Category Archives: Travel

“I wonder what are the poor people doing?”

If you’ve ever made that throw away comment whilst floating around a resort pool with a cocktail waiting for you on the side… I can now give you an answer…

For a complete change of pace, we headed to Majete 5.  A new community for The Hunger Project bordering a game reserve in southern Malawi (and yes, it’s the 5th surrounding the reserve.)

This area has been working with The Hunger Project for only a short while on their mindset change, and have just had their first Vision, Commitment, Action (VCA) workshop.  Their communities surround a reserve for tourists, now hosting the Big 5 and was once the source of their food and income.  Now, relocated on the outside of the fence, life is harder than ever before.

This means that what we’re seeing is pretty much real Malawi and the lives people lead faced with chronic, persistent hunger.  Many who are fortunate, eat twice at day.  At the moment, there is no Epicentre building, and the work has just begun.  They are skeptical that any real changes can be made in their lives, resigned to the lives they lead and yet hopeful that change can be made by partnering the THP.

We witnessed history in the making during the morning, when locals expressed their hesitance and reluctance to engage, believing that life had always been ‘this way’ and that it probably always would be.  They were also cautiously optimistic that maybe this time, real change could be made, but hardly convinced.   And before our eyes, after a rousing talk by the THP Director of Malawi Rolands Kaoatcha and THP employee Grace shared their passion, changed their minds, so hopeful for their children, that change was indeed possible.  It made us reflect later on how much our own limiting beliefs keep us imprisoned to the ideas we ‘choose’ to partner with.

Maternal and infant health is a huge issue in the area, with women in labour having to walk for 27kms (around 7 hours+) to the nearest health facility to give birth.  Many are too tired to make the full journey and give birth along the way.  Any complications mean possible death for the mother, infant or both.  To say the tears were flowing on hearing their stories is the understatement of the trip so far.  Knowing that I would have died trying to have my daughter without medical assistance made the stories more poignant for me and we were moved to tears with one man begging for a health service and ambulance for their women during our visit.

We were soon divided into four groups and braved epic Malawian heat as we were each welcomed into the homes for four local families who shared their personal stories with us.  One family married their daughter off at 12 (apparently she was willing) so that the dowry could feed the remaining family for the rest of ‘the hungry season.’  Others shared their stories of love and loss, of saving 10 years for iron sheets for their roofs and their struggle to feed their families at least twice per day.

To not be moved by such every day battles, and put our own ‘first world problems’ into stark perspective, we’d have been heartless indeed to have not been touched.

Malaria is still a huge issue, and the Majete Malaria Project is working in tandem with THP to improve the lives of those in the villages.

Despite the confrontational day we had, we too were optimistic about their future based on the Epicentre we have seen reach self-reliance and knowing that the work ahead can make positive and real change in their lives.

Their vision that their children may one day end up as President, or even doctors or nurses is more possible right now they could ever believe.

My question for myself as I settle in to bed with a full belly tonight is, as ever, “what’s holding me back?”

Never Work a Day in Your Life!

Have you ever heard the expression “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life?”  This cliché is often attributed to Confucius, tho I’m not convinced, based on the fact that nearly everyone was probably a soldier, merchant or a farmer…

Yet, it is possible to love your work and not even think of it as ‘work,’ a ‘job,’ or a ‘chore.’ I am sure you know at least one person who is doing what they love.

Truth be told, people who do what they love even tend to look a little different. You can pick them out in a crowd. They emanate something special.

And contrary to popular opinion, No, they didn’t have it any easier than you.  What they did was make a decision to start doing what they loved.  And it’s a big step.  A giant leap in fact to let go of security and make a go of something you’ve only ever dreamed about.

Why not ask yourself what you really love that perhaps you never imagined you could turn into a profession or get paid for?  Is there a hobby you love to do on weekends that you could turn into a fantastic living?

If you love hiking, could you lead treks?  If you love writing, can you start a blog?  Or a book?  Are you creative?  Do you have paintings or craft to make a cottage business out of?

I know some people who had a life altering moment in their travels, start doing what they love and they’ve never looked back, happily turning their backs on the big bucks and corporate life to follow their dreams.

What are some small action steps you can take today? Can pick up a relevant book about your favourite topic, do a Google search to learn more, buy the domain name of that business you’ve got planned in your head?  Even ask your friends what they think you should be doing – they know you well and what lights your fire!

Following your dreams may just be easier than you think!

Start the momentum now…

Then, as Oprah phrased it “Find a way to get paid for doing what you love.  Then every pay check will be a bonus!”

I won a trip to the Bangkok Slums!

Well, there’s a blog title I never thought I’d write… or even be a little excited about, but as it turns out, in 9 more sleeps, I’m off to Thailand.

And as much I’d love to be sipping Mai Tai’s by the pool at a stunning resort… that’s NOT what this trip is all about.

I recently attended the Future of Leadership forum in Brisbane which has a fabulous number of brilliant speakers donating their time and resources to raise funds for the amazing charity, Hands Across the Water (aka Hands or HATW.)

One of the prizes on the day, which I was fortunate enough to take out, was a trip for the Hands “Social Venture Program.”  This 6 day program will take me from the Khlong Toei Slums in Bangkok to the community Projects and orphanages in Yasothon, Northern Thailand.

The people I’ll be meeting aren’t famous for the attention they garner, they aren’t social media stars and they don’t drop quotable quips, but they are possibly the most amazing people for the impact they have on their local communities and the lives they live.

It will be my privilege to spend time in their homes, learning and changing myself.  I feel so blessed to lead the life that I do, and cherish the moments where I can learn and grow as a human from these remarkable people who do so much, not because they want to be famous, but because they can.

We’ll be relocating a very deserving family from the slums into temporary accommodation, then demolishing their home for locals to be able to come in and build a new, habitable dwelling for the family.

Then we’re off to Northern Thailand to work with the Home Hug orphanage, be involved in the community project in Surin and make a difference however we can before returning to Bangkok.

So far, I’ve been able to raise $2,000 for this fantastic cause and I’d love if you’d like to contribute too: Donate Here

If you’d like to know more about the amazing work that Hands does in their Social Venture Program, or have your corporate or colleagues involved, you can check them out here: HATW Social Venture Program

I look forward to sharing my adventures as I go and will keep you posted on this amazing trip.

My Top Travel Tip!

Travelling is a huge passion of mine, and each year, I try to add new places to my list of “Must See  Before I Die!!”   I’m so thankful to have been to over 20 incredible countries to date and continue to look for opportunities to visit new and amazing places.

I’m grateful to last year have been able to add South Africa, Indonesia and China, and this year include Uganda and Dubai.  Even a visit to our Red Centre at Uluru is planned and a quick trip across ditch will add New Zealand for the first time this year as well.

Travel experiences for me have traditionally been the usual “transactional” experience: visit, eat well, drink better, take the photos, buy a shot glass and head home with great memories.  This year, I had my first “transformational travel” experience with a visit to Uganda with The Hunger Project.  Wow!  Life changing stuff!

I’m blessed that my assistant is a complete home body, never likes to venture far from her comfortable home and can keep my business running and home fires burning, while I’m off exploring.

I am no fashionista and do like to travel in comfort, but definitely never want to look like Super Dag when I turn up anywhere either.  And I much prefer to collect experiences than souvenirs, so don’t usually come back with bulging extra suitcases of “stuff.”

Unfortunately, Australia is an incredibly expensive country to live in, so I do like to pick up a couple of additional clothing items when I’m away too.  It’s great to say ‘Oh, this dress?  I got it in South Africa.”  “You like my scarf?  Found it in a little place in Shanghai.”  Such great memories!  If just a little pretentious! 😉

So, trying to travel with just one (reasonably sized) suitcase and a carry-on, can sometimes present a challenge.

My favourite tried and true travel tip when heading overseas now, is to always take with me an empty jumbo vacuum seal bag.  You know the ones – those late night, direct buy space saving miracles advertised at 3am?

Thankfully, I’ve never had a hotel yet deprive me of a vacuum cleaner so am able to pack all my clothing into this, suck the life out of it, and leave space for those extra items or gifts I like to bring home.

And as someone so cleverly pointed out to me – no, it doesn’t save on weight, but the extra space is a lifesaver!  It means you don’t need to buy an extra suitcase every time you go somewhere, or pack an extra case into your large luggage, braving excess baggage charges.

Why don’t you try it sometime and see how you fare!

This post is part of a brand-led competition and entry to the Virgin Australia comp for Pro-Blogger attendees.

Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Our drive from Lake Mburo took around 6 hours and is mostly due to the appalling state of the roads in most of rural Uganda. Some appear to have never been graded and most are deeply rutted and potholed. Even surfaced roads are covered in multiple speed bumps and allow little respite from bumps. (Ladies, a sports bra is a must, or you’ll spend most of your time clutching ‘the girls’ as they’re jolted mercilessly on your travels!)

Thankfully, our 4WD Landcruiser handled everything and our driver Baker was amazing at getting us everywhere safely.

image Continue reading Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

I’ve created a Monster!

Brisbane BBI’ve decided to classify myself as a Business Chicks junkie, to coin a phrase.

I joined this fabulous Australia wide group of top chicks in June 2011 when actively looking specifically for a women’s networking group, but it wasn’t until August 2012 that I finally took myself off to my first event.

I booked some work in Brisbane, checked into the Sofitel for the evening and the next morning took myself off to breakfast in the ballroom featuring the amazing Doctor Catherine Hamlin.  I’d never before experienced The Business Chicks buzz or the magic of quite such a treasure of a guest speaker and came away a little awed, knowing no-one, but having definitely had a lovely start to the day. (And picking up a signed copy of the book Catherine’s Gift.)

In December of the same year, Sir Richard Branson was touring and I took myself and a colleague (#businessbloke) off to that event in Brisbane as well.  Ummm… Wow!  Rockstar entrance at that event! (For Sir Richard, not me…)

By then, I was fairly hooked.  I’ve since travelled to Melbourne to see the incredible Brene Brown, Seth Godin and Arianna Huffington; to Canberra for Deborah-Lee Furness; Adelaide for Michelle Bridges and Sydney for Todd Sampson.  Locally, Dr Lois Frankl and Ita Buttrose have graced the Gold Coast stage, soon to be followed by Naomi Simpson and Sir Bob Geldof. Not forgetting Rachel Zoe and Bobbi Brown in Brisbane.Brisbane3 BB Brisbane2 BB

 

And that doesn’t cover the guests I’ve missed!  You don’t get a speaker line-up like that from too many organisations!  And I will knock Perth off my To-Do List!  And New York…. San Fransisco…. LA…. Did I also see reserved Hong Kong and UK accounts on Instagram?  Global BC Domination on the way!

I’ve also managed to accidentally wangle my last couple of ‘Anniversary of Birth’ days with the BC crew (turning 39 each time) and guess I know where I’ll be around the start of August this year… when turning 39 again.  Someone will let me know when I can’t pull it off anymore, right?

Social media is a fabulous medium for making connections and I’ve made some gorgeous friends through the BC Community both local and interstate, of BC members and the team itself.  It’s always great to catch up with these friends at Premium Member nights, Networking events and their big events of course.

The wonderful Gwinganna experience opened up a great new bunch of connections and friendships (and was so close to home!)

Gwinganna

This year I’m partnering with other BC Trippers and heading to Uganda in May with a The Hunger Project.  There’s an opportunity that doesn’t come along every day! I’ve never done fundraising before so this is a whole new and confronting world for me!  Perfect chance for a plug here, so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please head to www.tinyurl.com/c4e

I’d finally decided however, that I shouldn’t keep all the fun to myself and as my daughter is starting her a Diploma in Specialised Make-Up next month, I wanted to introduce her too, to the BC family.  Bobbi Brown was the perfect place to start, and although at 16, she thought it was all a bit overwhelming, she did love the music, the food, the speaker and got to clock up an extra one hour forty in drive time for her log book, before heading to a babysitting job, then coming home to check out the contents of her first ever goody bag!

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Why The Hunger Project Resonated with Me

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Charity is often a deeply personal issue and only becomes dear to us when we are personally affected or emotionally moved by an issue.

I was a giver, over a long period of time – little bits, to a lot of places.  I love the Guide Dogs, Fred Hollows Foundation and the RACQ Care Flight Chopper – they’re all personal favourites.

But choosing to partner with The Hunger Project and commit to raising over $10,000 was the first time I’d ever embarked on anything of this size or nature.

Here’s a few reasons why The Hunger Project got my vote and why I’ll be heading to Ethiopia next May:

The Three Fundamental Pillars of The Hunger Project.

Top-down, aid-driven charity models often fail to reach the people who need the most help. To be sustainable, we have discovered three critical elements that, when combined, empower people to make rapid progress in overcoming hunger and poverty:

  1. Mobilisation for self-reliance
  2. Empowering women as key change-agents for development
  3. Making local government work
  4. Mobilisation for self-reliance

The Challenges:
A. People in under-developed countries, particularly in rural areas, often live or work in isolation. Whether this is because they are physically isolated such as in the jungles of Africa, or socially isolated by caste or because they are women who are not allowed to leave their homes without a male escort, or villages that are divided by tribal rivalries, any kind of division weakens their potential collective power.

  1. Often aid money has come and gone, but the people are still hungry, and they come to believe that it will always be this way. This can lead to hopelessness and cynicism.

Our Work: When people are united for a purpose and act together to improve their own conditions, there is a multiplier effect and much more can be accomplished.

One of our first steps is to reduce the resignation that chronic hunger and poverty creates in a community.  We work to bring people together to unleash their creativity and productivity through education and skill building. Through a process of enquiry, we ask the villagers what is missing then help develop a social structure that allows local, productive action, self-confidence and strong advocacy in each region.  395,000 trained volunteers around the world are mobilising millions of others to take self-reliant actions.

In Africa, through our Epicentre Strategy, more than 121 clusters of villages have launched village-level projects to generate their own income and build classrooms, food storage facilities and health clinics.

In India more than 83,000 elected women representatives in India are speaking out and bringing water, health and education to their villages.

In Bangladesh 272,000 trained Animators and volunteer youth leaders are initiating projects such as campaigns against early marriage, dowry and violence against women; education programs for safe drinking water, nutrition and sanitation; birth registration for rural communities; and income-generating activities.

  1. Empowering women as key change-agents for development.

The Challenges: In most of the areas where we work there is severe gender discrimination which perpetuates a cycle of poverty and malnutrition.

Our Work: Studies show that women are the best change agents. We work with grassroots women to help them gain a voice in local decision-making, shifting local priorities towards nutrition, sanitation, clean water, health and education. We coalesce women who work together to end corruption, stop early child-marriage, and ensure punishment for rape and domestic violence. Our model emphasises important roles for women, working as equals to men, to determine community priorities and build the required skills to transform their lives for generations to come.  Many studies have proven that when women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase.

In Africa, Our Microfinance Programs provide women food farmers easy access to credit, adequate training regarding the importance of saving and income generation.

1.3 million people have taken the HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshop.

In India, our Women’s Leadership Workshop has empowered over 83,000 women elected to local councils to be effective change agents in their villages.

In Bangladesh, we catalysed the formation of a 300-organisation alliance that organises more than 800 events across the country each September in honour of National Girl Child Day, a day to focus on eradicating all forms of discrimination against girls.

  1. Making local government work.

The Challenges: Weak, corrupt, or unresponsive local government. Need we say more?

Our Work: In working with the local people we find and train leaders who learn to reform laws by transforming the mindsets of local officials. They focus on the issues of primary education and health care, family income, nutrition, water and sanitation. These can only be solved at the local level, and will only be solved when people are able to communicate their needs to leaders and hold them to account.

In Africa, Local government officials are included at every stage of our Epicentre Strategy. When the villagers build the epicentre building, local government provides nurses, teachers and supplies for the preschool and health clinic. Some African governments, having seen our success, are building The Hunger Project model into their national plans.

In India, we work in 3418 local village-level government units (gram panchayats), in 90 districts. There are 175 block-level Federations in 8 States where locally elected rural women come together to voice concerns and change laws as a collective unit. Currently, the priority issues include increased transparency at all levels of government. We also partner with 48 local organisations to jointly accomplish improved education, nutrition and health.

In Bangladesh, we work with 508 local government bodies (Union Parishads) ensuring 100 percent sanitary latrine coverage, 100 percent birth and death registration, and open budget meetings to provide transparency and accountability.

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If any of this also strikes a chord with you and you’d like to donate to this great cause, please support my efforts at: http://tinyurl.com/pd5c8y6

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