I landed in New York three days ago. I was hyper aware of my alone-ness as I trekked through JFK airport. I was hyper aware of no one leading me, no one next to me, no one to talk to.
The connectedness, the compassion, the community that we have built continues to have a presence for me. We each gave the gifts of our stories, our voices, and did whatever it took to contribute that. I felt for myself the struggle to be vulnerable, the fear and then the courage to trust in others. Through the arts of sharing and listening I now have a family. I feel deeply connected to the women (my sisters) who were on this journey, and I have profound respect for who they are for others. Mary and Masanko, thank you for setting the stage for miracles to happen, for the opportunity to make a difference, and gently guiding and supporting us through our own discoveries, insights and experiences.
I remained in Malawi with Mary, Sue and Masanko for an extra week after the group left. I led a business workshop to 9 women with the help of Travis (Masanko's son in law) and Mwai (an essay winner). The workshop was intended to make a difference for the women who developed businesses and recieved grants through Voice Flame Writers, and the results were incredible. Connections were made to export goods, a business partnership formed, 3,000 T-shirts were sold, amongst other items, and each of the women were taught how to develop a business plan, SWOT analysis, and work with an income statement.
I also had the incredible opportunity to meet with about 50 women in the city of Blantire who are a part of the National Association of Business Women (NABW), which was started by the Vice President Joyce Banda! With the help of a Sophie's (NABW's project coordinator) translations I was able to understand more closely the opportunities and difficulties that women in business face there. My mind is spinning with ideas.
This journey has opened my heart to new possibilities, and a profound affinity for other women. It doesn't matter where we live, how we were raised, or the culture we come from, we are each human, we are each women who have a unique and valuable story to share and it has been an honor to have heard a few.