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Making an Impact

This winter, I was able to travel to Africa, to visit two great non-profit organizations in Malawi and Zambia. The above photo was taken in a rural village in Zambia, where Impact Network operates a number of schools. These students had walked miles to get to their school, which features tablet learning powered by solar energy. The classroom danced with life as the teacher, a local woman who went away to college and then returned to her community, ushered in the students.

For many children in Malawi and Zambia, school is simply too expensive to attend. Organizations like Impact Network are making a real difference in communities, not only helping to provide an education to children, but also enriching the community with employment opportunities and a sense of accomplishment. I stayed in a village near an older couple who lives in a house with electricity, which is an extremely rare luxury. The couple worked hard to send their 3 children to school, who then went on to have successful careers in nearby towns. As a thank you, the children pitched in to build their parents a house with electricity.

The biggest dream for people I met in rural Zambia and Malawi was to one day live in a brick house with a tin roof and concrete floor. The house might be 1 or 2 rooms. Their drinking water would still be hand pumped from an outdoor borehole (well) in the village. Electricity is beyond the dream, and plumbing non-existent. However, what I saw in the faces of people I met was a level of contentment that is rare in our everyday world. People were happy with what they had, and unconcerned with what they did not.

There are many lessons in life, and traveling is one way to learn them. I'm very grateful for the generosity of non-profit organizations like Impact Network and Yamba Malawi. Their incredible teams work hard for very little, to fundraise for people far away to have a better quality of life. When I'm on stage at galas in front of hundreds of people, there's nothing more fulfilling than the experience of having personally met the people whose lives are changed by our efforts. Because they show us a better life too.

The children in the photograph are excited for a new day. Their teacher is about to lead them in a song that echoes in my head today. And when I asked the man sitting next to me what they called the mountain near the village, he said Ngala, the mountain that smiles.

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