Note: I wrote this within hours of arriving to Malawi last week but never got a chance to publish it due to the chopppy internet that was available. I decided to still publish it to give context to the series of posts coming up detailing the trip.
The view from the terrace in my room where I’m sitting right now feels so familiar. The intense green and the lushness of the native plant, as well as the breeze that sways with intensity touching my skin and filling my senses as I hear it pass through the trees. I could easily be in one of my familiar environments in El Salvador or México, but I’m actually in the other side of the world in the country of Malawi, known as “the warm heart of Africa.”
We just arrived a few hours ago, tired from the 15 hours of travel from DC, but so anxious, excited and pinching ourselves to be in this beautiful country thanks to an invitation from The ONE Campaign and Heifer International.
ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organization of more than 6 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not solicit funding from the public or receive government funding.
Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For more than 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.
I’ve been following ONE for a few years now when they first asked me to help spread the word and follow the first group of ONE Moms who traveled to Ethiopia. I also joined a group of 100 influencers in DC for the AYA Summit and the launch of ONE Girls and Women in 2014 where we heard stories and learned from people across Africa affected by issues like ebola, lack of energy resources, human trafficking and more.
And now I’m here in Malawi with a group of seven women writers who I profoundly admire, being taken by the hand with ONE and Heifer to start a life-transforming journey of six days where we will travel to Lilongwe, Blantyre and and villages across Malawi to meet with women, farmers, school kids, and visit health clinics. We will visit organizations and projects that have benefited from foreign assistance and share with you these stories though our lens of women and families.
We will see how programs co-funded by the United States, in close partnership with the Malawi government and local community leadership, are helping them with the skills and resources they need to succeed. We will spend time with women who are strong leaders in their professions, their communities and their country.
I’ll be sharing with you my daily impressions; stories that impacted and touched me; and pictures and videos of places we visit and people we meet. Even if the scenery and the air feel familiar to me, the stories Malawi will open up to me are completely new and I’m ready to be transformed by them.
Disclosure: I’m in Malawi as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign (www.one.org) and Heifer International (www.heifer.org). We are here to see the economic progress—and the lives changed—made possible by US-funded programs and Heifer International’s donor-supported programs.