Awaken is not just an opportunity to play a leading role in ending hunger. It’s an opportunity to really awaken what it is you’ve always wanted to achieve. Hear the inspiring stories of last year’s Awaken participants and how this journey transformed their lives.
Watch our Awaken Launch Evening Facebook Live recording.
What were you searching for when you signed up for Awaken?
Our participants came into Awaken with different backgrounds, and all were looking to activate personal growth in their own way.
For Claire, a business-owner and self-described ‘do gooder’, she was searching for courage. “I was looking for the ability to put my fears to rest, to have the confidence to take the next step in my own life.”
“I had reached a point in my career where I’d done a lot of leadership programmes, travelling and community work,” said Ivana. “I’d hit a point where I felt like I needed to bring them together.”
Duffy and his wife had always looked for a way to give back. “Someone who had been on a previous trip had stopped in and told us about it and it piqued our interest. There was this fit with the theme of empowering women which had always been something we’d talked about together.”
There are a lot of daunting aspects of Awaken; from the fundraising challenge, to being out of your comfort zone in a foreign country. What was the most challenging part of the experience for you?
For Duffy, the biggest challenge was actually signing up. “There’s always a reason not to, the hard part was committing and saying ‘yes we’re going to do it’. But through it, we saw so many people go out of their way to help. You realise how powerful friendships are and how willing people are to help out - that was massive for us to get over the line.”
The challenge for Claire came in asking people for help. “I’m a very independent person so find it really hard to ask people for help. When things seemed too difficult, breaking them down into blocks really helped.” Claire’s approach to the challenge of fundraising was to give people something back for the money that donate. “I ran quiz nights, events, even hiked three mountains in one day! The support I got from others was incredible.”
Did you feel like you had a breakthrough during the experience?
For Claire, the experience of Awaken gave her the courage to make decisions that she’d been sitting on for awhile. “I was able to start a business I’d had in the wings for about two years. The pivotal moment for me was seeing one of The Hunger Project’s partners in Malawi. This woman had learnt to sew in three months and created a business to feed her young children. I took a photo with her because I knew I would need her. I’ve thought about her a lot since, and now I have my own label.”
“That was something that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Awaken. It was about courage; breaking down the fear and just asking for help.”
Ivana called her experience ‘breakthrough by stealth’. “For me, it wasn’t black and white. Rather, these moments where you catch yourself thinking about things quite differently. I’ve generally been an impatient person, especially where people don’t meet my standards. But I learned to see things in context. I realised people are people and stopped to look at the world through their eyes, what drives them to behave, rather than judging their behaviour. That has been a huge change in the way I operate my work, family and life.
Duffy's experience gave him a better perspective on life and where his priorities stood.
I learned that a lot of it starts with yourself, your own self-care and leadership skills. Those are the things that have the most influence on changing your surroundings. In Malawi, we met all these people who had transformed their own lives, all because they’d changed themselves and stepped up.
Duffy, Awaken 2019 participant
How do you keep the experience and the learnings alive?
Claire uses her experiences as a reminder to be vulnerable and gain perspective on her own life. “After seeing these people 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.”
Ivana said it’s about being thoughtful in everyday life. “There are so many parallels to the people we met in Malawi, you realise the human skills you learn are exactly the same.”
“It can be hard when you’re in your own bubble,” said Duffy. “But you experience these little things that jog your memory and make you think back to the commitments you made. They reset you and remind you to stay focussed.”
What do you say when people ask why they should support a charity doing work overseas when there are so many causes in need of money that are doing work in New Zealand?
“It’s realising that we’re all just global citizens,” said Claire. “Hunger really resonated with me because it is such a basic need we all share. People understood because they saw my passion.”
Similarly, Ivana and Duffy said that it’s about being honest and authentic. “If a person saw you cared, they would go out of their way to help. One of the best things was sharing with people why we cared,” said Duffy.
What did you hear from the people you met that really resonated with you?
“I met this family whose situation was dire. There had been devastating weather, crops ruined, they needed a new way to get food,” recalled Ivana. What the family needed were the tools to empower themselves. “The mother had a vision to start a business, she knew what she wanted to do but all she needed was capital to start.”
What did you see that convinced you that The Hunger Project strategy is effective?
Seeing the contrast between villages that had partnered with The Hunger Project and those who hadn’t was a powerful example of The Hunger Project’s effectiveness.
In the communities where The Hunger Project hadn’t been, you’d see people gripped with hunger, lining up for the next aid truck. Then when you see the villages where The Hunger Project had been for years, there was this huge contrast. We saw a sea of beautiful faces, people were smiling and so empowered.
Duffy, Awaken 2019 participant
“When you compare the villages, you see a huge transformation of a whole community, and then you hear individual stories of people empowering themselves to end hunger,” said Duffy.
Mobilisation can be an incredibly hard thing to do. But when you witness first-hand the power of mobilisation in transforming communities, you realise how effective the strategy is.
Awaken is not just an opportunity to play a leading role in ending hunger. It’s an opportunity to really awaken what it is you’ve always wanted to achieve, whether that’s finding the courage to change your life, getting a different perspective on the world, or enabling you to shift your priorities. Whatever it is, you’ll get that plus more.