Tag Archives: Charity

Are you an Amazing Unleashed Woman?

I’m so excited!  I’ve just found out that I’ve been approved for a grant from the Million Dollar Round Table in the United States for UDS$1,000 to support my work with The Hunger Project.  Woohoo!

After my visits to Uganda and Malawi, I’ve become even more passionate about the empowerment of women in global communities and the drive to end hunger.  It frustrates me that so many of us have so much, while so many struggle with so little.

Did you Know?  A donation of even $50 can help give 3 women a micro-finance loan to start or grow a small business to create further income for their families.  We drop that no problem on a meal out or a few drinks with friends.

And here’s an example of what a couple of weeks groceries,  just $500 is able to achieve:

  • Train 400 mothers on feeding their children locally available nutritious food, so their children grow up healthy; or
  • Give 30 women a start-up micro-finance loan to start or grow a small business, to create income for her family; or
  • Empower 15 women to become local volunteer leaders and train their fellow villagers on issues such as education and sanitation.

But, if you’d rather spend your hard-earned dosh on a table at a fabulous restaurant spoiling your loved one on Valentine’s Day, I completely get that too.  So why not bid on A Table to End Hunger and empower others to put food on theirs.   Get in quick!

I’ve been so amazed by the incredible people who’ve supported my journey to date and those who’ve jumped on board and joined the movement.

I’d love to welcome you to become Unleashed with me again for the coming year!

And it’s still not too late to donate – if you’d like to help others to help themselves, please donate here: Unleashed Amanda’s Fundraising Page

Are you ready to be Unleashed?

If you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you’d know by now that I’m a bit of a fan of The Hunger Project and the work they’re doing to end hunger by 2030.

Many people are interested in the adventures I’ve had to Africa, visiting Uganda and Malawi in the past two years and have been happy to contribute to my fundraising endeavors (thank you sixty million times!!)

Yet the thought of personally fundraising $10,000 and finding $5,000 for the trip is pretty overwhelming… let alone the emotional confrontation of facing some of our planet’s biggest issues head on!

So, if you’d love to be involved, and help out, but on a much smaller scale, then Unleashed Women is totally for you!

You’ve got the next 12 months to fundraise (or personally donate) $1,000 and motivate other lovely ladies to join you on the crusade to end hunger.  Having seen first hand how ‘the other half live’ makes you so appreciative of all we have.

We turn a tap on and water magically runs out, we flick a switch and there’s electricity, we open the fridge door and could feed a small nation and still believe ‘there’s nothing to eat!’ and push the remote on the garage door to head out into the world in our vehicle that isn’t a clapped out bicycle, and that we can afford to put fuel in each week.

I signed up to be an Unleashed Woman for the end of 2016 and will be ready to go again in 2017.  I hope you’ll join me!  Can’t wait to share this next adventure with you!

Find out more about what’s involved here: THP Unleashed Women

Confronting Child Marriage in Malawi

Part of our visit to Majete 5 involved meeting people in the village who were open enough to share their homes and stories with us.

For some background, for many years, their homes and village formed part of the Majete Game Reserve, and naturally enough for people suffering chronic persistent hunger, the wildlife was viewed as a food source and the trees were cut down to burn and sell the charcoal as an income source.  Over time, this decimated the area until the Government finally decided to partner with private enterprise and re-establish the game reserve to entice tourist dollars back to Malawi.  It was pitched as good for the villages to bring money back to the country, but to those starving, made little sense.

Fencing the entire reserve meant that those living in the Park were forcibly relocated outside of the perimeter and much antagonism arose with the local communities cut off from what they once viewed as their own.

To assist in helping villages find their feet again and look for new sources of income, The Hunger Project was asked to partner with communities around the Reserve and assist with mindset change and leadership.  Education assists in helping find new sources of income and building a better life.

Yet for now, some things remain the same in the villages.

Maxwell (32) and his wife Shiveira (28) welcomed us to their home.  Shiveria was very shy and is currently expecting their 5th child.  Their eldest is now 15 (do the math!) was married at 12 and is a mother herself.  Maxwell told us she wanted to be married and wasn’t forced, but they needed the dowry to be able to eat.  We were witnessing firsthand inter-generational child marriage and teen pregnancy… and it was a little confronting.

I found it difficult to suspend judgement and just listen to the story for what it is seeing it’s so different, unacceptable and unusual in my own culture.  Child marriage however has long been considered normal in the area and no-one raises an eyebrow.The legal age for marriage in Malawi is 18 however child marriage still regularly occurs in the village areas with little to no intervention from the village leaders.

Maxwell’s daughter stopped attending school once having the baby and may never have the opportunity for further education… until The Hunger Project bring their literacy classes to the area.

At home, remain 2 sons and another daughter, plus the baby on the way.  Hopefully by the time their existing daughter is a teenager, the mindset training will be complete and her parents will take part in the Vision, Commitment and Action workshops, educating them with alternate options.

Well, here’s hoping anyway!

“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?”

A visit to Champiti

Our travels today took us to an Epicentre of The Hunger Project (THP) called Champiti, which has been awarded the status of self-reliance, a huge effort by the local community!

Our bus trip took a couple of hours to head North-West of Blantyre and we passed much barren territory, a lasting effect of the past three years of El Nino which has devastated the country.

Our first stop was the home and shop of the inspirational Sarah Dzenza and the local women greeted us with song, dance and some serious ululating (which we later practiced in the bus!)  Sarah embraced the philosophy of The Hunger Project early and has had 6 loans from the rural bank to expand and grow her businesses (selling supplies and sarongs) and improve her home, now a burnt brick dwelling with rendered walls and an iron roof – quite an achievement!

It was a little overwhelming for me to walk up to her home with memories flooding back of my previous visit to Uganda, being surrounded by children whose folks are doing everything they can to give them a better life, the incredible heat and noise and sunlight that is Africa.

We then headed to briefly meet the first chairman of the Epicentre, Mr Hiwa and his lovely wife of 50 years who explained what life was like for the villages prior to THP and how their lives and that of the community has improved.  Next stop the Epicentre!!

Another amazing traditional dance from both the men and women greeted us on arrival and it felt like we were walking into a National Geographic spread.  We were proudly shown around the maize mill, food bank, medical facilities and rural bank with the local team on hand to answer questions about how they’d managed to achieve the status of self-reliance.

A deeper dive into the various works that committees arrange, such as Women’s Empowerment, Nutrition, Health, HIV & AIDS, Water & Sanitation, Food Security, Micro-finance, Education and Literacy were all covered.  No handouts here, just education across all that’s necessary and massive mindset changes required to move past the resignation and into a place of hope.

Spending time with Everton, the young bank manager and learning about his family and job was lovely.  He tells me women are educated before taking out the loans and strict warnings are given not to pass on the funds to their husbands as they are still responsible for the loan and any associated interest (around 2%) even if their husband’s spend the money!  A warning that women the world over would be wise to follow!

Sex Ed was also fascinating with the mindset changes required for communities to embrace male and female condoms and HIV testing and increasing health and sanitation practices.

After hours of learning and inspiration from the local Malawians we were all invited to join in final songs and dance.  We all need so much more spontaneous song and dance in our lives!  An uplifting and beautiful way to finish our visit.  Then time for selfies, hugs, goodbyes with the kids, more pictures and long waves…

On the way home, a brilliant sunset occurred to our west, as the supermoon rose from the east in epic African skies.  A fitting end to a fabulous day of learning and laughter.

 

Arrival into Malawi

So after around 32 hours of travel door to door from Australia to Africa, and with my calves and ankles now merged into their usual long puffy sausages, we finally arrived at our hotel in Malawi and over the next few hours, all the lovely women I’ll be spending the next 10 to 14 days with, arrived to take part in their coming immersion into the work of The Hunger Project (THP.)

As always, that first shower was spectacularly satisfying… and the massage to follow was pretty great too.  A couple of drinks, introductions, a dinner and an early night were next on the cards.  (I can’t help but think back to my visit to Uganda last year when it was all still so unknown, and also as another group are touring from there simultaneously with our Malawi trip.)

It’s now 4.30 am and with the body clock still out of whack, we’ll soon start our first day of the Business Chicks Leadership and Immersion Program.

It’s so fabulous to meet a bunch of ladies who you know for the past few months have gone above and beyond to be here; going so far out of their way to each raise $10,000 for this great cause and hear of their trials and tribulations on the way.

Yet, the stories carry the same interesting themes.  Surprise at those who were so supportive of their efforts… and also at those close to them who weren’t.  And gratitude for the lessons along the way.  The incredible personal achievement of having ‘made it’ and to finally arrive in Blantyre after the culmination of months of plotting and planning.  Most have never done anything like this before, but are approaching their coming adventure with open minds, and just a little trepidation.

Over the next nine days we’ll be visiting various Epicentres and learning lessons in leadership from those who’ve stood up and made a difference in their own lives, in those of their extended families and their communities, and who also happen to be amongst the poorest people on earth.

If you’d like to follow our journey over the coming days, I’ll be sharing more about the work of The Hunger Project, their efforts in Malawi and thoughts on what we’ve seen and experienced on our visit.

For those who are unfamiliar with the work of THP, they start with Three Pillars:

  1.  Start with Women – studies show when women are supported and empowered, all society benefits.  This is why THP focus on building the capacity of women;
  2. Mobilise Everyone – building knowledge, skills and leadership so the locals can take action to improve their own communities;
  3. Engage Government – empowering people to communicate their needs to local government ensures they too are effective and accountable

You can read more about their work at THP Australia or follow along and enjoy my adventures!  I look forward to sharing more with you.

Now it’s time for that early cup of tea…

Giving back to others…

How much are you currently giving back to others?

Giving back can take many forms.  Our time is our most valuable gift and the one prized by friends and family, yet here I’m concentrating on financial giving.  Charity if you will!

Financially, no amount is too small.  Often, we’re happy to part with a few dollars for a good (and tax-deductible) cause, but rarely do we give to the limit of our ability.  Or even to where it hurts… just a little.

Many of us prefer to wait until we are comfortable with our personal financial situation and when we feel we have enough, then think about being generous or charitable…

Generosity is seen by some to be an energy, it’s a definite decision. It has nothing to do with a number. It’s often a spontaneous gesture, a kind action that comes from the heart.  But can you plan to be more generous with giving?  We live in an incredibly lucky country when so many others suffer depredations to their livelihoods and liberty that we couldn’t possibly imagine.

It’s easy to drop a few hundred on an outfit for a ball, frocking up for the races or a meal and drinks out with friends, but the thought of handing over $100 when it’s not for ourselves takes on a completely different meaning!

A lot of times, we don’t think about being philanthropic or charitable until a loved one becomes unwell with a particular illness or requires a certain hospital or service; or we’re accosted on the street by Greenpeace or door-knocked by the Surf Lifesavers.

Be honest with yourself about how much you are giving today, as in right now.  Not tomorrow or some mystical time in the future when you feel you may be able to afford to be.  No-one becomes poor from being charitable.

Can you find a cause that ties in nicely with your business or personal values?  Many who support their local communities find their business and personal profiles also improve, the more they give back.  Sounds like a win-win to me!