ONE Girls and Women and Heifer International took a group of likeminded writers to Malawi for a week to witness firsthand how strong African leadership and smart donor investments in girls and women can help fight poverty and preventable disease. This is part 4 in the series (other posts available here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 ). Upcoming posts will feature success stories of individual women from Malawi and will tell the story of how they are raising themselves and their communities out of poverty, so stay tuned!
Our trip started on Mother’s Day; fitting since we were a group of mothers and daughters from the US visiting mothers and daughters in Malawi. The trip was full of love and joy, learning and friendship, and a profound sense of connection. Connection every where we went.
My traveling companions have written beautifully and prolifically about the trip (links to which are below), but I wanted to feature some curated highlights exploring this theme of connection. Here below, each of our writers has chosen their favorite photo, the one they most connected with, and explained the reason the image represents the quintessence of the trip.
“This is one of my favorite photos from the trip because I witnessed Cindy (the woman in pink) connect with the people she and Heifer work for every day. Watching her in this moment was the link between putting a check into an envelope and seeing how every donation matters. And I love that the ONE bag is in the photo!” ~Meredith Walker
“The brilliant sky and handmade bricks in this photo sum up so much of what we experienced. We met farmers, women, parents, children and babies who were strong and beautiful. They were all building their communities on a foundation that Heifer helped establish and it was incredible to witness.” ~ Rachel Faucett
“These women were standing off to the side with their babies watching everyone talk. I walked up and asked them if I could take their picture, and they immediately lit up and posed for me. Then I showed them their picture on my phone and they burst into giggles and smiles upon seeing themselves. The joy emanating from them was unexpected and wonderful.” ~ Wendi Aarons
“This photograph was taken as a group of women farmers exuberantly sang for us while we said our goodbyes after visiting their farms. I love this photo because it epitomizes the joy that greeted us at every turn: there was music and dancing and laughter everywhere. They don’t call Malawi “The Warm Heart of Africa” for nothing!” ~ Karen Walrond
“I met this little girl at our first stop with the Mtika family in Kasungu, which is in the Central District of Malawi. She had been walking near me for quite some time and was super smiley. I asked if she wanted me to take a picture and she did. However, as soon as the camera came out, her smile disappeared, and was replaced with a very serious look. Once I put the camera down she would smile again. If I focused my lens on her, it was back to Miss Serious. It was a really funny little exchange.
I showed her the photos on my camera, which she was excited to see. After looking at the pictures she said something to me I couldn’t understand. One of the drivers translated and I discovered that she asked if I had a plastic water bottle, which I did. I pulled the bottle out and handed it over. The driver asked why she wanted the bottle and she replied that it was for school. She said that they put corn in the bottle along with a little water so that it’s soft in time for lunch. It was touching, and a little heartbreaking, that what she asked me for was so utilitarian. Not a toy, not candy, just a plastic bottle to carry her lunch to school.
We asked her if I could take another picture and the same thing happened again: her beautiful, big smile disappeared as soon as the camera appeared. With the driver’s help and a lot of prodding we FINALLY got her to laugh and smile for the camera. This is that picture!
I didn’t get her name, but even so, I will never forget this sweet girl. The photo makes me happy every time I look at it. My experience with this strong girl typifies what I witnessed time and again in Malawi – the strength and positivity of the people.” ~ Jane Maynard
“This is my favorite photo from the trip. The contrast between the princess dress and the dusty ground beautifully captures the challenging path ahead of her, as historic Africa faces an uncertain future. What can she expect from her world? Herself? I tweeted this photo with the text: “Every princess deserves milk and clean water, access to education and the chance to make choices.” It got more retweets than nearly anything I’ve ever posted. And oh, that face!” ~Ellen McGirt
“I was moved by so much last week that it is hard to pick any photo, but I love the pride and spirit in Ms. Louisa’s face here. And I loved what she had to say regarding how her life changed after she was given a cow and training through Heifer: You came and held our hands and brought us to where we are. Zikomo (Thank you).” ~ Cindy Jones-Nyland
“There’s so much I love about this photo and the moment it was taken in Thoylo, a rural village in Malawi. When I asked her if I could take her picture this mother quickly grabbed her child (the one crying) and flashed me her biggest smile. What I was able to capture was a moment of joy and the real warmth for which Malawians are well-known.”~ Ana Flores
“I took this photo at the Matapwata Dairy Improvement Project in Thoylo District.
This group of children flocked to the bus when they saw us arrive. They grew in number as we sat inside learning about the milk bulking process and how farmers have to travel up to ten miles to reach a milk bulking plant. By the time we left there was a swarm of children who were fascinated by our presence. Upon departing, the boy in blue was hamming it up for the camera, which I found charming. There’s this false narrative about Africa – never mind that many in the US see it as one giant, homogenous country – that the children are sad and malnourished. While many face hunger and poverty, the truth is that the kids in Malawi are just like kids anywhere else: point a camera at them and they’re like, SHOW TIME! *jazz hands*” ~ Heather Barmore
And now…my favorite photo? A harder assignment than I realized when I first asked the group!
It’s probably the one below taken on our first full day in Malawi at a visit with the Village Savings and Loan Group in Kasunga. What I love about this photo is the light, warmth and radiance emanating from these two women who have just met but share a strong connection through their hard work and commitment to empowering themselves and their communities.
If you want to see more beautiful images and learn more about our trip and this wonderful, warm country, head over to this flipboard magazine, created by our friend Colleen Pence.
Do you have a favorite photo from above? What would you have asked these mothers and girls? Let us know in the comments below.