Thursday, 12 January 2017

Directors Retreat

The Directors of the schools we work with don’t get paid a salary by for the work they do at the school. They are all full-time pastors who had a vision for seeing the need for education met in the communities within which they served. They organised and motivated others and managed to establish ‘schools', starting classes in their church halls and have been instrumental in seeing them develop into the Primary School they are today.

Some of them have been over-seeing progress at their school for 16 years now and they continue to be the primary vision carriers for the schools. We felt it was important to acknowledge this dedication and also to sew into them before this new school year begins. So last week we took them away for a couple of days retreat. We had Don and Cecilia Price visiting, pastors from the UK, so they came to minister to and encourage the directors.

It was a really appreciated time of fellowship for us all and a chance to recharge before the onset of the new school year. Next week the directors will, in turn, pass on this encouragement as they lead vision days with the staff at each of the schools. They will spend time reflecting on the successes of 2016 and praying about the plans for 2017.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New Year, Same Heart, Expectant for More…

The start of a new year is often treated like a blank page, a ‘do-over’ as the Americans say! But the truth is New Year’s Eve isn’t a magic night; in reality we wake up on New Year’s Day much the same as we woke up 24 hours before, carrying all of our previous experiences in to that day and the 365 days ahead.

What the new year does offer is a chance to reflect on the year gone by, the good, encouraging and inspiring times and take them with us in to the year ahead, expectant for more.

For us at Beyond Ourselves, like I said in the post before Christmas, as we reflect on the year gone by there were some real highlights, things we celebrated and were excited for. And as we look to this new year, we don’t want to start afresh with a blank page. We want to take all that’s gone before, that same heart, passion and vision we have had for the past eight years and be expectant for more in 2017! Yes, there are things we will change this year, new ventures we will embark on, but it’s all from the same heart we’ve always had for the communities we partner with in Zambia, to see people empowered and communities transformed.

So I say here’s to new adventures this year, here’s to more!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Introducing The 2017 Calendar

Introducing the 2017 Calendar…

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, 2017 is almost upon us - time to get organised!

Many of you have already bought one (or more!) of our calendars but for those of you who didn’t get a calendar in your stocking, we have a few Beyond Ourselves desk calendars remaining.

Below are a few of the fantastic pictures that feature in the calendar.

Buy now to avoid disappointment!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas 2016 Blog Round-Up!

Christmas is just a couple of days away and, as always, I can’t believe the year is almost over. Looking back over the year’s blogs highlights all the many varied and incredible things that have happened in 2016.

At the end of last year, I said that I felt 2015 was a year that made us, Beyond Ourselves, feel established, that amongst other things we felt settled in the right position. And I think this year has proven what can happen when you have that strong foundation and are poised for what is ahead (and make a great plan with some focused strategic goals – oh and have some blessing and favour from God too!).

So much has happened this year but here are some of the things (in blogs) that make me smile the most (in no particular order!):

It has been both a heartache and a joy to be able to deliver some much needed sexual health education at all the schools this year and to know that this could truly empower the pupils to make wise, informed and bold choices now and in to their future. Alongside this it was exciting, after almost two years of researching, planning and crafting, to distribute the re-usable sanitary packs to the girls and women in our communities. It’s incredible such a small thing will make such a huge difference in someone’s life!

Another joy this year has been seeing the teachers and head teachers at each of our partner schools become more confident in their skills and roles. As we keep the goal of the schools being professionally and educationally sustainable at the forefront of our minds, this encourages us to keep investing in the teachers through mentoring, training and workshops, so that we work ourselves out of a job!

The fruit of this investment was highlighted at the recent Grade 7 days when the schools took full responsibility for organising and delivering the days at each of the schools, something we as a Beyond Ourselves team have always done in previous years.

We have also had the opportunity to invest in the very wonderful kitchen staff at the schools as well, by running a kitchen workshop sharing best practice, ideas and nutrition training. (Check out Joyce’s smile in the background of this picture!)

The final smile is when I think of the partnerships we are making for developing social enterprises and businesses in the communities so that they are impacted economically and the schools journey towards financial sustainability. By exploring Mama Mimis and working closely with our friend Oscar Mwila we are investigating various business opportunities which we hope to see succeed over this coming year. 

Of course, none of this would be possible without the incredible support from so many people. Thank you for journeying with us through 2016. These successes are as much yours as they are ours. I hope they made you smile too.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Grade 7 Days

The ‘Grade 7 day’ is a day of various activities after the pupils have finished all of their final primary exams. In the past the Beyond Ourselves team have hosted them but in our vision to move all of the schools towards a more sustainable practice we asked the schools to prepare, manage and host them this year – with our support if they wanted.

With a little nervous hesitancy at the start, all of the head-teachers agreed and started to plan and prepare the days. Apart from a discussion as to the content of these days the head teachers asked for no help from us, which was very encouraging to see.

Here is Pastor Festus giving a 'careers guidance' talk
The days were very different to what we usually do and very different from each other but each one was personal to the school.

We were all very encouraged to see the schools stepping up to lead these days. Although we have enjoyed hosting these days in the past, we know that this is not a long-term solution. The children in our schools need to have local people from their own communities motivating them, discussing important issues and caring about them and their future.

Below is a picture of ‘Janet’. She is a local business woman who runs her own shop from her home selling things she buys at a discount price. She allows the people in her community to pay a small amount monthly so they can afford to purchase larger items such as large blankets. She makes quite the profit doing this and eagerly told the young women “I don’t wait for my husband to bring home the money – I go out and get it myself” I think she made quite the impression!

Janet - A local business woman from the Chimwemwe Community

Between the 3 schools the sessions included

Secondary school information – Local secondary teachers and previous students talked about what to expect.

Careers guidance talk
– looking at what skills the children have and motivational talks by local business people.

Positive living
– this about how to keep yourself safe from contracting HIV and these talks were given by our head-teachers.


For us these grade 7 days were a big success. All of our schools are encouraged to be reflecting on their practise so they can continuously improve. Without our questioning some of the head teachers were already saying what they would do differently next time and all agreed that this is something the schools can host easily and is very valuable to the grade 7 pupils.

We are so encouraged by this and know that next year there will be no ‘nervous hesitancy’ just empowered and motivated head-teachers planning their Grade 7 days with confidence.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Gaining Important Reading Resources

Improving reading standards continues to be challenging for community schools in Zambia.

Back in 2013 the Zambian Government changed the national curriculum so that the language of instruction within all schools should be a child’s local language up to and including Grade 4, after which, all schooling and exams should continue in English.

Although I see the benefit of children learning to read and write in a language that they speak fluently, this move has caused many complications here, largely due to there being 72 local languages.

Getting resources in the local language has been far from straightforward, to the point where we’ve needed to produce our own reading books to help our students learn the fundamentals of reading. 

Thankfully, that was around the same time we became aware of A-Z learning, which have an online library with thousands of printable books on offer to download. We’ve been working with some local linguists to translate the first few levels, which help students transition from emergent to independent reader.

With the permission of the lovely people at A-Z learning, we have been making dual language versions (Bemba* and English) of their titles which children can then use when first learning to read in Bemba, but can also use the same books again when learning to read in English.

We trialled this is some classes this term and hope to launch some sustainable libraries in our schools in early 2017.

*Bemba is spoken across the Copperbelt where all our partner schools are based.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Helping Dreams Become Reality

When I was about 4 years old I wanted to be a duck when I grew up. I always loved water but hated putting my face under, so the idea of floating on top of water every day, all day seemed like a good fit for me. Though I was young, I still remember the laughter that erupted when I first announced this aspiration at the dinner table. My mum’s smile is etched in my mind. Thankfully I moved on and no one was disappointed when this childhood dream didn’t become a reality!

When we ask the pupils at the schools we work with what they want to be when they grow up, we hear that many of them want to be teachers, nurses, doctors and pilots. It is our desire to see these dreams become a reality for as many as possible. That said, we are aware that we work with primary schools that end in Grade 7. Because of this, for several years now, we’ve been giving bursaries to pupils who either show a particular aptitude for learning or are from a family of greater need and show academic potential.

In January we will be supporting 100 children with these bursaries. Each student will get their secondary school fees paid, plus a little extra to contribute to books and uniform. In addition to reaching the ‘100’ landmark, we're excited because, in January, the first group we started supporting in this way will be entering Grade 12, their final year of schooling. These pupils have flourished despite coming from extremely challenging backgrounds. We are ver proud of the way they are growing up to be mature young men and women, continuing to pursue their dreams.

In the run up to Christmas we’d love for you to consider helping support us with these secondary school scholarships. A year of secondary school costs £75 so we are asking you to consider supporting a child for one term at £25 or £75 for a whole year.

This Christmas, let’s encourage children as they pursue their dreams to achieve.

To support a child for a term of secondary school (£25) click here.

To support a child for a year of secondary school (£75) click here.

You’ll be pleased to hear none of our pupils have never wanted to be ducks… Though we did have one pupil who confidently said he wanted to become a parrot (which we deciphered was actually a pilot!)