It’s been a year since I set off with 15 other women to immerse myself in a culture far different from my own on the other side of the world.  I’d been fundraising for the better part of 6 months to raise $10k for The Hunger Project [THP], securing my spot in the Business Chicks Leadership Immersion program so that I could head to Malawi in Africa, to see first-hand the work that was being done there by THP.

What I experienced, was so far from my expectations when I signed up to get involved.  I wasn’t building wells, or schools or physically contributing to the betterment of these communities.  I was simply there listening to them, learning from them and being inspired by them.  I’m not sure what I thought I’d be doing, but I know that my perspective on many things has been changed for ever, and for the better!

What I experienced was the opportunity to see a community taking ownership of their own future and how activating the people within the community enabled them to feel empowered, to take control of their own lives and change the lives of those around them.  What I observed was that THP were not an aid organisation, they are a change leadership organisation.  They offered mindset change and the opportunities that it brought when you removed the limitations that have been layered over generations.   They simply showed a community a better life and then empowered the people to find their own solutions to achieve it.  By working with the early adopters, they are able to build trust from within the community to instigate change through education.

I tend to think quite narrowly about education, or I did until this trip.  Education by THP is not limited to traditional means of reading and writing, but expanded to farming, nutrition, health, sanitation, disease, some of the most basic necessities for survival that we often take for granted.  THP educate and train those early adopters who are open and inviting change, they then work within the community to pass on their knowledge and then those to others, growing the wealth of education, knowledge and skills throughout the community enabling everyone the same opportunity to improve their personal situation.

What struck me the most was their strong sense of community.  They were happy, united and standing together concerned for the welfare and wellbeing of their fellow villagers.  Selfless and not greedy in their pursuits to better their own lives.  When they succeed those around them also succeed through their generosity and sharing of what little they have.

There is a saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, never have I seen this ring so true as I did over those few days in Malawi.  Children ran free and happy, babies were passed from one woman to another, we were unclear as to who was the mother.  Children played and sat with different families sharing meals.   This reminded me of my own childhood.  Growing up in small town where we knew everyone and the children of the street all played together, going from one house to the next.  I longed for those days of community of connection and of the trust and faith in our fellow man, rather than our fears for our children’s safety for letting them venture beyond our front doors; of knowing our neighbours name and welcoming newcomers to the neighbourhood.  Of lending a helpful hand when it was needed and whether it be a meal, a lift or an odd job,  we looked out for one another and took care of those around us.

Today I feel that our communities have changed from those where we live to those where we work.  Spending more time at work than we do at home.  As employers, we have a greater responsibility to support our employees and foster relationships and deeper connections amongst them.  Our workplaces have become our communities and when we come together for a common and united vision we lift each other up and we succeed together.

My trip to Malawi triggered my deeper passion to create environments that have a significant impact on the lives of those who occupy them and to build a space that embraces the values of these things that I hold dear.  Community; a sense of place; of purpose; of connection.  A place that inspires and excites.  That supports and makes the dreams of those within it possible.  It triggered COMUNITI.

COMUNITI is my vision for an environment that embodies these values of a bygone era and of those that I saw so vividly in Malawi.  A space that supports and unites professionals in their pursuit to make a difference in the world.  A space that enables family values, wellbeing and a deeper integration of our work and home lives.  Over the last 12 months this dream continues to grow and with each day we take one step closer to this reality… so… watch this space!