reflection / post-staging

As our staging weeks come to a close, I’m reflecting on how blessed I am to have been given the opportunity to travel with Up With People. I have been asked questions that prior to arriving in Denver, I had never been asked before. I have learned more about myself in these first 5 weeks than ever before. It’s scary in a way & it’s also incredibly eye-opening. I am challenged each and every day, and pushed outside of my comfort zone in the best ways possible. Through 5 weeks of laughter, tears, highs & lows - I am here. I am here to make an impact, create lasting bonds and connections with people from all over the world, learn from those around me, walk in somebody else’s shoes, and explore this beautiful world we live in. I feel like the luckiest girl alive to be doing what I’m doing.

To my first host family: thank you. Thank you for opening your home to Maëlle and I, and for sharing your beautiful city with us. Thank you for your kindness - and for encouraging me to try allllll the foods I probably wouldn’t have tried 5 weeks ago. I’ve learned so much from the both of you. We will miss you two (and stewart & shinyu!!)

To my first roomie: Maëlle!!!! Thank you for showing me what true compassion & genuine kindness is. You never fail to see the best in people & that is a beautiful thing - please never stop being you. Thank you for dealing with me and for loving peanut butter m&ms just as much as i do!! I will miss being your roomie but am so excited to be on the road with you.

Living this life is a gift. I couldn’t be more excited for the rest of this experience & what lies ahead.



MLK marade & workshops

Monday, January 21, 2019

“Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today we participated in the annual MLK Day Parade in Denver. We began at East High School & walked to City Park. When we arrived at City Park, we listened to many Denver community leaders speak about MLK, why they marched every year, and what they stand for. Each speech was empowering and inspiring.

“Today we pray with our legs.”

Many different leaders from all different backgrounds talked about why they chose to participate in the parade. One thing that stuck with me was this phrase: “Today we pray with our legs.” In order to create change, we must take action. We did this today, by marching alongside hundreds of people all uniting for one reason: to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and what he stood for; what he fought for. Individual people, as well as groups and organizations around Denver, walked 5k in honor of MLK, and to advocate for everything he stood for.

Kat, Texas

Kat, Texas



The second half of the day focused on workshops. We talked about the four curriculum units of Up With People.

  1. cultural awareness

  2. leadership & development

  3. global citizenship

  4. interpersonal communication

“Learning changes you. If you haven’t changed, you haven’t learned.”

inspiring a shared vision

  • envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities.

  • elist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations

“The UWP experience is potentially educational”

meaning, you only get out of it as much as you put into it.




  1. what (observation of the experience)

  2. gut (emotional reaction)

  3. so what? (stop & think. get new insights.)

  4. now what? (actions that can be taken)


Non Violent Communcation was the next topic we focused on in this workshop.

What is non violence?

The personal practice of being harmless to self and others under every condition.


Negative peace = absence of violence, something undesirable stopped happening

Positive peace = peace filled with positive content. Serves the needs of the whole population.

We then learned a little bit about the 4 part NVC system. This method focuses on a method of connecting people in the natural state of compassion where no violence is present in the heart.

This workshop was eye opening & intriguing to me. I had never even heard of the concept of non violent communication. I gained knowledge of this new topic today, and it will definitely be a useful tool in the next coming months, as well as in the future.

Today was one of those days that took “you learn something new every day” to a whole new level. Since Tuesday the 15th, when I arrived in Denver, CO, I have learned so much more than ever before. Being surrounded by 98 people from 14 different countries, learning from and listening to others as they share their stories, cultures, passions & goals is an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.

First Week in Denver, CO

TUES 1/15/19 - SAT 1/19/19


Arrived at Boston Logan Int. Airport on Tuesday the 15th. Said goodbye to both my parents, made it through security & boarded my plane. I was off to a completely new place, to meet complete strangers, who would soon become the people I spent the next 6 months with.

When I arrived in Denver I was feeling so many different emotions. Happy, scared, excited, eager, terrified. I eventually made it to the shuttle which I took to meet Up With People staff & other cast members. I was greeted with hugs from staff & different questions about where I was from, why I decided on UWP, etc. I was overwhelmed - in the best way possible.

Sophie, Wisconsin

Sophie, Wisconsin

After shuttling to the church, meeting SO many new people, and hanging out, we were picked up by our host families. My host family is amazing!!!! My roommate is also the best. Maëlle is from Belgium and is one of the funniest, kindest people I’ve met. My host family was a Navy family - and have so many incredible stories about where they’ve lived and what they’ve experienced.

Day one was exhausting. Went right to bed so we were ready for official day one with UWP.


The next three days were a whirlwind. They FLEW by. People weren’t kidding when they said soak in every moment, it’ll go by fast. Our first couple of days were composed of “workshops,” where we learned all about Up With People, it’s mission, how to live with host families, etc.

We were then split into “home teams,” a smaller group of people that we will continue to spend a lot of time with over the next 6 months.

My module group!!

My module group!!

Thursday was “Modules” day!!! I had heard a little bit about this day & was honestly overwhelmed. I’ve auditioned for shows before, yet there was something so new about this. I anticipated this day & made myself even more worried. What should I expect?? What if I fail?? So many things were rushing through my head. But by Thursday night - I was asking myself why I was so scared. Modules was so much fun. We sang in groups, danced, took some photos, and talked on camera.

Wednesday, Thursday & Friday FLEW by. We began learning the show & I began learning from others.



Slept in. Woke up to jazz music from my host family, and spent the morning relaxing, reading, and playing with my host family’s two dogs: Stewart & Shin Yu.

We drove to Garden of the Gods, a park in Colorado Springs: home to some of the most beautiful red rock formations overlooking the mountains.

Maëlle, from Belgium

Maëlle, from Belgium

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

Explored Manitou Springs, shopped downtown & learned all about the old “hippie town.”

Manitou Springs

Manitou Springs

We then drove some more to Helen Hunt Falls, and saw some of the most beautiful views.

Headed to dinner at one of our host family’s favorite places to eat: the Laughing Lab.

The Laughing Lab, CO

The Laughing Lab, CO

Had the most beautiful host family day in Colorado Springs, exploring and seeing some of the coolest places around Denver :)

Prodigy, Denver CO

Prodigy, Denver CO

Week #1 in Denver was such an amazing experience. I am feeling so lucky & so blessed. The people I’ve just met within these first few days have huge hearts & so much kindness to give. I am so thankful and looking forward to the coming week!!!


A gap year

After a long hiatus, I'm back again to update on some current, exciting things going on :)

A Gap Year. After long, stressful nights, hours spent on college applications and crying (happy and sad) tears over acceptance and rejection letters, I made the decision to take a "year on." I say a "year on" because I recently watched a TedTalk that delved into the pros of taking a gap year. The speaker explained the new concept of taking a year on, not off. Long story short, the phrase stuck with me, because I had never liked when people chose to say "I'm taking a year off." A year off of what? 

Many people will assume that a gap year means you simply aren't going to college, or that you have no idea what the hell you're doing. Others will nod and throw a half-hearted "Oh nice!" out when you answer the classic "Where are you going to college?" question. Some will look at you like you're crazy. However, so many others will be interested in your journey; in your choice to spend a year exploring, learning, and growing in immeasurable ways as a human being. Some people will tell you you're brave or courageous or adventurous, but honestly the way I look at is - if not now, when? College can wait - traveling the world really can't. I knew when I arrived home from Malawi, that I had officially caught the travel bug. I ached to go back, to go adventure somewhere new and unexplored. I wanted to learn about different cultures from my own, meet people who lived so differently from myself, and learn as much as possible. I came home with a completely new and adjusted mindset. I had learned more than I ever had through classes I've taken, books I've read, or tests I've taken. I learned more about myself than ever before, and I will forever be grateful for what my trip gave back to me, as an individual.

Since my travel bug never seemed to wear off, from January to June of 2019 I will be traveling with Up With People, an organization who's goal is to empower young people to be positive agents of change for a more hopeful, trusting and peaceful world - through music and action. I will live with host families in each country I visit, learning and experiencing their communities and cultures from a firsthand perspective. Throughout my six month journey I will complete community service projects, and perform for these communities each week. The money raised from ticket sales will go directly to chosen causes in each community. Up With People's mission is to:

  1. "Increase understanding, respect and dignity for all – We seek to overcome bigotry and break down barriers of culture, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and economic disparity by using the power of music, education and service.

  2. Foster engaged communities – We collaborate with each community we visit, working together to address local issues and form community connections that enhance compassion and trust.

  3. Empower youth as positive change agents – We strive to help youth throughout the world become more aware of global and local issues, realize their individual capacity and inspire them to take personal action to make positive change.

  4. Build an international network of global citizens – Wherever we travel or our music is heard, we seek to encourage and connect those who yearn for a more peaceful world, respect cultural differences, and act to build trust." ( Up With People )

My decision to take a gap year has already been one of the best decisions I've made, and I am beyond excited to see where it will take me. 

xx, anna

"Taking a year on, not off: Jean Fan at TEDxBergen" 

Up With People



theatre for a change & Girls' Globe

When I arrived back home from Malawi in late July, I was overwhelmed by how I wanted to share what I had learned while being there. A few weeks later, I created the big pictureMy blog was originally dedicated only to Concern Worldwide and sharing each day in Malawi. Later, I decided to join the Concern Leadership Network, and wanted to incorporate more about this. After that, I also wanted to share more about what I was doing with my newer (at the time), involvement with Theatre for a Change.

Theatre for a Change. Where do I even begin? I was amazed by the program the minute I heard that it was on our list of stops in Malawi. When we got to the school, I was speechless. TfaC's vision " to see vulnerable and marginalised groups empowered with the knowledge, awareness and skills to positively transform their lives, and the lives of others, at local, national and international levels." Their mission " to use uniquely active and participatory tools that promote sexual and reproductive health and gender rights." Their goal "... is to improve the sexual and reproductive health
of vulnerable and marginalised groups." Seeing the work a non-profit organization like TfaC was doing in these schools, was incredible. Actively involved in theatre from a young age, I am constantly reminded of how much an impact theatre and storytelling has on not only the individual, but on society as a whole. Seeing this in Malawi, was eye opening. 


I was able to watch while students expressed their thoughts, feelings and opinions on gender based violence, and how they can make a change within their school, and within their community. I listened to girls tell me they missed school due to their menstrual cycles. I listened as they asked for bathrooms and changing spaces, so that they could attend school. That was all they wanted: to attend school. You could see it in their eyes, they wanted to be there, to learn, to grow, to become doctors, actresses, teachers, among many other goals they shared with us. I thought about back home, where we complain about having to go to school, about the loads of homework, and the long days. It all hit me at once. It didn't make sense to me. How do I take everything for granted, on the daily? How do children at home not know how lucky they are to go to school? Listening to these young children talk so openly about the issues they were facing, was devastating. It hurt. It made me angry, it made me feel selfish. However, after that, I was able to sit in on their lesson for the day. I experienced the Right to Learn Project at the Mbembembe Primary School in Phalombe, Malawi. This project works to make schools into safer environments for children, focusing on reducing school related gender based violence and discrimination. I was able to watch as Yami, the Agent of Change at the school, led a lesson on sex vs. agenda. I was able to watch as the students danced around the room, singing and moving freely, learning confidence and leadership. I would like to say it was inspiring, but it was so much more than that. Even now, I still cannot find the words to describe the experience. 


The 40 hours of stop-and-go traveling home from Africa didn't even bother me. I kept thinking about the kids at that school, their joy and positivity, their passion and hunger to learn. Nothing else seemed important. I was baffled that there was this whole "other world" where people lived like this. Where children would go without a meal, would walk 2 miles to school every day. Of course we hear about it on the news and we learn about it in school. Seeing it firsthand, was something completely different. It was real. But the one thing that stuck out to me most, was that the people were the same. The people were just people; like you, like me. So why did they get this life, the one with hurt, hunger, and hardship? Why did I get wealth, an unyielding amount of food, clean water, and a roof over my head? A million questions ran through my mind. But in the end, I realized that one thing they had, that one thing that we're often missing here in America: pure, genuine joy. Malawi is often called "The Warm Heart of Africa." This is the most fitting name, because it is just that. Malawians are the kindest people I have ever met. They are always smiling, always laughing. They welcomed our bus with song and dance. Their joy and positivity was endless. And the children at the school were this, times a million. Theatre for Change was helping cultivate this, while at the same time, teaching the mothers, fathers, young boys and girls lessons to equip them with the tools they need to make a positive difference in their lives. 

A few weeks after I got home, I reached out to Ryan Borcherding, the Interactive Theatre Programme Coordinator at Theatre for a Change. I asked to be added to the mailing list, and shortly after was contacted by Clare Taylor, the Communications and Development Manager at TfaC. After many emails back and forth and a wonderful, inspiring phone call, Clare invited me to become a volunteer ambassador for Theatre for a Change. Raising awareness through social media, blogging and fundraising, I knew I wanted to be a part of the team. I was ecstatic to say the least. I wanted to share my story of my time in Africa with TfaC, with others. In the fall, I talked to Clare about blogging for a site TfaC often worked with, called Girls' Globe. "Girls’ Globe offers a platform to educate and inspire people to take action on issues related to human rights, social justice and gender equality through creative communications, driven by the connected voices of girls and women worldwide." Many things stood out to me about Girls' Globe, one being its huge platform to reach so many women & girls on an international level. Eleanor Gall, the Communications Strategist at Girls' Globe, welcomed me whole heartedly. Throughout the fall and over the holidays I worked on my post for Girls' Globe. I just recently became a blogger for the organization, and am overjoyed to share my first published piece. I hope if you take anything away from this, it is that we are more alike than we are unalike. While in Malawi I experienced pure joy in the midst of close to nothing. These children, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, people, are just like you. But, they live without any of the materialistic items we place such a high value upon in the States. They often live without clean water, shoes to walk to school in, books to read, blankets to sleep under, but they live with joy. I have never experienced anything like what I did in Malawi, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I was given from Concern. 


happy holidays from concern worldwide & plans for the new year

I'm back after a break and a lovely holiday. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with friends and family :) I've been hoping to update the blog more in this coming year, so I decided to start that a little early, and share some of the posters I received from Concern Worldwide this past week. When I opened the package, I was immediately moved. The posters were impactful and eye-opening. I am aware of these statistics from being actively involved in Concern's Leadership Network, taking part in the Malawi Field Visit this past July, and by staying up-to-date on current global issues. However, every time I see a Concern post on Instagram, scroll through their website, or read their impact stories, I am amazed. It is so inspiring to me seeing how much their organization is doing to combat global poverty. 

Just a few of the posters sent from Concern Worldwide's educational branch, Concern Active Citizenship (originally Global Concern Classroom).

Just a few of the posters sent from Concern Worldwide's educational branch, Concern Active Citizenship (originally Global Concern Classroom).

In an effort to spread awareness about growing poverty rates, lack of access to education, food distribution, sustainable agriculture methods and unclean drinking water around the world (specifically in developing countries), the Concern Active Citizenship program has sent posters to hang up in schoolrooms, local businesses, etc, in hopes that others will take action. 

Holiday card from Concern & two of the many posters sent. 

Holiday card from Concern & two of the many posters sent. 

In the new year, I am hoping to teach a class based around global issues, using theatrical-based methods. I will be following some of the Concern Active Citizenship curriculum, and incorporating original theatre activities and lessons to follow along. Click here to learn more about the Big Picture Interactive Global Issues Class that will be offered in Spring of 2018.

holiday giving & concern worldwide: 

They call the holiday season the "season of giving." However, society has turned Christmas into a very big holiday of receiving, with ads promoting what we "all want" for Christmas, and how to "score the best gift." Of course, there is nothing wrong with receiving. We all love getting gifts, and we also enjoy giving them. However, we have, as a society, strayed away from the true meaning of Christmas time and the holiday season: giving. It is always a good idea to remember that so many people do not/cannot receive gifts this time of year, so to appreciate everything and everyone you have around you.

 This year, my family decided to donate to Concern as part of our holiday giving. On Concern's website, there is a list of donation amounts, each describing where your money will go, and what it will be doing to help in Concern's efforts to combat world poverty. My family chose the third option of a donation to feed 26 malnourished children for 6 weeks. Some of the other donations can include:

  • giving 2 families farming tools to grow crops
  • buying 4 months of classroom supplies for a school. Any amount can help and bring hope to those in need. 

To donate to Concern this season, click here. 

Happy Holidays! Looking forward to everything to come in 2018.

Xx, anna

concern leadership network

Because Giving Tuesday was only a few weeks ago, I thought I'd share a little bit about Concern Worldwide, and how they chose to take on Giving Tuesday this year. 

After traveling to Malawi with Concern Worldwide this past July, I was informed that I should consider becoming a member of the CLN. What exactly is the CLN? "The Concern Leadership Network (CLN) is a community of leaders, advocates, and influencers who are taking action locally to bring about positive and lasting change for families living in extreme poverty around the world." What I was most inspired by was the fact that the CLN is made up of so many college students, and young adults. I thought it was incredible that Concern created an branch to let younger generations become heavily involved in the work they are doing. Another aspect of the CLN I love is that it fits uniquely to each member. Being a part of the CLN, you can use your own talents, interests and passions to create lasting change. 

Giving Tuesday took place on November 28th of this year. The day recognizes a movement to create an international day of giving at the beginning of the holiday season. To #ShowYourConcern this Giving Tuesday, the Concern Leadership Network launched an effort to encourage individuals to donate their one week's worth of coffee money. This really shows that even though your donation may have been small, any contribution counts. Concern's goal this year, between coffee money donations, bar proceeds and individual donations, was to raise $5,000. 

This year, Concern raised $7,681 - more than 50% beyond their goal of $5,000. After an added $5,000 donation from a CLN member, Concern reached $12,681. 

Sylvia Wong, one of my biggest role models, and the Director of Public Engagement at Concern's New York office, shared with CLN members, some statistics to think about.

$12,681 can provide:

  •     840 blankets to keep malnourished children warm
  •     252 mosquito nets to prevent disease in Haiti
  •     42 health centers with supplies to diagnose and treat malnutrition

Concern recognizes that "You’ve treated yourself on Black Friday, so why not treat someone that really needs it on Giving Tuesday." 

Click here to learn more about the Concern Leadership Network or visit for more information!


global issues class: focus on barriers to education around the world

As a GCC Club leader at our homeschool co-op, our Model UN/Global Issues class has been using the Global Concerns Classroom curriculum, with a focus on the Education Unit Plan. We have been specifically talking about lack of access to education around the world, who is left out, and why? In class, we have had discussions, done activities, and watched videos regarding lack of access to education around the world, and how we can help combat this pressing issue. Today's class focused on "Who's Left Out?" This GCC lesson focused on the groups of people left out of having an access to education. 

I chose two videos to watch in class, which are linked below. The first is a Ted Talk by Kakenya Ntaiya, a Kenyan educator, feminist and social activist. Ntaiya is the founder and president of the Kakenya Center for Excellence, a primary boarding school for girls in the Maasai village of Enoosaen. Click here to to hear Kakenya's story. 

The second video we watched in class focused on the lack of access to an education for children with disabilities. The 2013 State of the World's Children report by UNICEF shares upsetting statistics regarding the amount of children with disabilities that are denied access to an education. Click here to learn more. 

After watching the videos, the class brainstormed answers to this question: "Can you think of at least three groups (or types) of people that might be denied an education?" 

The students answered. 


Seeing such accurate and relevant answers was inspiring. Throughout the class we will continue to talk about the barriers to education around the world. In January, I will be updating with videos/pictures of the Project Proposal presentations the class will be working on for the beginning of next semester. 

xx, anna



As I sit in the airport in D.C, back in the United States, surrounded by people with huge suitcases, running frantically to catch their flights, I feel as if everything is in slow motion. I feel confused at my normal way of life, at the "American way" of doing things; so rushed and unimportant. I am exhausted and jet lagged from being awake for over 40 hours. Our flight from D.C. to MA was delayed, and won't be leaving until noon. It's 6am. Steven and I are making the most of our time here, hanging out in the empty chairs, sleeping when possible, getting food and sharing pictures from the trip. I am so excited to see my family, and to catch up on some sleep. 

Our flight in Senegal was delayed and we were stuck on the plane there for an hour or two, we had a 6 hour layover in Johannesburg as well, so all in all the whole trip was about 40 hours with all the weird time changes. However, I can't even complain. We did some shopping at Joburg and in D.C. I was able to call my mom, send some pictures to friends, and get some coffee to keep myself awake!!! 

I've decided the only word I can really use to describe the way I'm feeling is overwhelmed. I am so happy, and have never felt more inspired or determined to take action and make an impact. Looking through my pictures, I only see smiles. Smiles on every single face of every single child in each school we visited. Smiles on their faces as they learned, asked questions, sang, danced, and played.

The "warm heart of Africa" truly is an understatement. 


Malawi DAY FIVE: Mangochi


Today was an early start and off to the Concern office in Mangochi. There, we met the head of the Emergency Livelihoods program, Donald Manda. In a village called Kwitumji, Concern is working to implement the Emergency Livelihoods program. In Kwitumji, there have been numerous droughts and floods for the past two years (since 2015). Emergency Livelihoods is giving money to these households during a time of disaster, in order to help them to get back on their feet. Work in Mangochi began in September of 2016, targeting 11,055 households. Through the program, farmers are encouraged to choose their own seeds, so that they can pick and choose what kinds of crops they wish to grow. By giving cash instead of direct food/items, families become empowered to choose variety, become active members of markets, etc.  A few more program details are listed below.

conditional cash transfers: some conditions include, 

  • Enough capacity/land to grow
  • Must apply conservation acts (follow guidelines set by staff and program officers to regulate growing/harvesting, etc.
  • Kitchen garden implementation (begin a small garden located near the kitchen area of the house, in order to make it easier while cooking meals with variety)
  • Cash is transferred through a G4 Security service, and there are around 10 dissension locations for pick-up.
  • Locations are always reasonable distances from the villages (no more than 10km).
  • Organization gives aid/fallback if needed during the implementation and process of Emergency Livelihoods. 
  • $2,211 goes to trust funds and activities
  • Families are encouraged to join Village Savings and Loans groups as well

unconditional cash transfer: 

  • Money is sent and issued the same way as conditional cash transfers
  • No fallback is guaranteed during implementation and process of emergency Livelihoods 
  • Mostly used for extreme poverty areas

While in Mangochi, we also learned about Climate Smart Agriculture. Under the umbrella of climate smart agriculture, falls Conservational Agriculture. Some aspects of Conservational Agriculture include rain harvesting, agroforestry (combining crops/trees in the same soil to provide fertility), and the combination of crops (e.g. growing pigeon peas with maize). 

the three principles of Conservational Agriculture:

  1. Minimal soil disturbance
  2. Maximum soil coverage
  3. Crop rotation and location

* Climate smart agriculture enables farmers to make more money off of the little land they have/can grow on.


While in the field, we learned about a program called Project Graduation. Donald Manda, the project officer, explained to our group what exactly Project Graduation is, and why it is so essential in Malawi. When the program first started in the fall of 2016, 100 households were targeted. Now, and in the next few months, over 980 will be reached. Project Graduation targets households, helping them to "graduate" from poverty. With cash transfers and activities, the Project is directly lifting families out of their current circumstances. Within three years of the program, households should be able to stand on their own. In addition to cash, families are provided with access to micro finance, banks, village savings and loans, etc. Assets are given last, and depend solely on the specific household. 

Examples include: expansion of farm/land and starting a business. 

Other countries Project Graduation is being implemented in: Haiti, Rwanda, Bangladesh and Malawi. Studies show that after full implementation of the program, the health of children in the household increases, and savings success increases. 


Today, Steven, Isaac, Karen, and I said goodbye to our driver for the week, Jane. We gave her and Lazarus our school t-shirts, and Cape Cod, Red Sox and Patriots hats too. 

Steven, Me, Jane, Lazarus and Isaac after giving them our gifts from the United States :)

Steven, Me, Jane, Lazarus and Isaac after giving them our gifts from the United States :)

Debriefing tonight was emotional, and I don't seem to have words to describe the week quite yet. I am inspired, upset, overwhelmed, determined, and hopeful. I think everyone in the room was feeling about every single emotion tonight. Tomorrow, we are going shopping at the City Mall in Lilongwe, and then will head to the airport to travel home.

Again, today was something new and different from the one before. Tonight, I am thinking about how even the smallest action can have the most tremendous impact. I am feeling blessed for the life I live, and for the opportunities I'm given.

Most importantly, I am feeling thankful to be here in Malawi, surrounded by so much joy and positivity every day.


Malawi DAY FOUR: Phalombe/Mangochi


Today started off the same as any other, but for some reason it still had a new and unreal feeling to it. I think every day I woke up, I had to remind myself that I was half way around the world, living and learning in a completely new and different country. I had never even done a sleep-away camp, and here was my first adventure living away from home; I decided to go big by spending a week on another continent, with people I barely even knew at the beginning of the week. Fast forward 7 days, and we were all so close we were probably getting sick of each other :) 

Our wakeup call was 6am and we left the lodge with Jane, Lazarus and the rest of the group before 7. Breakfast was delicious per usual, and the coffee here is the absolute best. After another long, fun car ride, and another 12 times of listening to Tiny Dancer, we arrived at our second school visit of the week. The warm welcome we received here was once again so overwhelming, and to date, there is nothing that compares to that feeling.  We started off with the usual introductions and overview of the program, before making our way into the schoolroom.

The Mbembembe Primary School, Phalombe District

The Mbembembe Primary School, Phalombe District

Theatre for a Change (TfaC), is a new program working alongside Concern to help and support the people of impoverished communities in Malawi. TfaC's main focus is around adolescent girls. Some of the targets of the organization include sexual/reproductive education and menstruation. One of the most heartbreaking things to hear was that in this village, as well as surrounding ones, girls tend to skip school when they are menstruating. This is simply because there is no bathrooms or changing stations for them to use during the day, causing them to walk an average distance of 12 kilometers back home, to use the bathroom. By then, it is easier for them to just stay at home and skip the rest of the school day. If these girls are missing full weeks of school every month or so, they are falling behind and missing out on classwork. These statistics were extremely upsetting to me, and listening to the young girls talk about the issues they are facing so openly, was devastating. 

The workshop/lesson we were able to sit in on, included girls and boys ages 11-17. The lessons focus mainly on topics already being discussed in the classroom, such as School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV), and Gender Based Violence (GBV). 

The Student Council group we interacted with, had many different purposes and roles within the school community, all extremely important to the success of the program. While talking with some of the kids, we learned that abuses are often reported to the Student Council, in which case the students would approach the Head of the school and explain the situation. The Head would then decide (depending on the specific case), whether to contact the police or the Village Head. I thought it was absolutely incredible how involved the students were with the activities. Using theatre and movement, TfaC is teaching young girls and boys to interact with one another, gain self confidence and learn in depth about Gender Based Violence, as well as other school-related issues facing them. We were able to be a part of the activities for the day, interact with the girls, and experience firsthand how much Concern and organizations like TfaC are helping children in underdeveloped nations. 

The Agents of Change are responsible for managing the program and helping to implement it within the community, eventually seeing the outcome. Agents of Change go through special training in order to be a part of the community's schools. Yami was the AOC we met with when we visited. She was extremely inspiring and so passionate about what she was doing. 

Another group we were able to sit in on, was the Mother Group, in charge of school-related issues, as well as the radio station network. The radio station discusses important issues in the area, and ways in which to combat these issues. 

A few facts:

  • Azunga in Chichewa means "white person"or "native"
  • Most students walk an average of 12 kilometers to school each day
  • Fathers are taking a stand alongside their daughters, hoping to provide them with a bright and successful future through education 


After leaving the field, we made our way to Cassa Rossa, an Italian restaurant, for lunch. The restaurant was on the top of a mountain, and the views were beautiful. The food was fantastic, and I even tried crocodile:) The best part was definitely the coffee! We all loved it so much, a few cups didn't seem like a lot at the time, but poor Jane had to put up with our obnoxious caffeine high on the way to Mangochi.

Cassa Rossa Menu

Cassa Rossa Menu

We arrived at the Mangochi hotel, and after checking in, showering and debriefing, we ate a beautiful dinner outside, overlooking the beautiful lake. Today was by far my favorite day. Each day we've seen and experienced a different program, and each day has been eye-opening. But today, the program we saw had such an impact on me. Theatre for a Change was so incredible in the way they taught young girls about such important issues through theatrical and artistic methods. Getting to interact with the girls and ask them questions about themselves, their lives, and some of the problems we share, was amazing. The potential in each one of them was so easily recognizable, making it so difficult to see firsthand, the problems they are facing: problems that for us in America, seem so avoidable. 

After returning home, I was able to get in touch with members of Theatre for a Change (TfaC). I learned more about volunteer opportunities in the United States and am hoping to become involved in some way in the next few years. 

For more information on Theatre for a Change, follow the link below.


Malawi DAY THREE: Phalombe


After a very early breakfast Wednesday morning, we loaded up the bus once again, and headed off with Jane, our driver, to Phalombe. Our car rides are always a blast, and we listen to the same 4 songs Steven has dowloaded on his phone :) When we arrived in Phalombe, we were once again, greeted by the whole school and village, with singing and dancing, welcoming us into their community. We were surrounded by beautiful children, and thanked over and over again for our being there. The feeling was unreal. After high-fives and lots of hand shakes, we sat around in a circle with the rest of the school. There, we watched a performance of a play, written and rehearsed by the people of the community. The program implemented in this village was called Star Circle. Star Circle focuses on creating art and performance using current issues surrounding the village. The skit we watched (which was translated to us through a program officer), was about the continuation of education for adolescent girls. Star Circle is a group of volunteer individuals who care deeply about these problems facing their communities, and who hope to combat them through theatre. 

After the performance, we were given the opportunity to sit with a group of individuals from Star Circle, and ask them questions about the program, and themselves. The people we chatted with were absolutely incredible. They shared stories about themselves and their lives, as well as why they chose to join the program. One of the boys was 18 years old and an aspiring doctor, hoping to finish secondary school and move on to University. This day was incredible. Seeing the way theatre can sculpt a community and shed light on pressing issues surrounding them, was unreal. I thought it was amazing how each and every member of the community watched and supported Star Circle, and I was so grateful to have been able to see, and interact with this beautiful community.


After spending the day at the school, we traveled back through the mountains and into a valley, where we spent the night at a Lodge. Our cabins were in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by beautiful trees, the moon and stars. After a very cold outdoor shower, and a call back home, we walked down to dinner. We ate and debriefed, and then fell asleep pretty quickly afterwards. I shared a cabin with the Irish girls, which was so much fun. We talked and chatted, comparing accents until we fell asleep. The next morning, we packed up bright and early again, and made our way to our next stop, a different school in Phalombe. 

Our drive leaving the Lodge Thursday morning, 7/27/17

Our drive leaving the Lodge Thursday morning, 7/27/17

Malawi DAY TWO: SKILLZ/Mua Mission


Tuesday morning was beautiful. After loading our luggage back onto the bus, and another amazing breakfast, we made our way to a school to learn about and take part in SKILLZ; an organization helping to educate girls about sexual health, HIV/AIDS, as well as leadership skills and overall confidence. There, we were able to play soccer with some of the kids in the Grassroots Soccer Program, and listen in on their everyday lessons involved with the program. The joy and overwhelming happiness was astounding to me. Their gratitude was so fulfilling and really put everything into perspective. 

Grassroots Soccer Program, Mchinji District

Grassroots Soccer Program, Mchinji District

After our time at the school, we traveled to the Concern office and ate a beautiful lunch before our long drive to Mua Mission. We drove about five hours up and around beautiful mountains, to Mua. When we arrived, we toured the museum, which was all about spiritual beliefs melded with the Christian faith. The museums were beautiful; some of them were so sacred we weren't allowed to take any pictures. While at Mua, we were able to shop at their art store, where I bought some bowls and spoons to bring back home. Everything was so beautiful. 


The Mua Mission Museum, "The Kingdom is Like a Seed," Mua District

The Mua Mission Museum, "The Kingdom is Like a Seed," Mua District

We stayed overnight at Mua Mission, where my hotel room was home to a salamander:) Sylvia and I attempted to get it out, but in the end we gave up and asked the kind man who worked there to put the little creature outside for the night. Dinner was beautiful and looked out over a river and flowering trees. Today was extremely inspiring and full of new and completely different things than the day before.

Breakfast at Mua Mission, Wednesday 7/26/17

Breakfast at Mua Mission, Wednesday 7/26/17

In only a few hours out in the field, I learned more than I ever had before. The sense of community these villages have was so moving to me, and made me realize that we're often missing that sense of community here at home. Day two was certainly different than day one, full of new and intriguing projects and programs that I was able to learn about and be a part of. Though the villages were not the same, the people still greeted us with song, dance, and smiling faces. Their joy was the most beautiful thing in the world, and the feeling of being there with them was simply irreplaceable.  

Malawi DAY ONE: Mchinji


After our 18 hour flight Saturday into Sunday, we started our first day Monday morning. We woke up at the Bridgeview Hotel in the capital, Lilongwe, to a beautiful breakfast of omelettes, papaya (a new favorite) and coffee, among many other things. After loading up our luggage, we piled into the mini bus and truck. That morning, we met our drivers, Jane and Lazarus, who would be getting our group in and out of the field for the week. They were awesome. We also got to talk a little with Jenn, who works for Concern and has lived in Malawi for two and a half years. It took us about an hour and a half to get to the Concern Field Office in Mchinji. There, we met Angela, who works for Concern on the ground in Malawi. Angela is the program coordinator for the Health and Nutrition branch that Concern works with. We learned briefly about the program and then headed off into the field. Two hours later over dirt, dust and red rocks, we arrived at the village, where we were immediately greeted with song and dance. After unloading from the bus, we met Naomi, the Lead Mother of her village in Mchinji. We got to see firsthand how Concern is helping Naomi with a kitchen garden, located right behind her house, to make growing a nutritious diet, easier and more accessible. Naomi was so welcoming and greeted our group with open arms. The work she is doing in order to teach other mothers about nutritious and healthy lifestyles was incredible.

three Lead Mothers stand proudly in their Kitchen Garden, Mchinji District 

three Lead Mothers stand proudly in their Kitchen Garden, Mchinji District 

The program officers told us a lot about how in Malawi, growing and harvesting an abundance of fresh crops is difficult, because most areas of Malawi experience little rainfall. Maize, the most common crop in Malawi, can be grown and harvested at any time of the year. Maize is often grounded and cooked into Nshima, one of the most popular dishes in Malawi. Though Nshima is very filling, providing satiety for a long amount of time, it provides no nutritional benefits. The issue of malnourishment in Malawi revolves primarily around what specifically, the people of these villages are consuming. A balanced diet is extremely important, and in Malawi, not consuming enough of the right nutrients is a severe problem. Concern Worldwide is helping with the implementation of kitchen gardens and agricultural programs throughout these villages, and through the training of Lead Mothers like Naomi, the people of Mchinji will learn how to grow their own nutritious crops, and make use of them creating healthy meals for themselves and their families. 



The second half of the day, we spent in a different village in Mchinji. There, we experienced formal introductions from the Village Heads, sat in on a Village Savings and Loans session, and saw a mock meeting of the Mother Leadership group.

a group of children in the second village we visited, Mchinji District

a group of children in the second village we visited, Mchinji District

VS&L Mchinji (Village Savings and Loans):

The Village Savings and Loans session our group was able to sit in on was extremely informative and eye-opening. The group dynamic in the village was so inspiring, and the teamwork and community involvement was amazing. VS&L became very useful to the people of this village, as it was a way of creating backup in case of an emergency, and it also offered loans if ever needed. Our group was able to watch the heads of the VS&L imitate a meeting of the group, showing how every time they met, they would each put in a certain amount of money, making their shares equal and fair. Whenever a member of the community needed to take out a loan, they were able to without fuss or difficulty. The VS&L group meets twice a month to discuss deposits, withdrawals and loans, and has become a great asset to the people of the village. 

Mother Leadership Group:

The Mother Leadership group involves training mothers of the community on reproductive health and safety, as well as educational lessons on breastfeeding, raising children and overall nutrition. Again, our group was able to watch a mock meeting of the Mother Leadership Group, and had the opportunity to ask questions afterwards. This group also meets twice a month to learn and discuss, and is always started off with a song. This helps to create a safe setting, and to welcome each and every member. 

I thought the villages of Mchinji were amazing, and I was in awe at the progress and hunger the people there had to learn and grow together. Their determination was incredible, and it was so inspiring to watch and be a part of for the day. 

That night, we traveled to our hotel in Mchinji, and spent the evening eating Malawian food, chatting and debriefing. It had only been one day, my luggage had been lost on the long flight over and we were all feeling exhausted. But, that day we had experienced firsthand how much Concern is doing to help in these communities, we saw the joy, hope and determination of the people in these villages, and I had never been happier or more inspired in my life. 

Xx, Anna

Our hotel for our second night stay, Mchinji District

Our hotel for our second night stay, Mchinji District


This past week, we’ve talked a lot about core values. What are our values? How do we practice these values? How can we push to live these values in our everyday lives?

On Tuesday 1/22, we split into small groups to discuss issues that face us in our own hometowns, as well as all around the world. Some examples of these groups were corruption, natural distasters, gun violence, women’s rights, racial equality, etc.

We talked about why these issues are pressing in our current day, and how we can educate others about them. We made lists of what we would choose to teach about each topic - what are some things we would want younger generations to know.

The group I was a part of focused on women’s rights. We talked about the #MeToo movement, the media and stigmas that surround women today, sexual assault, sex education, and personal stories about the topic.

Separating into these groups and learning about these topics in a little more depth was extremely interesting. Listening to others share why they believe sex ed is so important, why they believe certain stereotypes surround the female population, why they chose to be a part of this group , etc. was eye opening.

a year in review: google

After gathering in these groups & debriefing on what we discussed, we delved into values a little bit more. Google puts together short videos each year called “A Year in Review.” We watched each video from 2014 through 2018. Each video rehashed what people searched for each year.

Watching just how far we’ve come as a nation was inspiring. Watching and noticing repeating events was upsetting. However, in each video, hope & love were always mentioned. This was uplifting - knowing that so many people were still in search of that - even through some of the most difficult years. We discussed as a group, what we hope to see in Google’s 2019 video.

Some answers included:

  • Love and acceptance

  • Hope

  • Equality

  • Less fear

  • Unity

In one workshop, we were asked to define one of our core values. I chose open mindedness.

I defined open mindedness as:

The will to gain a new perspective; the will to walk in some else’s shoes. Living in harmony - not judging or making assumptions about other people, places, ideas or beliefs.

This workshop shed a new light on why we must live our values. I learned that not just believing in them or practicing them sometimes, is enough. If you care deeply about something, it is your job to live that every single day.



On Friday 1/25, we had our Leadership Roundtable event. Over 15 people from all different backgrounds, came to talk with us as a cast, about what it means to be a leader. This experience was incredible. Each leader had a completely different perspective on what leadership meant to them. Hearing from each person & learning about what they spend their lives doing was an amazing learning experience. I was able to talk with five of the people who joined us: Caryn, Amy, Brenton, Terry and Jeff. From UWP alumni, to young philosophy/history/performance majors, these people spanned a large area of leadership backgrounds. What made this event so captivating - was that each leader had something new to share. We were able to ask questions about what inspired them to be where they are today, why they decided to do what they do, how they motivate themselves on the daily, and (if an UWP alumni), what their experience with the program was like.


Jeff spoke with our group about the concept of going from good to great. He discussed with us three different groups of people: the dreamers, the planners and the do-ers. We as people, tend to fall into one group. We sometimes fall into more than one group, but never all three. This opened my eyes to becoming more of a planner and a do-er. Because like Jeff told us, a dream is just a dream until it’s acted upon.

The #1 thing that stuck with me in talking to these leaders, was something Brenton told our group: don’t wait for permission. I’ve thought about this since Friday. So many times throughout our lives we have new & interesting ideas, beliefs that we are passionate about and want to do something with. But so often, we are waiting for permission. Permission to move forward, permission to ask questions, permission to take a chance. The best ideas, inventions & creations came from those who didn’t wait for permission. This is something that will stick with me throughout my semester with Up With People, as well as throughout the rest of my life.

Values. This past week was full of new lessons, activities & experiences focused around values. Learning about just how prominent our values are in our day to day lives, and how we have a responsibility to live out these values, was a new and incredible experience that I am so grateful to have had.

week three

Week #3!!

a recap of the week:

monday — life in the fishbowl w bruce erley

Day one into week 3. Our morning started with a session led by Bruce Erley, an UWP alum, a current host dad, and CEO of Creative Strategies Group - a full sponsorship and event marketing agency. Bruce came to talk to us about “living in the fishbowl,” or in other words - the constant reminder that for six months, our group will be living in the public eye. He talked to us about the hazards of living in the fishbowl, and also the many positives that come along with it.

As a group, we discussed the pros and cons of social media, how we depend on it today, and how we can use it to impact & involve others around us. We talked about UWP’s need to operate & grow - and how all of this depends on the goodwill and support of others. How we use social media to

  • recruit students

  • find host families

  • fundraise

He asked the question: What does the news media think of us?

Living in the public eye as a part of Up With People is a tremendous responsibility, but also a beautiful privilege.

WEDNESDAY — cultural awareness & globe smart

The theme of the week for week 3 was Cultural Awareness. We discussed different stages of culture shock, how we are feeling 3 weeks in, and how culture shock can effect an individual - in both positive & negative ways.

Our second workshop of the day was working with Globe Smart. Globe Smart is a website that uses a series of questions in a survey to place your traits on a scale. After your profile is completed you are able to compare how your personal traits or roles compare to those of your own country or others. Before we travel to a new country, we will be able to see how our own profiles compare to that specific country - how we might interact with others, etc.

My GlobeSmart profile

My GlobeSmart profile

friday — SDG’s, CA, CULTURE FAIR

Friday!!!! Today was incredible. Eye opening, exciting, BUSY, and so much fun. This morning we split into groups to discuss different sustainable development goals. We were asked to pick one group to be a part of. My group discussed quality education, and why we believe this goal is the most important. We focused on the growth and personal learning of education - and how learning outside of the classroom can be just as vital and important a part of education as in-school learning. Without quality education, many of the SDG’s are not accomplishable.


Our second workshop of the day focused on the four types of CA we will do.

• educational

• social

• manual labor

• performance arts (PA)

Why do we do CA? We talked as a group about the different reasons community action is such a huge part of Up With People as a whole. Many different things were shared. We do community action to practice what we preach. Up With People’s mission and core values are set in empowering youth to be positive agents of change. If we are so set on accomplishing this - we must also be a factor in taking action. Another reason UWP focuses on CA is for the same reason we stay with host families. We have a direct eye into the community, a direct experience with the culture and people we are surrounded by.

What is social impact? Social impact is a significant, positive change that addresses an urgent, social challenge in a proven area of need. Social impact focuses on the root cause of an issue.



  • to increase understanding, respect & tolerance

  • foster communities of action

  • empower youth as positive agents of change

  • build an international network of global citizens

•••••••••••••••••••••••CULTURE FAIR•••••••••••••••••••••••

Our first culture fair was Friday night at 6:30. Host families and others were invited to come and walk around to each booth, play games, interact with our cast & learn more about where we come from. The culture fair was one of my favorite things we’ve done so far. Kaede taught me how to write my own name in Japanese, I learned “stick games” from Jolene from the Navajo Nation, and I listened to the Mexico booth sing :)


During the culture fair, we were able to interact with host families and learn about why they host Up With People, as well as answer questions about where we’re from and why we’re here. I felt an extreme sense of purpose that night.


It was such an incredible experience being able to learn so many new things about where my cast mates come from & all about their cultures. Even learning about other areas of my own country was a new and interesting thing to experience.

I’m looking forward to our next culture fairs on tour!!

saturday — host family wknd 3

Saturday & Sunday off this week!

Today we drove to the top of Lookout Mountain to go to the Buffalo Bill gravesite and museum. Maëlle and I learned a lot about Buffalo Bill and the Wild West - I was never aware he was such a huge icon in communities out here!!


After driving up to Lookout, we explored Golden, CO. Historic downtown was absolutely beautiful. In and around Denver is FULL of little towns with shops and restaurants so there seems to always be something new and exciting going on. We went to eat and walked around, and learned all about historic Golden. My host family is amazing!!! They are so proud of where they live - and they get to share all of this with us!! How lucky am I?

Maëlle, Mark & Sharon

Maëlle, Mark & Sharon

SUNDAY — superbowl liii

Super bowl Sunday!!!


“Gearing up for Super Bowl LIII!! 🏈

Up with People's first appearance in the Super Bowl Halftime show paved the way for future entertainers at Super Bowl X in 1976. As the first non-marching band to perform at the 50 yard line, Up with People's legacy carries on with performers following suit for 46 years by being the first to use an on-field stage.

Our cast has recently learned about the legacy of Up with People and wanted to represent some of their favorite NFL teams. Bet you can guess which team they are rooting for.

Who do you want to win at this year's Super Bowl?

Want to know more about Up with People's historical performances?

Get the facts ➡️

Watch UWP at the Super Bowl ➡️