Balaklava Church of Christ has been participating in Safe Water September since 2014. Since taking up the challenge, the team has raised more than $34,000, which means they’ve provided over 1,700 people in rural Zimbabwe with safe water. How good is that?!
Organising and participating in a team is certainly rewarding, but it can also be challenging. We spoke to Jenny Baker from Balaklava Church of Christ about getting on board, raising awareness, and approaching the challenge as a team.
Balaklava has a long history with Global Mission Partners’ projects in Zimbabwe, and Jenny even had the opportunity to visit the Khayelihle Children’s Village in 2011. Knowing that the church would be excited to support water projects in rural Zimbabwe, Jenny organised a team and got five participants on board. Together, they raised $2,500.
Just one year later, word had spread about the challenge and 24 people decided to take part, raising a huge $12,534. The ages of participants over the past four years ranged from 10 to 76 years old, with people taking part from Balaklava Church of Christ, Horizon Christian School, other churches and the local community.
Four of the original five participants are still taking the challenge this year and in 2017, the team grew to 27 people. For Jenny, organising a team of this number was not necessarily about running fundraisers, but more about raising support, sharing encouragement and celebrating milestones.
“I always started promoting Safe Water September at the start of August to get those who wanted to participate slowing down on their hot drinks, and give those who wanted to financially support a reminder that sponsoring people was coming up,” Jenny shared.
“I’ve promoted SWS through our weekly church newsletter, showing the promo video for Safe Water September in the church service, and provided a weekly update throughout August and September in church.”
Jenny also found it helpful to prepare a Safe Water September newsletter which she distributed to church members and various people in her community.
“It included the Safe Water September logo, the web address, and details on how to participate and donate. The newsletter was a combination of info from Safe Water September information and information pertaining to our church’s involvement. Giving out postcards on how to participate and donate is a great conversation starter.”
Part of being a part of a team involves supporting the challenge no matter how a participant chooses approach it. Many participants from the Balaklava team decided to put their own spin on the challenge, with non-tea and coffee drinkers giving themselves extra challenges, and one participant even taking the challenge for an extra week. Others used Safe Water September as an opportunity for a health kick, or took part despite having special events to attend in September.
At the end of the challenge, when all is said and done, nothing bonds a team like ‘drinks of choice’. After two months of encouraging the team to participate, Jenny organised an after-church event with a variety of hot and cold drinks to mark the end of the challenge. Cold drinks were provided for a gold coin donation and hot drinks for more, with all money raised added to the total team tally.
“Fortunately, for the past two years, the challenge has ended on Sunday the first of October,” Jenny said.
“The first two years of Safe Water September, it was in the middle of the week, so the church and participants were invited to attend the local coffee shop to purchase their ‘drinks of choice’ and celebrate the team’s achievements. For both those years, participants and some church folk came to celebrate.”
Jenny’s Top Tips
The Balaklava Church of Christ team is now being headed up by Julie McPharlin, but after four years of organising the team, and continuing as a participant this year, Jenny has plenty of advice for team leaders and participants who want to engage their team and community to make a difference.
“For the month of September, we only have water for communion and the communion leader explains why we’re doing this each week. It’s a great way to engage the church and it’s a tangible reminder of the lack of choice that poverty is,” Jenny said.
To get the church on board, Jenny says it’s important to lead by example. Getting the leadership team of the church on board can be a great way of doing this, and if they can’t participate, encouraging them to donate and be involved in some capacity is beneficial.
“It’s also important to remind the church that this is not just for young people, even though it’s an embody initiative. Everyone can participate at some level,” Jenny said.
Throughout the challenge, it’s important to recognise that Safe Water September is not just about how the money raised will change someone’s life, but also to appreciate the choice and freedom that we have.
For this reason, Jenny suggests that it might be helpful to get various individuals to speak or be interviewed about their experience. They could also ask the church to pray for or encourage participants, and give an update on the financial position of not only the team, but the campaign as a whole. This information is available on the Safe Water September website.
Having been the team leader for the first four years of the challenge, Jenny has seen the value in spurring each other on.
“The team leader can speak or check in on the team members to see how they are going and give encouragement. That’s helpful. Get the team members to contact and encourage each other as well, and to talk about the challenges of Safe Water September.”
Setting the team up with Safe Water September ‘merch’ was another way that Jenny helped participants to feel like a part of a team, while also raising awareness for the campaign.
“Last year I purchased water bottles and put the Safe Water September sticker on the bottles to give to the 2017 participants,” Jenny said.
“I have a water bottle that I take everywhere and I put a Safe Water September sticker on, and it’s amazing how many people ask me about it. I have received donations from that.
“I also sold a lot of Safe Water September t-shirts one year, and encouraged people to wear them to church and anytime they could to promote and generate interest in the challenge.”
If you’re thinking of starting a team in the future, or grow support for your team during this year’s challenge, Jenny’s secret to success is simply conversation.
“I believe that conversation is key to getting people involved individually, and then as momentum builds, a team will form,” Jenny said.
“Be passionate about the cause and the impact, and sharing the fact that we can be missionaries without leaving the country gives people a sense that the challenge is not unachievable, and that they can participate somehow.”
Whether you’re taking on the challenge as a team leader or participant, for the first or fifth time, Jenny encourages you to get informed about Safe Water September and become familiar with the work that’s happening in rural Zimbabwe.
A huge thank you from the Safe Water September team to Jenny Baker for sharing about her SWS experience, and to the team from Balaklava Church of Christ for their incredible effort in participating and raising money for safe water projects in rural Zimbabwe. Don’t forget to share your own experience by posting photos or videos and using the hashtag #SafeWaterSeptember.
For more information, visit: www.safewaterseptember.org.au.
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