Lucky moved into his Malawi house – project completed

We did it! THANK YOU!!! I am so grateful for the help and support we received to build this family a home!  When I met this family I was so moved by their love and family unity.  They are always looking out for others who need help and make sacrifices to do what they can.  They reached out to me after they were given notice that the shanty they were living in was condemned and would be destroyed.

He worked mostly alone on the house while still trying to find ways to provide daily food for his family.  Living a hand to mouth lifestyle does not always allow a lot of time for projects.  There were a couple of weeks when he had worked so hard his body was not able to continue and he was forced to take a break.  Not once did he ever complain!  He just continued to tell me how blessed his family was and that God would see them through.  Such incredible faith! 

His hope was to have the house completed before their 5th child was born…and it was completed just in time. Thank you to everyone for helping this dream come true for them…and for me… I am so happy we were able to provide the funding that would enable this family to build themselves a home!  Aaron took them some plants to put in the flower beds they created and also some trees.  I have  included photos of some of the thank you notes from the family along the way.  This project would not have happened without your contributions – so a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed!  You had an incredible impact on their family!  Thank you for contributing!!

It’s not just what you learn but what you do with it

We had to say goodbye to my 9-1/2 year old Soulmate, Lilly

My life has been filled with a lot of change over the past couple of months. Some changes have been good and enjoyable, others have been gut wrenching and difficult. The only thing I can be certain of, is that more change is on the horizon.

I have learned a lot about change in this pandemic and being primarily at home. Some changes have been good, some have been hard. I have learned I can get so much more done working at home. I have also learned that turning work off at the end of the work day no longer happens. I understand what it means to be burned out. Productivity is up and so is the feeling of isolation and depression.

I have been frustrated that I can not travel to Malawi and other beautiful places right now. I have also discovered and rediscovered some really beautiful places right here in my home state. I have continued to work to stay connected to my team in Malawi, have learned new ways of getting work done without me being there, and have reconnected to some of my original roots here.

Through all of these changes it has been sometimes challenging to keep the momentum, to stay positive, even when the change has been positive.

I intentionally look back and make note of what I learned from them. I always hope that if I learn all I can about the change and the lessons from the experience, that maybe I won’t have to repeat it. It definitely helps with the changes that arise because of decisions that I make, but when it comes to changes out of my control, it provides at least the confidence that I can navigate difficult things.

The second action I take to improve experiences through change is to keep a daily gratitude journal. Even in trauma or loss, there are still blessings to cling to…sometimes those little things feel like all I have. This daily journal not only helps me navigate change, but also helps me be more empathetic as I support those around me going through change. This action keeps me from staying in a rut and feeling sorry for myself.

My third action item is that I don’t have to do it alone. I know that life can be difficult for most people, that reality isn’t always the social media version we allow everyone to see. Find someone to share your challenges with. I find it so helpful to just have a sounding board sometimes that will listen to me as I walk through my ideas and options. Talking through the trials helps me find ways to reconnect with my core purpose in life.

The fourth step for me is to keep moving. I increase the amount of physical activity when changes are prominent. This is usually the best way to sort through my thoughts. Training my brain to crave activity in change helps me keep moving physically through it, to find action items and take control of what I can. Sometimes I deep clean, or reinvent part of my landscaping and sometimes I replace all of the flooring in my home….whatever it takes to keep moving. This helps me foster an improvement mindset.

Throughout my lifetime, I have experienced extreme trauma, loss and change. I have experienced the good the bad and the ugly. Through each change I have found additional learnings that have helped me navigate the next one.

What do you do to help you navigate change?

Float and recharge

The COVID quarantine was really getting to me this week. We decided to take a break and float the river. Quality time with my kids was absolutely the best response and helped me refocus on the things in life that really matter. Grateful for the beautiful mountains that were a place to recharge and all the laughs.

Elephants eating from the deck

One of my favorite things about staying at Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia is having the elephants visit all day.

I love elephants! Even though we see them everywhere in the park, I can never see too many. I get very excited every time.

While staying at Mfuwe we had elephants with their babies eating the bushes under the deck of our room. I was sitting on the deck and watched them as they approached. They acted as if I was not even there. These beautiful elephants stayed close for nearly 20 minutes. I love elephants!

Homemade happiness

A group of women near my home made 200 dolls for my team to take to Malawi last year. These women put so much love into making these adorable little gifts. We would give them to the little girls we would meet in the villages. These little dolls were adorable and brought smiles to everyone who saw them. When we gave them to the little girls, they would immediately help each other place them in their wraps on their backs – to carry the doll like their moms carry babies. I know these little dolls don’t change their lives, but they certainly put smiles on their faces. I am hoping we can get donations like this again and share them with more little girls.

Zambia Sunset – Dinner and River Cruise

The river cruise

We were exhausted after the 30 hours of flight time and finally checked in at the Waterfront Lodge in Victoria Falls, Zambia. We were happy to learn there was a Sunset River dinner cruise available that night and it sounded like the perfect way to feel like we were doing something without having to worry about being tired.

We met some really fun people on the boat and enjoyed a fun dinner. Drinks were also served during the cruise. I got a little chilly and was grateful I had grabbed my jacket to have just in case. We learned a Zambian song and had a great time. We didn’t see very many animals, but the sunset was incredible!

It was a perfect way to kick off the week!

Water source

I have always known my family uses a lot of water every day, and for many years I took that for granted. Everyone has water, or so I thought. Before I went to Malawi, we would spend many weeks every year camping. When our family of 6 would go camping, I was constantly reminding them to not waste water. I wasn’t worried we would run out, sadly, I was more concerned with the amount of time it would take me to refill the water tank on my RV. We would have to take our ATV’s halfway down the canyon with our 20 gallon barrels to the water pump and then drive it back up to the RV to refill the tank with an electric pump. It would take us a couple of hours and we would have to repeat the process about every 4 days. It is painful to admit that. After going to Malawi, I gained so much appreciation for water and the work others go through to even have access to it. It was a really good feeling to sell those great toys and purchase water wells for villagers who desperately needed clean water.

I have seen a variety of water sources in Malawi. These range from a hand dug well, a stream or river and drilled water wells.

The women and girls are generally tasked with getting the water. Sometimes girls are pulled from attending school so they can stay at home and complete the task. They will walk often over a mile and carry the water home in a bucket, only to be sent back for another. This is a daily task, and usually multiple trips each day.

Drilling a well is out of reach for most villagers …they live day to day, hand to mouth, and rarely have enough money saved to drill a well. We love being able to provide wells for villages we visit. We make drilling a well a partnership by not drilling the well until the village has gathered the sand, quarry and bricks. Once they have gathered the materials and molded the bricks, we schedule the drill. Their hard work pays off and as a village, they get to reap the reward of having clean water more easily accessible. A well will usually provide water for about 2000 people.

Visiting with the families after the well is one of celebration., singing and dancing. Villagers from all around join in the celebration to share their appreciation for the gift. We leave with a longing to return to the place where we witnessed the blessing of clean water.

A Malawian Feast

I called my friend who is an incredible chef in Malawi to let her know I would be in town for a couple of weeks. She insisted I join her family for dinner. I was very excited and when she asked what I wanted I said, “just mushroom soup.” I asked her to keep it simple and that I just wanted to see her and catch up. She agreed.

When I arrived the house smelled amazing! I knew it was way more than soup. I left feeling like I would certainly not need any more food the rest of my visit, especially with the treats she made me take with me.

She usually cooks for the US embassy, but when I bring my teams over, all of her attention is on us.

I am not a big meat eater, but if she cooks it, I will eat it. Everything she makes is delicious. Over the years, she has learned my personal favorites and spoils me rotten.

She makes sure there is nothing wasted. When my team and any other guests we invite to eat are finished she takes any leftovers into the local homes and shares. She also sources most of the ingredients for our meals from the local community. It is a win-win situation.

One of my team members is a chef in the US, It was such a treat to watch the 2 of them share their trade secrets with each other. In the video below they are making nsima, the staple food in Malawi, a maize flour porridge. I am grateful that I can have my American chef friend make this as a treat for me in between my trips to Malawi. (*the maize flour we purchase here is not as good as the original in Malawi)

I cry when I have to leave her and crave her cooking until I arrive at the next trip. I think we are a rare team that travels to Africa that worries about gaining a few extra pounds during the trip.

A global issue

While waiting for the headmaster of a school to see what kind of work needed to be done, I was distracted by a sign on the wall.

Most schools I visit have handwritten posters and signs all in every classroom. I love reading through all of them and capturing their messages. But this particular sign caught my eye and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Working on plans for our 2021 experiences.

I hope we can all join hands to end violence…