Timber Jim to Tanzania: Working the soil for the Red Sweater Pro - KPTV - FOX 12

Timber Jim to Tanzania: Working the soil for the Red Sweater Project

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"Timber Jim" Serrill (KPTV) "Timber Jim" Serrill (KPTV)

In the past, we've seen Timber Jim climbing poles, cutting logs, chanting with the Timbers Army, going in the Ring of Honor, unfurling the championship banner and working in his community garden.

Now, Jim Serrill is going global to Africa, spreading the love to Tanzania with his good friends and the great people with the Red Sweater Project

"It's a cultural shock. These people, they are flippin' poor," he said. "I've heard it can get really bad, you can get dysentery, but I'm prepped. I'm ready for that, whatever you have to do."

Serrill is spending a month off the grid in Tanzania. Being away from his beloved Timbers wasn't high on the priority list for the retired 62-year-old.

"I really didn't want to go. I was scared to go, really," he said. "I told her no twice."

After connecting and convincing with Ashley Holmer, a former Willamette University soccer star and standout from Lake Oswego, he's boarding the plane for the 20-hour flight, his first time away out of North America.

"These people need help and I can help them, so I am going to go," said Serrill. 

Holmer said, "Working in Africa is not for the faint of heart … you really start to crave your creature comforts." 

She is the founder of the Red Sweater Project.

"You go to Africa thinking, they need our skills but you realize they give back so much more than you could ever give," Holmer said. 

They’re giving children the opportunity to learn at a high school level, who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford such a luxury...learning English and life skills in a 21st century world. 

"Putting females in secondary school which has shown to really have an impact in elevating global poverty," said Holmer. 

A year ago, the Red Sweater Project's Mungere School did not have a single student fail, while nearly doubling scores on exams than that of government-run education programs. 

"We have about 200 students apply for 40 spots," said Holmer. 

Now with 125 students, the Mungere School will soon expand to 300. That's where Serrill comes in.

"You just can't put a seed on the ground and expect it to grow," he said. 

Last year, green-thumb Jim and his church's community garden in Tualatin grew some 3,600 pounds of produce to donate to the food pantry. Now, he has acres upon acres of soil reclamation to assist in feeding the kids of the Red Sweater Project, which serves two meals a day to its students. 

"Providing good, nutritious food in a sustainable way is not only a great thing, it's also a very Oregonian thing, isn't it?" said Holmer. 

Serrill said, "We've done soil analysis. We had samples sent back from other people who have been right on the school grounds. There are 18 acres there … Basically the pH is about 12. It should be 8, so really high, a lot of salt content. It's been a series of overgrazing and compaction."

For Serrill, this will be a family affair. While it's difficult to leave his wife and granddaughter behind, his daughter and niece, who he says he doesn't see nearly enough, will be joining him in Africa.

"I'm going to go vegan for a month," he said. "It will probably help me skinny down. I don't know, we'll see."

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