BROADCASTER Sharon Ni Bheolain was moved by the plight of young women living in poverty-stricken Malawi.
The RTE 'Six One' newscaster travelled to Africa last month with a TV crew for charity ActionAid and saw first-hand the hardship endured by many in the country.
The 47-year-old has now told of how her life has changed since meeting the women and was particularly touched by nine-year-old Zione Mkwanda.
Mkwanda, who is being groomed for marriage, is the same age as the anchor's daughter Faye.
Sharon said: "She was tiny. Fragile as a butterfly, her voice a bare whisper, her eyes cast fixedly downwards.
"I met so many wonderful girls and young women on my trip to Malawi - the so-called Warm Heart of Africa.
"But nine-year-old Zione Mkwanda stole my heart and permanently realigned my first-world perspective."
She added in this week's RTE Guide:
"In the blistering heat I listened to a child no older than my own daughter recount hesitantly, but matter-of-factly, the death of her parents and her daily struggle to care and provide for her six younger siblings.
"Zione's timidity and vulnerability set her apart from the other girls I encountered on my field trip with ActionAid. Something I attributed to her never having been to school."