On September 2, 2017 over 100 of our supporters gathered at St. Mary's Church in Witney for Cecily's Day. With special guests in attendance, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Cecily's Fund and the huge impact we've made together in Zambia since 1997.
Cecily's Day 2017 was special for a number of reasons. For the first time the event took place in Witney, where our office is located. The beautiful St. Mary's Church is just a few minutes' walk from the office and a superb venue. We had the company of guests from around the world, many with a deep connection to the Eastwood family. In addition to our usual roster of speakers, we had a moving communion service, a fantastic choir singing Zambian songs, and the launch of the first-ever Cecily's Fund Supporters' Cookbook.
Communion Service of Thanksgiving
The first part of Cecily's Day was a special communion service of thanksgiving, for which the celebrant was Rob Eastwood Dewing and the server was Charlotte Oakeshott. Readings were given by former Chair William Powlett Smith and former trustee John Fox, while prayers of intercession were led by Cecily's sister Verity.
We were honoured to be joined at Cecily's Day by a number of notable guests:
- Sister Theresa Stapleton joined us from Ireland and spoke about the founding of Children in Distress (CINDI), the organisation with which Cecily volunteered while in Zambia and which the Fund began by supporting. [Read Sister Theresa's speech]
- Patron Sixtus Mulenga and his wife Rebecca visited from Zambia. Sixtus spoke about some young people supported by Cecily's Fund who have become successful, and the need to create more jobs for school leavers.
- Our co-founder Basil Eastwood provided a short history of Cecily's Fund, with some fascinating insights on our transformation from a "kitchen table" concern to a thriving medium-sized charity. [Read Basil's speech]
Special Guests from Zambia
In addition to Sixtus and Rebecca Mulenga, we were joined by two other special guests from Zambia. Beatrice Chola and Patricia Besa joined us from Bwafwano Integrated Services Organisation (BISO), who have been partners of ours since 2003. They kindly answered questions about BISO community school, and explained how Cecily's Fund has really made a difference in the Chazanga area of Lusaka.
Cookbook and Christmas Cards Launch
An extra highlight of Cecily's Day 2017 was the launch of our brand-new Christmas cards and our first ever Supporters' Cookbook. Featuring over 90 recipes submitted by our supporters, the Cookbook breaks new ground for Cecily's Fund and is great value at just £10. Guests at Cecily's Day were the first to be able to buy both of these products, but they are now available to all via our online shop.
Cecily's Day was made possible in part by the tremendous effort of our volunteers, speakers, officials and guests to whom we express our sincere thanks. We also thank all the supporters who attended the event, made donations, bought merchandise, and learned more about our work. Your support not only made Cecily's Day a success, but has also made our work possible since 1997. We hope you will continue to support us for years to come, as we continue our work to help build a more prosperous Zambia where education is available to all.
Before travelling to Zambia, Cecily attended Bedales School in Hampshire. Two decades on from her tragic death, the school is remembering her by restoring a "Cecily's Garden" and taking part in the Great South Run in October.
Ruth Whiting is the former head of history at Bedales. Her recent blog post discusses Cecily's time at the school and her plans to study Modern Languages at Newham College, Cambridge. One of the school's responses to the loss of Cecily was to create a special garden at the school, which has undergone many changes over the years. This academic year, the garden has been restored.
David Anson, who is guiding the project says: “The aim is to create a cottage garden that makes use of the wild-flower nature of it. The path through it is to encourage the sense of contemplation.”
Bedales' Director of External Communications is organising a large team of runners to take on the Great South Run this October. The money raised (with over 20 runners having been recruited so far) will be divided between Cecily's Fund and the John Badley Foundation. We will of course be supporting the school's generous fundraising efforts in our 20th anniversary year and wish all runners the best with their training!
For more information, see Mr. Reynolds' own blog post.
On June 9 at Burford School, four teams clashed to be the first winners of the Zam Challenge shield - in the end, the school's staff team emerged triumphant and over £740 has been raised for Cecily's Fund.
Burford School generously hosted our five-a-side football event, and entered three teams. The school's staff, Year 12, and alumni teams faced a Cecily's Fund side recruited and captained by Simon Isherwood. Each of the six matches were fast-paced and very competitive, with every team determined to win the day!
Match 1: Year 12 3 - 2 Alumni
Match 2: Staff 5 - 3 Cecily's Fund
Match 3: Staff 2 - 3 Alumni
Match 4: Cecily's Fund 4 - 3 Year 12
Match 5: Staff 2 - 0 Year 12
Match 6: Cecily's Fund 3 - 4 Alumni
In the end, Burford staff won out over their alumni team on goal difference and secured the first ever Zam Challenge championship. Cecily's Fund had to settle for joint third place, but did score more goals than any other team. After the football, players and Burford sixth form enjoyed a barbecue, music and raffle which raised extra funds.
We're hugely grateful to everyone who played, spectated, donated and helped with this special competition which we hope will become an annual event. Our thanks also to Wenn Townsend who sponsored the Zam Challenge, and to Bakers Butchers in Witney who provided the meat for our barbecue.
If you're looking for a different way to raise money for Cecily's Fund, the second Swim Serpentine might be just the event for you!
From the minds behind the London Marathon, Swim Serpentine is a new open-water swimming event which takes place in Hyde Park on September 16. Last year, our two swimmers Tim and Verity (Cecily's sister) raised well over £2,000 by taking part in the first-ever event.
Swimming a mile in open-water might sound intimidating, but with a bit of practice Tim and Verity found it to be very doable - and fun! What's more, the £2,000 they raised is enough for us to support 40 Zambian children to go to school for a year.
This year, Cecily's Fund has six places in this special event. Sign up today to become part of Swim Serpentine and help us make a splash in our 20th anniversary year!
The London 10K, Cecily's Day, and our upcoming Zam Challenge football tournament are all featured within the packed pages of our 2017 Summer Newsletter, available now!
The second of our three 2017 newsletters is the last before our 20th anniversary celebration at Cecily's Day on September 2. It's packed with information on all the events and fundraising going on to celebrate the milestone:
- A new Q&A with two of the teachers from Southborough High School who are once again running the London 10K for us this July
- All the details of The Zam Challenge, a brand-new football event we are running together with Burford School on June 9 (you can learn more and donate here)
- An extensive piece by our co-founder Basil - Cecily's father - on the origins of Cecily's Fund and the ongoing importance of Cecily's Day
Cecily's Fund is proud to present an exciting new video which provides a perfect introduction to our work - and we'd love for you to help share it.
Made in part to celebrate our 20th anniversary, the new video covers all the major areas of our work in Zambia - from our core efforts to help orphans into school, to our very latest programmes in business skills, savings groups, and more.
The video features a number of first-hand accounts of the impact Cecily's Fund is having on the communities we work with. These include the stories of Jackson (pictured), who has learned how to run his own successful business; Noria, who was helped through school; and Jane, who is just one of the many children we are supporting right now.
Packed with new footage shot in Zambia, our engaging new video also details the origins of Cecily's Fund and features interviews with the inspiring staff who make our work possible on the ground. The video should provide an ideal introduction to anyone unfamiliar with Cecily's Fund, and we hope it will also be of interest to long-standing supporters.
A beautiful set of notelets with five different designs is the latest product to be added to the Cecily's Fund shop, with all proceeds supporting our work in Zambia.
Each featuring a striking photograph taken during the supporters' trip to our programmes in July 2016, the new notelets come in packs of ten. There are two copies of each design within each pack; the notelets are blank inside for your message, and come complete with envelopes for just £3.50 per pack.
Buying and using these notelets is a fantastic way to not just support our work, but also share it with your friends and family. As with our Christmas cards, information about our work as well as our contact details is included on the back.
Our notelets are available now from the Cecily's Fund shop.
World AIDS Day is a chance to reflect on the progress that has been made in the fight against AIDS, and the work that remains to be done. This year, Cecily’s Fund can not only celebrate the ongoing successes of our work providing education access and sexual health information, but also look forward to an exciting new programme which will take our contribution to fighting AIDS to a new level.
"For every year of education, a child’s risk of infection is cut by around 8%."
While the primary focus of Cecily’s Fund has always been on breaking down the barriers to education for orphaned and vulnerable children, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has always underpinned our work. Of the 1.4 million orphans under 18 in Zambia today, almost half are due to AIDS. The tragedy of AIDS in Zambia has created a generation of children who face tremendous challenges in accessing education – but the relationship is not one-way. We know that education not only helps to break the cycle of poverty, but also acts as a social vaccine against HIV: for every year of education, a child’s risk of infection is cut by around 8%.
In addition to helping children to access school, Cecily’s Fund also provides vital health information sessions. Since 2001, we’ve worked with our Zambian partner CHEP (the Copperbelt Health Education Project – also founded in 1988) to train Peer Educators, drawn from children we have helped. Each year, around fifty Peer Educators reach thousands of children with engaging sessions on sexual health, alcohol and drug abuse. They provide children with the tools they need to live healthy lives, and act as fantastic, positive role models. Two-thirds of young people don’t have the information they need about HIV, and our work is helping to close the gap.
"Two-thirds of young people don’t have the information they need about HIV, and our work is helping to close the gap."
This year, Cecily’s Fund has become a part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge. This exciting initiative is an $85 million investment by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, and ViiV Healthcare. The Challenge’s overall goal is to work towards a 40% reduction in new HIV infections among girls and young women in 10 Sub-Saharan African countries. JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. is the Funds Manager for this award.
Our new programme, supported through the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, focuses on a critical time in girls’ lives: the transition between primary and secondary school. Due to a number of factors, it is at this point that dropping out is most likely. Cecily’s Fund will work with 900 girls to help them stay in school, in order reduce their vulnerability to HIV and early pregnancy, and to help them fulfil their true potential. Together with our Zambian partners, we’ll work to remove the barriers to education; increase family understanding of the value of education; empower mothers and girls to have control over their lives; enhance knowledge of HIV avoidance and tackle poverty.
So much progress has been made in the fight against AIDS, but still around 1,000 girls become infected with HIV each day – addressing this through positive interventions at a crucial time of life is a vital aspect in the global AIDS response. Cecily’s Fund is proud to be able to build on our almost two decades’ of experience and to work through DREAMS to create a generation of girls who are healthy, educated, and better able to leave poverty behind.
Read all about what we've achieved in 2016 and how you can give Cecily's Fund a great start to next year in our Christmas newsletter - available to download now.
For Cecily's Fund, Christmas means an opportunity to look back at the year we've had, and also to launch our annual Christmas Challenge. Our last newsletter of each year is a key way for us to do both: and it's available to download now or to read online using Issuu.
In our latest exciting publication, you can read about some of the highlights of our work in 2016: from community-powered savings groups to the empowering effect of entrepreneurship training. You can also enjoy two brand-new interviews, one with long-time supporter Tonie and another with Linda, a key member of staff for our partners Afya Mzuri. Better yet, learn all about our 2016 Christmas Challenge, and all the fun things you can do to help us raise £20,000 and power us into our 20th anniversary year, 2017.
Happy reading - and thank you for your support in 2016!
This July, a group of Cecily's Fund supporters travelled to Zambia to see our work there for themselves. One of them was Judy Leggott, who kindly wrote this account of one highlight: visiting BISO Community School in Lusaka and its feeding programme. BISO supports some of the most vulnerable children in the Chazanga area, many of whom are orphans. The lunch it provides each day is often the only meal children can rely on.
As a member of the supporters' group that went out to Zambia in July, I was so impressed by the work that is going on in Cecily's memory. One of the programmes which has proved to be very successful is the feeding programme run by the BISO community centre in Lusaka and which we were privileged to see in action.
After morning school the children gathered in the playground, the youngest first, where they all lined up to wash hands. In spite of a power outage which meant that there was no running water that day, large barrels were carried with some difficulty into the playground by staff and children so that a little water could be poured over each child's hands before they entered the dining hall - an impressive operation in itself, considering the effort involved.
With the youngest children first, they lined up in front of two vast metal pots to receive a plastic plateful of stiff maize meal - the staple food locally - and beans in a tomato sauce, before being seated at long wooden tables.
Two of us helped with this efficient conveyor belt system and were sweetly thanked with a little bob from the children as they were handed their food. As each child finished his meal, the plate was brought back to be quickly rinsed before being used again. Not a scrap of food was left and the children, who had eaten with their fingers, seemed more than happy to lick the very last bits off their hands. We were told by one of the staff that 650 children had been fed that day with what was likely to have been their only meal.
As we had just returned from visiting the home of one of these children whose grandmother could only afford to give her four younger siblings some boiled cabbage for their meal, we saw for ourselves how crucial this very well run programme is to the health and education of these vulnerable children.
You can read more about our work enabling children to access education here on our website. If you're inspired by Judy's experiences and would like to support our work, please consider making a single or regular donation. In the Cecily's Fund shop you'll find a Gift of Hope for just £5 - enough to significantly support the BISO feeding programme.
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