Photo Shoot Round Two

September 24, 2007


Once again, I feel so blessed to be living and working in Malawi. This weekend marked round two of my photo shoot where we traveled to several small villages outside of Mulanje. Mulanje itself is simply gorgeous – it’s the center of Malawi’s tea growing industry, so the roads are paved with tea plantations with Mt. Mulanje as the stunning backdrop.


Our first stop was in Ntcheu Boma where we met a woman working for Concern Universal who was open about her positive HIV status. As a testament to CU, she felt that she was finally in a safe environment to reveal her status. Her story, as with most, is both heart wrenching and inspirational.


Her husband passed away in 1999. Several months later, his office called to see if she could pick up his personal belongings. It was there that she found medical records stating his HIV status. At first, anger consumed her – he never told her – followed by fear and anxiety. They had four children together. She was extremely concerned about her own health as well as the well-being of her children. She convinced her sister to go with her to get tested. I can only imagine what went through her mind from the moment they drew her blood to the moment she discovered her status.

The counselor wasn’t sympathetic to her plight and simply stated that she was HIV positive. Her sister stormed out of the room – her family completely shut her out, and her community ostracized her. Eventually, she found the strength to move forward. She got on ARV treatment and is now doing extremely well. In fact, she’s currently working as a peer educator and encouraging others to get tested. She had the best quote of the day, “I used to think having HIV was a punishment from God, but now I know it’s just another challenge like any other.” Her strength is truly inspiring. (And her sister is now speaking to her).

Our next stop was in Phalombe – T/A Mkhumba. There we met two gentlemen, Blessings and Jack, who started an organization – FENE- that supports people with HIV. Their story centered around organizational capacity building and partnerships. In all honesty, I didn’t hear too much of their story (I’m looking forward to reading Janie’s rendition of this particular stop). I was too busy photographing all the people in the community.



From here, we went to Thyolo in T/A Chimaliro in order to interview a twelve year old boy, Yamikani. Within a three-year time frame, he lost his grandfather and both of his parents to AIDS.


He and his sister went to live with his grandmother. Yamikani was constantly sick. One day, one of the counselors spoke to his sister about his health and asked if he was ever tested for HIV. She immediately left school and ran back to her house, where her grandmother carried him several miles to a clinic. His results came back positive!


Yamikani told us that he used to cry all the time because he knows that this is the same disease that killed his parents. Yet, he is on treatment, excelling in school, and eventually wants to become a truck driver – just like his father.


This family was so loving and devoted to one another. I was so moved listening to their story. Ironically, I work with HIV and AIDS statistics all day, but somehow knowing that 110,000 people have ever started antiretroviral therapy isn’t nearly as meaningful as the personal testimonies I heard. As I sit in the office and look at spreadsheets all day, I am reminded that each of those statistics represent a personal story filled with heartache, anguish and perseverance.


We made several more stops on this trip. Including an unanticipated visit to Mulanje Mission Hospital. As it turns out, Janie – who happens to be an amazing runner, is having four Malawians sponsored by RunTex to run the Austin marathon. Francis, pictured below with Janie and Francis’ wife’s Aunt, runs a 2:20 marathon!


Francis called Janie to inform her that his wife was extremely ill. Janie insisted that she go to the hospital, and that she would help him with any expenses accrued. His wife, Evelyn, had an ectopic pregnancy and needed surgery. By the time we arrived, she was in the recovery room. However, they placed her in the maternity ward – with all the newborn babies and their mothers. A little insensitive but at least she was doing well. I, on the other hand, was elated to see all the newly born infants!



Anyway, it was quite a weekend. I am looking forward to the publication (I promise to post the final product – or a link to it if it’s possible) when it’s complete. In the meantime, I will leave you with a few more photos. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.



Much love,

6 comments to Photo Shoot Round Two

  • sue

    Your photos are so beautiful. I have been sharing them with some of my friends. It makes me anxious to visit you even when I know it will be difficult for me to find the money and the time to do it. But how knows…only God. I am glad that your photos show the good, the bad and the beautiful.
    Malawi is a beautiful country, both the land and the people. Keep up the good work that you are doing there.

    God’s Blessings be with you always
    Sue Reed

  • Marilyn Koshland

    Your photos keep getting better and better….Round Two is the greatest yet… You have developed a great eye for the dignity in each person; the photos reflect this.
    The fabrics and smiles are so gorgeous they distract from the dire circumstances.
    Keep up the good work, Amy.
    Love from here, MAYDAY

  • Adrienne

    Amy dear, you are STILL my hero! Keep up the wonderful work you are doing. Your photos and blog are something very special and inspiring. I hope you publish a book of your journeys someday. I so admire your work. Lots of love, Adrienne.

  • Michael


    Your words are only surpassed by your photos…thank you for sharing them with your web of friends. I may want to use one of your photos for an upcoming publication (The Tobacco Atlas – Third Edition) so let me know how to get permission.

    And lastly, carve out some time to finish the big “D!”


  • Dr. Davis

    put me on the e-mail list!

  • Amy….

    Your compassion, insights, dedication and wonderful photography are truly inspirational. Contact me regarding further resources for your work

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