A Village of Hope

In the African nation of Malawi, families toil in fields as malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases go untreated. But hope is within reach: The Millennium Promise, a philanthropy run by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs and supported by Angelina Jolie, is working with 60 villages (so far) to make them healthily self-sufficient through such simple tools as schools, seeds and clean drinking water. Here is what PEOPLE reporter Mary Green saw in the village of Mwandana.

01 of 09

PORTRAIT OF A FAMILY

PORTRAIT OF A FAMILY
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For most of the impoverished in Malawi, home is a tiny mud hut with a thatched roof, like the one Cecilia Mkhota, 24, and her children (from left) Manuel, 10, Daniel, 3, and Anna, 13, live in. In the rainy season, "we don't sleep, we stand in a corner just to make sure we aren't wet," says Cecilia.

02 of 09

LOVE'S LABOR

LOVE'S LABOR
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Working her calloused hands for 12 to 13 hours a day, Cecilia (left) has been supporting her family since her husband's AIDS-related death in 2003. "It was difficult for me to keep going on," says Mkhota, who has a 1-acre maize farm. "But I wanted the family to keep going." Her village, Mwandana, is benefiting from Millennium Promise shipments of fertilizer and seed.

03 of 09

LONG WALK HOME

LONG WALK HOME
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Before the Millennium team built a clean water source within a mile of their home, Cecilia and daughter Anna would walk four miles each morning to get water. "Unfortunately, the water that was there was not very good," says Cecilia. "At times I would find goats drinking from the same pool." The dirty water often left her children sick with diarrhea.

04 of 09

DINNER TIME

DINNER TIME
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The family lives on sima, a dish made of cornmeal and water. "If you can find them, you have vegetables," says Cecilia. "Or, if you are fortunate enough, you can get fish." Anna (center) often makes the meals, and keeps house while her mom works. But once the village gets its promised new school, her kids will "definitely" be going, says Cecilia.

05 of 09

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

IT TAKES A VILLAGE
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In Mwandana, concerns like Cecilia's are part of a constant discussion between neighbors and the Millennium project leaders. "We rely on them to tell us what their needs and challenges are so we can help them achieve their goals," says Sachs (center). "We don't go in and tell them what to do."

06 of 09

A CONSTANT STRUGGLE

A CONSTANT STRUGGLE
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One of the area's biggest needs is medical care and prevention. In Malawi, where the infant mortality rate is 1 in 9, children frequently die from malaria, malnutrition and diarrhea. Hospitals, which are usually filled to 200 percent capacity or more, rely on parents and grandparents to tend to the youngest patients, leaving each ward standing-room-only.

07 of 09

FAMILY SUPPORT

FAMILY SUPPORT
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Mwandana's Junior Chiza, 11 (right), suffers from tuberculosis, and the nearest medical facility is seven miles away. "When my brother is sick, I carry him on my back to the hospital," says sister Mary Richards, 18 (left). Still, the two are survivors. When their parents died of AIDS 10 years ago, they went to live with grandmother Elizabeth Smoke, 72 (center).

08 of 09

BIG SISTER

BIG SISTER
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Mary, who looks after her little brother, pumps water from Mwandana's new spring. The Millennium project stresses self-reliance and building communities from the bottom up. For Mary, an aspiring doctor, that means working the field each morning before starting her studies.

09 of 09

'TURNING POINT'

'TURNING POINT'
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By providing fertilizer and seeds as promised, Sachs's team has brought hope to villagers in Mwandana. "Things have been promised before and not been implemented," says Cecilia. "But when I saw fertilizer coming, I said, 'This is it now. They were really telling us the truth.' I am thinking it will be the turning point in the village, especially for me."

(For more on this story, pick up the March 13, 2006, issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.)

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