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This past May, ONE 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. The trip was full of love and joy, learning and friendship, and a profound sense of connection. Connection every where we went.

Malawi is among the world's most underdeveloped countries with almost a third of its population living in extreme poverty.

©Karen Walrond | ONE
Mr. Mtika, a disabled farmer who has had great success with his farm. He laughed and demurred, saying, "I couldn't have done any of this without my wife's help." Kasunga, Malawi
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Mrs. Mtika, Kasunga, Malawi
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Kasunga, Malawi
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Kasunga, Malawi
©Karen Walrond | ONE
The Mtikas' eldest daughter, Dorothy, making nsima for dinner in the family's new, more environmentally-friendly kitchen. More people die around the world from smoke inhalation from indoor cooking than from HIV and malaria combined—the Mtikas' new cookstove burns less fuel and has better ventilation than their old one.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Village Savings & Loan Group, Kasunga, Malawi. The group is now four years old, has 25 members, and has made it possible for families to improve their home, purchase basic necessities, and invest in their futures.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
After our tour of Monkey Bay Community Hospital, we visited the more remote Nkope Health Centre, where a group of HIV-positive mothers sat with us at the foot of a huge tree to share their stories. They included incredible hardships, of course (including have to walk many kilometers simply to be treated), but also stories of gratitude, that they were getting good care, the medicines they needed, and often their children were born HIV-negative.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Each group of farmers that we met performed their own songs, often created spur-of-the-moment, with lyrics that described their joy at meeting us, or their pride in the progress their farms were making.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Village Savings & Loan Group, Kasunga, Malawi. The group is now four years old, has 25 members, and has made it possible for families to improve their home, purchase basic necessities, and invest in their futures.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.

©Karen Walrond | ONE
Village Savings & Loan Group, Kasunga, Malawi. The group is now four years old, has 25 members, and has made it possible for families to improve their home, purchase basic necessities, and invest in their futures.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Village Savings & Loan Group, Kasunga, Malawi. The group is now four years old, has 25 members, and has made it possible for families to improve their home, purchase basic necessities, and invest in their futures.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Village Savings & Loan Group, Kasunga, Malawi. The group is now four years old, has 25 members, and has made it possible for families to improve their home, purchase basic necessities, and invest in their futures.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
A few of the beautiful faces of Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
Christopher Kandionamaso, a nurse and programme director at the Nkope Health Care Center, Monkey Bay, Malawi.
©Karen Walrond | ONE
This room monitors all of the electricity distributed in Malawi. Only 9% of the population has access to reliable electricity.