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Durham University News

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Durham University academic accepts charity’s invitation to see African poverty for herself

(18 February 2013)

Tearfund's cartoon about the Uganda bloggers' trip

A Durham University social media expert is preparing to travel to Uganda as part of a charity’s unusual bloggers’ mission.

Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, is one of the UK’s top Christian bloggers.

This Sunday [February 24] she will set out for Uganda with two other top UK Christian bloggers as a guest of international aid agency Tearfund to visit community projects.

The charity hopes the social media-led trip will be a chance for the bloggers to use their range of creative skills to tell the stories of how the church is changing lives in communities all over the world.

Dr Lewis, cartoonist Dave Walker and Anglican ordinand Liz Clutterbuck will be spending a week living alongside one of the poorest communities in the world, in Ogongora.

“What I love about this invitation from Tearfund is that they are so confident in what they are doing that there are no restrictions about what we might say,” said Dr Lewis, who is part of the CODEC project (Christian Communication in a Digital Age) based at Durham University’s St John’s College.

“It’s a great opportunity see how digital tools can impact the way we support, and how we tell the stories of lives transformed in a global world.”

The Revd Dr Pete Phillips, Research Director at CODEC and Director of Biblical Literacy at St John’s College, said: “We live in a global village – a village brought together by visual and social media. This trip seeks to harness that media to represent life in Ogongora.

“It will be important to analyse the bloggers’ viewpoints that come out of Uganda to see what alternative forms of engagement are developed and whether new opportunities are opened up for the major aid agencies.”

The trip is part of Tearfund’s See For Yourself initiative, which allows supporters to give regularly and follow one community in Africa, Asia or Latin America, and to see for themselves the work carried out as a result of their donations.

Donors receive regular photo, video, email and prayer updates.

In the same way, people will be able to follow the journey of the bloggers in Uganda by following their updates on social networks and Tearfund’s website. The bloggers will be using a variety of media to tell their stories, including micro-blogging, video, illustration and photography.

“We live in a digital age where sharing is as natural as breathing,” said Tearfund’s UK Director Andrew McCracken. “We’re so excited that they will be able to see for themselves the amazing changes that are happening thanks to the local church. Those are stories worth sharing.”

To follow the trio’s stories from Uganda, visit www.tearfund.org/bloggers and follow the hashtag #tfbloggers.

To find out more about Ogongora, go to http://www.tearfund.org/en/get_involved/give/see_for_yourself/africa/

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