Leaders of BC Division Travel to Africa

by British Columbia
Categories: Blog, Stories, Volunteer

This summer, Lt. Colonels from The Salvation Army British Columbia Division, Jamie and Ann Braund traveled to Zimbabwe to volunteer and experience the impact our donations have in the lives of those living in other countries. Here is an excerpt from Ann Braund’s journal describing her experience in the African nation.


From June 29 to July 22 Jamie and I were privileged to be part of an eight person team of volunteers who travelled to support the work of The Salvation Army Hospital and community in Tshelanyemba, Zimbabwe. The Silokwethemba Project headed by Max Vincent and Anne Letendre is about hope and supports the education of children and youth. Throughout the year Max and Anne gather funds and resources to take to Zimbabwe, most years inviting a team of volunteers to join them. As part of that team this year we had the joy of delivering school fees for 614 children, lead after school craft sessions for children in the Tshelanyemba area, lead a divisional music program, and oversee soccer clinics and a grand soccer tournament.

Our journey began with a 10-hour flight from Vancouver to Switzerland. A layover of several hours in the beautiful city of Zurich allowed us to do some sightseeing and in a gift shop I recognized the cover of a children’s book Heidi I remembered reading to our daughter Joanna. I did not remember the story so was pleased to see the same title in the movie offerings on the Swiss Air flight from Zurich to Johannesburg, Africa. Images in the movie served as an interesting backdrop to the experiences we were about to embark on.

Heidi a poor, shoeless, uneducated orphan, raised by her grandfather, tended the family goats in an unpopulated northern area of the Swiss Alps. A creative, passionate child Heidi possessed a God-given gift of storytelling. Through a series of events, Heidi is given the opportunity to go to school where she learns to read and write. A scene in the movie shows Heidi in a classroom being asked by the teacher what she wants to do when she grows up. Heidi says, “I want to tell stories” which she was equipped to do through the gifts of: education, encouragement and writing supplies which came to her through outside sponsors (Clair’s family in Frankfurter) who came to know and love her.

We visited schools in Tshelanyemba and in the surrounding areas to hand-deliver funds for tuition with the Silokwethemba Project which has delivered school fees for those in need for more than twenty years. Without these financial gifts children would be denied a formal education, a concept which was difficult to grasp when considering how much we take access to basic education for granted at home. We also had the opportunity to meet and engage with many of the sponsored children as we delivered new shoes to each of them. Through an interpreter I learned that one of our sponsored students survived a house fire just the week before. She was barefoot, her family escaped the fire with only the clothes on their backs. Here, hope in the form of education and shoes is a very big deal. As we worked to ensure the shoes fit the children I found myself wondering what God-given gifts were being nurtured in their formal education. Were some born to be storytellers like Heidi? If so, I was happy that they were being given tools to support this.

“It felt good to be part of something that makes such a huge difference in a child’s life.”

Music and dance are important means of communication in Zimbabwe and at many schools children would sing and dance for us. At the divisional music program Jamie taught lessons in music theory. I wondered ‘why’ music theory lessons in such a setting and then thought again about Heidi. Perhaps some of the children have God-given gifts and are called to share their music with the world, if so, they will need to learn the language of music theory. The same thoughts came to me when watching skillful soccer clinics being offered to students and schools. Perhaps the skills learned on the soccer field will translate into lived callings.

At the Saturday music program I was asked to share a devotional. The theme for the day was Joy so I chose to reflect on God who is a Joyful Giver. I read from Numbers 11 and reflected on God’s ability to provide meat to pilgrims in the desert where God spoke and quail flew in. I suggested that God spoke into the hearts of Max and Anne. They, with others, continue to come to Zimbabwe year after year and God’s joy of giving is evidenced in their coming. With an additional week and greater experience in Zimbabwe I would have added to those devotional thoughts the fact that God’s joy of giving is evidenced in their ability to care for one another. God has gifted the people of Zimbabwe with a compassion for one another, hope for them does not just fly in from the outside. Hope is planted in them to share with one another. God who began a good work in them will carry it through to completion. As they continue to support, encourage, and work together they can build gardens in what looks like desert sands, they can raise orphans and they can be for one another representatives of a giving God.

When volunteering in experiences like the Zimbabwe Silokwethemba Project we find we leave assured of our being blessed more than we are of being a blessing. I have been granted an experience that makes me value simple pleasures; water, electricity, community, people, shared food, and being part of a collaborative project that transforms lives. I am thankful for the experience of being part of the 2019 Silokwethemba Project.


To learn more other projects The Salvation Army operates around the world click here to discover how you can get involved in the 2019 Partners in Mission campaign supporting Malawi and Mozambique.