Well, it's finally here: today I begin the long journey to Malawi. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been hired as the trip photographer for ONE, as along with Heifer International, they take a team of writers and other creatives to learn about the challenges and successes in sub-Saharan Africa, and to see firsthand how strong African leadership and smart donor investments help everyday Africans fight poverty and preventable disease. But before I left, and because it has been a few years since I've been on one of these trips, I thought I'd give you some backstory about ONE, mostly because I know that when I first started learning about them, I didn't really understand them. I mean, I knew that ONE was co-founded by Bono, the lead singer of U2, and I knew that it was somehow tangentially related to the (RED) campaign that I'd seen at GAP stores many years ago; however, where I was completely and utterly wrong was my inaccurate belief that ONE was a charity.
So, to be absolutely, perfectly clear: ONE is not a charity.
In their words, ONE is a "nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa." What this means is that ONE is all about working to convince governments (primarily the U.S. government, but also others) to invest in smart programs that help to eliminate extreme poverty and preventable disease in a sustainable way. Furthermore, it doesn't raise money or grants: ONE is almost completely funded by its board members and by foundations (like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example) -- and therefore, it never, ever asks for money from the general public.
What they do ask for, however, is your voice. The way ONE does this is by using its budget to amplify the stories of the organizations that are doing all the heavy lifting on the ground on the continent, making sure that governments see all the good change that is happening in Africa in the fight against extreme poverty and diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, so that they are encouraged to continue to help. In addition, ONE works to make sure the general public (both in the US and internationally) also hears these stories, so they are moved to share these stores of course, but also become members of ONE. The more members ONE has, the louder ONE's voice is, and the more governments sit up and pay attention. And in turn, hopefully, the more good happens on the ground.
And this, therefore, is where my travel companions come in. ONE is taking us to Africa to help tell these stories, to help provide concrete evidence of how the organizations on the ground are using the governments' support to effect real and identifiable change for the better. On this particularly trip, the team will travel to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, and Blantyre and other communities, to meet with women, farmers, school kids and visit health clinics. We'll visit organizations and projects that have benefited from foreign assistance (including projects by Heifer International), and share these stories, hoping to engage people around the world on issues that are important to us all, as parents and concerned citizens of the world. In particular, we're going to spend time with girls and women who are leaders in their professions, their communities and their country. And if my previous trips with ONE (to Ethiopia and Kenya) are any indication, I anticipate leaving Malawi deeply hopeful and inspired.
For this trip, my travel companions are the following awesome rock stars:
- Ana Flores of Latina Bloggers Connect
- Ellen McGirt
- Heather Barmore of No Pasa Nada
- Jane Maynard of This Week for Dinner
- Meredith Walker of Amy Poehler's Smart Girls
- Rachel Faucett of Handmade Charlotte
- Wendi Aarons
I'm so looking forward to reading their stories and capturing how they take it all in.
Over the next week, I'll be busy taking photographs of their experiences -- our experiences -- as we explore "The Warm Heart of Africa." At this point I don't really have a good idea of what the internet connection situation is going to be like, but assuming I get a connection, I'll be popping in every now and then to share a photo or two; however, more likely than not, most updates I share will be on my Instagram account or my Facebook account -- so be sure to keep checking in at both of those places (also, be sure to follow the hashtag #ONEHeifer on Instgram and Twitter to see everyone's updates). Once I return to Houston, I'll share the shots that I take with my big cameras -- along with, of course, any great stories I've collected as well.
In the meantime, if you'd like to help, please keep checking the sites of the rockstars above, so that you can keep current on what we're up to; also, even more importantly, please become a member of ONE by clicking the image below, or clicking here, wherever in the world you may be. Again, ONE will never ask for your money -- and becoming a member takes very little time, and it helps so much. I promise, by becoming a member, you won't get spammed: ONE is very circumspect about the emails they send (and when they do send them, they're always chock-full of good information); in addition, they'll never give away or sell your information to anyone. And besides, by becoming a member (and therefore sharing your voice), you help ONE do a lot of good.
As always, thanks for supporting my work, friends. I can't wait to share this adventure with you.