necessity in Africa.” CNN News

The article goes on to identify 7 ways in which mobile has changed life in Africa:

  1. Banking: Mobile money rather than banking infrastructure
  2. Activism: Disenchanted citizens can engage, and in some areas, is encouraging increasing openness/transparency.
  3. Education: Mobile phones are cheaper to own/run than PCs, and allow access to kids that would otherwise get no education.
  4. Entertainment: The most popular activity – including music, films and social networking
  5. Disaster Management: Innovative use in refugee camps, allowing families to reconnect
  6. Agriculture: Multiple small farms, now gaining access to weather reports, market prices and access to micro-insurance schemes – enabling them to make better decisions, whilst sharing tips with each other.
  7. Health: Discovery of healthcare providers, provision of tips, reminders of Drs appointment – and hugely important – SMS codes used to reduce the number of fraudulent drugs circulated.

So, in the areas we go to, is mobile use growing, and how is it changing people’s lives if so? If not, is digital having impact in other ways?

Thinking Toilets? #TFBloggers

Toilet tales on travels … yes, still one of the things that even as a fairly seasoned traveller can cause a few tremors – as this pretty funny post gives some insights into! We have established that the hotel will have ‘western toilets’ although the community will have “long-drops”…

For many, any form of toilet is amazing, and it’s good to remember that! I’m currently saving up for a new bathroom, and my plan is as part of it, to ensure I have the £60 to twin my toilet (another Tearfund initiative)… and I love seeing that the toilets at St John’s College (where CODEC is based) are twinned!


A simple idea – think you might participate?

Meeting the Ogongorans #TFBloggers

So, looking at the community that we’ll spend most time with:

The Ugandan village of Ogongora is a perfect example of what happens when a church is mobilised to care for the the physical and spiritual needs of those around it. In 2003 the community fled the village – as the rebels advanced. In 2005, after two years in camps, the residents returned. With they had nothing. Houses were burnt and destroyed. Crops, cattle and all livestock gone. All appeared lost.

What was left – by the grace of God – was hope, and the raw potential in the people to improve their own lives.

It sounds like Pastor Joseph will be one of the key people we’ll meet:

and look out for the stories of others: Grace, Elizabeth, Richard and Moses… and who will we meet during our time there? Apparently the second language in the country is English (although we’ll have a translator) so it’ll be great to hear stories of lives transformed directly from the people – and it will be interesting to see whether it will be relentlessly upbeat, or what challenges have been faced – even if not yet overcome…

Some Digital Spaces for #TFBloggers

tf-bloggersSo, as I get prepared for Uganda, what spaces am I thinking I might place material in…

This will depend, of course, upon power, signal, etc. in the villages/hotel – a certain amount of pre-testing has been done, but we won’t know until we get there…

I’m going as part of my work for CODEC, and so plan to feed back into BigBible with an overview – keeping this blog for my more personal reflections, and BigBible for more a #digidisciple aspect… whilst the wonderful @vahva looks after the Big Bible site itself.

Going to “See For Myself” with #TFBloggers

So here we are, my shoulders are full of needle-marks, my backpack is out of the attic and my well-worn passport has just come back with a Ugandan visa in it. Along with @davewalker and @lizclutterbuck I’ve been invited to come “See For Myself” by Tearfund.

What’re we going to see?


We’ll be landing in Kampala on 24th February, and heading to Soroti as a base for visits to a number of local villages (including Ogongora), flying back to the UK overnight on the 3rd March. Tearfund’s “See for Yourself” initiative

… equips local communities to literally do it for themselves, and transform there own lives. Through teaching the community leaders to identify and resolve their own obstacles the root causes of poverty are eliminated.

Now, this excites me and reminds me of the ‘ancient Chinese proverb':

Source: via diggerdawwwg on Pinterest

The three of us, along with @katieharrisonTF, will be superbly privileged to see the effect that people’s contributions to Tearfund are having in real time in this particular area of Africa… along with communities in Latin America and Asia – always remembering that:

Source: Uploaded by user via Alisa on Pinterest

and as this Nike advert seems to be saying:


Penny Boxes

Do you remember the little penny boxes that Tearfund used to give out? We used to have them in our house … I’m not sure I ever put anything much in them as I don’t think I got pocket money til I was 13, and I seem to remember buying Christmas presents for 6 people with a £2 budget! Tearfund, however, has been a part of my life for many years, and it’s amazing to see what difference we can each make with our ‘small change’, even if it’s much easier to do it all by direct debit these days!

Telling it Like It Is

What I particularly loved about this invitation from Tearfund is that they’ve invited us in to see what they are doing, and are so confident in what they are doing, that there are no restrictions on what we might say… although we’ve had our cultural orientation as to what might/not be appropriate. We can use any range of media, and focus on any aspect, although I’m particularly interested in how the digital can impact on the way we support, how we understand what we’re supporting, and how we can tell the stories of lives transformed in a global world.

Keep Calm and Be Quiet

Now, if you follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or any of my blogs, you’ll probably know that I share a lot of what’s going on, and it’s been fascinating that we started talking about the potential for this trip last summer, have had jabs, cultural training, seen the cartoon being developed, etc. and apart from the odd cryptic tweet there’s been nothing on social media. Well, now that this is public, I plan to start blogging over the next few days about thoughts and plans for engaging in Uganda… let me know what you’d like to know!

You’ll be able to find more information from us all not only on this blog, but a fuller picture on: Your prayers would be much appreciated for us all, for health, fellowship, and the discernment to spot the opportunities to share stories. 



SuperBadger is an application that has been developed for Facebook by Tear Fund. As the Fan Page states:

“Are you bored of pointless applications? Want to do something that counts? Then it’s time for you to join the movement of Facebook badgers, and use your voice to fight global poverty.

With SuperBadger you can send prewritten emails straight from your profile to the people making the decisions – whether it is badgering politicians about climate change or badgering supermarkets to stock more Fairtrade products – can you rise all the way to Super Badger?”

Tear Fund

TearfundTearfund is committed to working in partnership (both short and long-term) with evangelical Christians, enabling them to fulfil their ministry to the poor. Tear Fund focuses upon the following issues, although it remains open to change/reaction to current needs:

  • Development and Capacity Building
  • Public health, including HIV/AIDS
  • Children at Risk
  • Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation