Ironwoman pushes boundaries for Mara Safe House

Ironwoman Claire BerryWe are dlighted to report that Claire made it and completed this amazing challenge!

Last Sunday, Claire Berry, Headteacher at St Michael & All Angels, Shelf took on the Ironman Triathlon Challenge in aid of the Church in Mara’s Safe House.

Widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world, the Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim in Pennington Flash - a beautiful lake near Bolton; a 112-mile bicycle ride in the breathtaking Lancashire countryside including the famous Sheep House Lane climb (twice) and a marathon 26.2-mile run from the Macron Stadium, though Bolton town centre before finishing in the shadow of the Albert Hall.

Asked if the Ironman Triathlon is exactly the same for men and women, Claire responded;

"ABSOLUTELY! I think it’s about time we gave men the opportunity to have a go at the longer races."

A member of Christ the King, Battyeford, Claire explained why she decided to take on such a big challenge.

"After watching my husband at Bolton last year my two girls ages 8 and 12 said, ‘You could do that Mummy!’.

"I knew I needed something to keep me on the ‘straight and narrow’ with a challenging year ahead at work. I decided entering would ensure I took some well needed time out each day for some mental clarity.

"I haven’t completed it yet and am very nervous as there are cuts off times you have to make along the way. I just hope I’ve done enough."

And then there’s the ‘Safe House’ in Mara Diocese, Tanzania, to support.

"Reading about the work of Rhobi at the Safe House was utterly awe inspiring. She founded the Safe House, somewhere girls could go. A huge part of their work is re-education as well as essential counselling and mentoring. I felt compelled to support their work and thought it selfish not to use my own challenge as an opportunity to raise money for such a vital project."

Rhobi Samwelly

Rhobi Samwelly is the charismatic Warden of the Safe House and as Head of Mara Diocese’s Discipleship and Mission Department was instrumental in setting it up.

The Safe House is a refuge for girls fleeing the practice of female genital mutilation, or FGM. Though illegal in Tanzania, some tribes still subject girls as young as seven to FGM. Girls trying to escape it now have a safe place to go where they are cared for and protected, free of charge. 

Safe House Lessons MaraAs well as receiving food and shelter, the girls attend classes where they learn English to help them enter secondary education. They also learn tailoring and craft skills to help them make their way in the world whether or not they later become reconciled with their families after running away from home.

The long-term aim, however is to re-educate the families who still favour FGM and persuade them that such an outdated and barbaric practice has no place in the modern world. To this end Rhobi and her team spend long hours in the community talking to tribal leaders, parents and even the ‘cutters’ who make a living out of what they do.

Changing minds in MaraRhobi is pictured, right, in a village many miles from the Safe House, patiently trying to bring about a change in traditional belief and practice – never an easy job. But she and the team are making serious headway in this uphill struggle. Many parents, tribal elders and even cutters themselves have come round to the new thinking and the Safe House is now an outstanding example of the Church in Mara’s success in serving the community.

You can sponsor Claire in her Herculean effort  to support the Safe House by sending donations to:
The Church of Christ the King, Stocks Bank Road, Mirfield, WF14 9QT, marked 'Ironman Challenge'.
Cheques should be made out to Battyeford PCC. Gift Aid welcome.

Find out more about our diocesan link with Tanzania.