How Awaken gave me the courage to embrace the life I always wanted.

14 Nov 2019
Author: Claire Martin
6 minute read

In 2019, Claire participated in our personal development program Awaken. Find out how this experience gave her the courage to face her fears and transform her life. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a dream to go to Africa. Not just to see the animals, climb it’s biggest mountain, or experience the real life scenery of “The Lion King”, but to help the people. To truly make their lives better. To make a difference.

In May 2018, I happened to be chatting to Millie Allbon, a friend of mine, about an upcoming trip to Malawi, which she was organising through The Hunger Project New Zealand. I was surprised to hear they don’t do aid in the traditional way, and it was about to open up a world of possibility that has excited me beyond anything I would have ever believed, and truly has given me the confidence to say we can end World Hunger by 2030.

In reading more about this amazing organisation I have come to understand more about myself than I could have ever imagined. Something called divine dissatisfaction came onto my radar. This is well described as the discomfort that urges us to go out into the world and be who we can be, and to not just settle for what we’ve got. I knew I needed this mountain to climb to take me higher than I thought I could be.



Collaboration, transformative leadership, and building reliance on self to live your best life, are massive tools in this fight against the biggest issues of our generation - and I had to find out how an organisation who lives by these values could show me the way to change the world.


Claire Martin, Awaken 2019 participant.

On the ground in Africa.

Joining a group of 12 of the most diverse, driven, open, and incredible people I’ve ever met, we spent the first few days in a glamping lodge in the middle of nowhere, with bush all around. Evening game drives ended with the setting of the African sun and a cold beer allowed us to start finding a way to be present in this beautiful setting and observe, rather than judge and action, the things going on around us.

I have never in my life felt such peace with sharing my thoughts, feelings and beliefs about life and my own journey.



Those first few days were emotional, in that we were finding parts of ourselves, each other and about possibilities, in an environment where there is nothing but positive reinforcement. The seeds were sown and it was time to think about how they would germinate.


Claire Martin, Awaken 2019 participant.

The power of learning and observing.

In Malawi I was being asked to approach everything without presumptions and preconceptions, and even more difficult for me, not to try and “fix” anything. As an avid and dedicated problem solver, I caught myself many times thinking about how things could be better, and pulling myself back to why I was here - to learn and observe.

Literally burning our old notions, preconceptions and beliefs in a camp fire was my turning point into being present to this new way of thinking and figuratively out of those ashes came the space for me to grow in a different way.

Empowerment at the heart of The Hunger Project's strategy.

In Africa, The Hunger Project’s strategy brings together clusters of rural villages into “epicentres”. At the physical heart of the epicentre is a building that houses the community’s programmes. This is literally built brick by brick by the communities themselves, and I saw the thousands and thousands of bricks they make in their villages and transport to the epicentre site.

Alongside this, The Hunger Project provides leadership training which transforms people waiting for hand-outs into confident, productive people who create their own opportunities to feed and care for their families. We identify “animators”; people within each epicentre who are already leaders or who show potential, are supported in learning the principals of The Hunger Project’s strategy to guide others in each area of life - health, education, literacy, microfinance and small business, women’s and men’s empowerment, food security, clean water, and more.

This holistic strategy builds a path to sustainable self-reliance through four phases over about eight years. The primary resources for the strategy come from the local people themselves and by making existing local government resources more effective, in some cases simply educating people about what resources are available and what they are entitled to receive.

Gaining the courage to embrace life's opportunities.

I think we are often scared to start something, a project, a new sport, a venture. And because we are rarely confronted with desperation of needing to feed a family or enough money for our children to attend school, we let fear of failure get in the way.

What I saw in Malawi time and time again was that being confronted with the very real challenges of hunger and poverty inspires action when cultivated in the right circumstances and the right support.

One of the most inspirational and visionary leaders I have ever met, Rowlands Kaotcha, the Country Director for Malawi, the first thing he said to us is that he will eternally be a student of learning. It made me realise that leadership is not about pulling people along with you towards your vision. It’s about activating potential.

Leading people gently and lovingly towards their best selves. I saw it demonstrated over and over again in the partners I met while in Malawi.

Lessons that have forever changed my life and the way I see the world.

There is more to life than just consuming. We are all hungry for something – meaning, purpose, connection, contribution, making a difference. I’ve come to understand that you have to get out there and do it. Be the change you want to see in the world and lead by example. Live your values every day and know what the end goal is you want to achieve.

You may not always get it right. But you will either win or you will learn. And that learning to be better and to give of your own personal gifts without hesitation is what drives me forward over the top of the fear of getting it wrong.



After seeing people in Malawi doing so much to empower their lives, I compare it to the next little thing in my life. I use that as a way to catapult me into doing something better and not letting fear get in the way.


Claire Martin, Awaken 2019 participant.

We have to walk together into the future. Allow our thoughts to be stretched and bent, and our hearts to believe that some of our biggest challenges can be overcome. The idea of Community Led Development, of being the change and being leaders of our own positive outcomes, excites me beyond measure.

It’s something that will be the future of success in stamping out hunger and poverty in our world. And success breeds success. The Hunger Project has proven that it works.

Are you looking for the courage to transform your life? Sign up for Awaken 2020!