Category Archives: Leadership

Meet lovely Charity

As part of my recent trip to Malawi, I met lovely Charity.  She is a mother of 4 children – 3 girls and 1 boy.  Charity is fortunate as she’s had the opportunity to put all her children through school.

Our welcome to her village started with a beautiful dance, songs and welcome from the local women and we were all happy to join in, when we could take our eyes off the gorgeous children who were amazed to meet all the nzungu (white people) who’d invaded their humble homes.

Some years ago, Charity had no business and no form of income.  Today, she runs a hair salon at the local trading centre and employs 2 local women to work in her salon.  The braiding to keep that incredible African hair under control is very popular!

Thanks to the SACCO (Savings & Credit Co-operative) introduced by The Hunger Project in her area, she was introduced to microfinance and had the opportunity to take out small loans.  She was able to increase her shares in the SACCO as her income improved to continue to borrow more.

Aside from her salon, she has ivested in pigs, and has now bought and sold around 15.  She currently has one left and 2 piglets.

Her largest loan to date is 100,000 Malawian Kwacha MKW (approx AUD $186.)

Like all true entrepreneurs, she’s staked it all, backed herself to get her family out of poverty and isn’t slowing down!  Next step, she’d like a loan of 500,000 – 1 million MKW (AUD$929 – $1,858) to expand into a new hairdressing salon.

She has been able to influence 19 other women in her village so far to see the benefits of microfinance loans and couldn’t even begin to list all the benefits she’s personally seen so far.

Other advantages have also spread to include farm input credits and assist those living with HIV.

Charity had every reason to believe her life would remain below the poverty line where most of those in rural Malawi are, existing on less than USD$1.25 per day.  Yet with a change of mindset and some incredible leadership skills, she’s amazingly chosen to turn it all around.

A true inspiration!

 

Time to be Transformational!

It’s so lovely to take time out in our busy lives to reflect, and on the first day of the Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion program to Malawi with The Hunger Project, we got to do just that.

To start our day, we reflected on all those things in our lives that we were so grateful for which was very special.  Families featured strongly, along with hot running water and electricity and the gift of being born in a country like Australia.   Now at the conclusion of our fundraising journey and before we head out to visit our Village Partners, we visited what we’re most proud of and the leadership lessons we’ve learned so far.

It’s so great to just stop and think about everything we’ve achieved to be here.  Often when congratulations are offered or people praise us for the work we’ve done, we’re quick to wave them aside and move on… but it has been an epic journey to raise $10,000 for a cause that means something to us and step outside of our usual operating space and into where the magic happens.

Many realised how we’re capable of so much more than we thought possible, others thrived on the importance of collaboration and some shared that Fear was their greatest teacher.  Also, it’s ok to prioritise ourselves and that receiving help can be empowering. So many learnings!  My notebook is bursting already!

We learned how to be more present to take in comprehensively what we’re about to encounter in the villages, and that in being uncomfortable or challenged means we’re ready for growth.

A lesson learnt in Uganda last year was highlighted – that we need to “stop being so transactional and start being transformational” – definitely words from the wise. (Thank you Joel!)

Next was taking on the true understanding of chronic persistent hunger and how the symptoms we’ll see are merely the visual from deep rooted social and mental structures.

“It’s hard to create a vision when you don’t even believe that you’re worthy of having one.”  We identified and confronted our own fears for the coming days and weeks and those we’d face on our return home.

It was then time to learn how The Hunger Project tackles the huge issues of poverty and hunger with 5 seemingly basic steps:

  1. Change in Mindset
  2. Good Leadership
  3. Vision
  4. Commitment
  5. Action

Sounds so simple right?  Yet the mindset training alone takes up to two years!  It also makes us challenge what holds us back?  What are beliefs we have that keep us back from achieving all that we want?  Some deep diving to be done here!

The fabulous country director of The Hunger Project Malawi, Rolands Koatcha then spent a couple of hours explaining his own background in the villages, personally facing poverty and hunger with his eight siblings and how education has transformed his life, and of his passion and purpose in changing the lives of his fellow Malawian brothers.

All in all, a very long, epic day full of sharing, love, laughter and tears and preparation for us to head out into the field tomorrow to see one centre firsthand already at the stage of self-reliance and meet the people whose lives are being changed every day.

“Slumming it” for a day…

It’s incredible to me how everyday cliché expressions, can take on new meanings after certain activities.

On returning from Africa last year, each time someone jokingly asked ‘I wonder what the poor people are doing?’… I knew.

And now I know what it means to truly ‘slum it.’

Our mission in the Khlong Toei slums of Bangkok, was to destroy a family home so that a new, better, more inhabitable dwelling could be built on site for a family.

We met lovely On and her son Anon who lived in the ‘home’ and I use the term loosely, it would have been condemned years ago where I come from.

The lower floor was covered in a foot of stagnant swamp water and rubbish and had been abandoned for years.  The only way to the upper lever was through a set of stairs unlike any I’ve ever had to navigate before.

On top of this, On had polio as a child and still carries a decided limp.  Her son, Anon is suffering from leukemia and is currently undergoing treatment.  Yet on each of his returns from hospital, he heads back to this home.

The family mattress was full of holes and cockroaches.  There’s no running water, sewage facilities or cooking abilities at the home.  It really wasn’t much more than a ‘roof over their head.’  The floor boards were rotten and termite eaten and full of holes.

And so we tore it down.

On and Anon are in temporary accommodation for the next six weeks whilst locals come in to build a new, entirely habitable dwelling for the family.  Raised enough so the swelling of the Chao Praya river doesn’t leave part of itself behind each time it floods.

It is this that the funds raised by the 13 people sharing this journey with me go towards.  The Duang Prateep Foundation in partnership with Hands Across the Water ensure that On has all she needs going forward.  The funds we raised cover new mattresses, cooking utensils, pots and the furniture we helped put together.

It was an epic day.  Busy, fruitful, emotional and in turn made us so grateful.  We had highs and lows, but were so proud that we were a part of this great opportunity to afford someone a better life and grateful too for our own families and the homes we get to return to.

Next stop, the orphanages of Yasoton…

The Gang’s All Here! Let the Adventures Begin…

Well, yesterday saw the arrival of all the gorgeous girls joining us on our adventure with The Hunger Project.

All have undertaken a personal journey to be here and have had to commit to raising the $10,000 in fundraising… No mean feat.

We shared a lovely welcome dinner last night and settled in for a big sleep prior to kick-off today.  A club over the road however blasted away til about 4 am making a full nights’ sleep a little difficult.

After another great breakfast and gorgeous sky started our day, and we headed off for our leadership program to begin.

Today started with a brilliant dance session by a talented Ugandan group who had us all shaking our tail feathers after receiving our gorgeous gifts of scarves and skirts.

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We then settled in to learn lessons in leadership, forged closer bonds with our fellow travellers, and heard from the local country director, Daisy who inspired us with the work done in the epicentres around the southern part of Uganda, some of those we’ll visit on our travels.

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We’ve been encouraged to dream, confront our fears, be mindful, respectful and challenged as to how we truly listen.

Making the most of this journey will involve being open to the new, letting go of past beliefs and future expectations and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.”  Jiddu Krishnamurti

After the confront of yesterday’s paper, today’s ran a 20 page feature focussed on Mother’s Day – reminding some of us of the babies we’ve parted with to be on this journey and restoring faith that motherhood is a gift, and a usually, a universally appreciated one.

And we’re all completely loving the buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It seems so surreal that surrounded by such luxury and comfort that we’re actually here to visit some of the most marginalised people on earth… not that far away…

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