May 2018 Trip to Malawi

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An update from our Board Chair’s visit to Malawi – May 2018

We arrived in Lilongwe, (Capital) Sunday afternoon May 6th to start our journey in Malawi. This time I was accompanied by Jerry, my husband who had not been to Malawi before.  We stayed at a new guest house just outside of Lilongwe so we had a good rest. We drove to Mzuzu in the North where we stayed for the first week. The weather in Mzuzu was great, it was not too hot. We stayed at the Anglican Diocese Guest house. Sarah, who has been working with the Malawi Water Project and has been in Malawi for the past 2 years, has made connections with a number of girls who live around the Diocese Guest House. They helped us prepare the gift packages for the volunteers and staff.

Sarah with girls

The Guest House staff cooked lunch for the entire MWP team and we took it out to the location of our factory.

We ate lunch with the team and volunteers and as a “thank you”, we presented the prepared gift packages from Canada including T-shirts, hats, small bags of toiletries and water bottles. We also gave prepared envelops with a donation for each volunteer to thank them for the work they are doing in helping to wash the sand and gravel for filter installation.

Lunch with North Team

Following the lunch, we met with the team members. Since we are delivering filters and working with communities such as Kabwafu, which is a 2 hour drive away from the factory, we have decided to support two volunteers, Margret and Martha, in the community rather than hiring a Community Health Promoter near the factory. These two individuals will be following up on the filters and encouraging villagers to implement proper sanitation and hygiene practices.

When we arrived in Kabwafu, we met with the community members including the Traditional Authority which is the head community leader for several villages. Also present were the members of the  Health Committee that has been in existence for several years. The TA and chief spoke as well as a representative of the Health Committee. We are encouraging the villages to take responsibility for their own health so I emphasized how important it is for us to work together as a team to get their villages to Healthy Village status.

We then went to view some of the homes that had filters and looked at the water sources they are using for drinking. They use holes in the ground that animals also drink from and that had large insects and debris floating in the water. They also use a pond that is used by animals so they are definitely in need of the filters. They do have two boreholes but they are far away. The beneficiaries are very happy with their filters. One woman uses it for everything including cooking, bathing and washing clothes. She is finding that the water is less salty and the white residue that is left on clothes or on her skin is removed from the water.

Water source at Kabwafu

Water Source Kabwafu 2

Village at Kabwafu

The following day we went to the Mpherembe community which is a community about 15 minutes from Kabwafu and met with the members of their Health Committee who told us about their challenges which included the need for supplies at the clinic and more staff.

 

We toured the clinic and found many people waiting in line to see the Health Services Assistant. (HSA).

Clinic Kabwafu    Picture1

The Health Services Assistant was a young girl who had been working there for two months. She looked exhausted. She told us that she was working 7 days a week. She probably graduated a few  months ago and got a job at the clinic. She has no support and very few supplies.

Nurse at Clinic

The following morning, we got up early to head to another community on Lake Malawi. It is called Kawanga and the villagers have to use lake water to drink as there isn’t a road to the village to allow the borehole drilling equipment to come into the village. The equipment is too heavy to get there by boat.

We have delivered and installed 5 filters in this village as a pilot, so we went to all 5 houses that had filters and conducted follow-up visits.

Kawanga village

The community members gathered to thank us for our help.

We are working with other NGO’s in the area. One is Luke International from Taiwan. Diane, a  spokesperson for this organization has committed to donating funds to construct and deliver 30 filters. Cindee Rood who has founded a USA organization called Formidable Joy has committed to donate funds to provide 10 filters. Cindee will be coming to visit this village in July.

There is a community in Kawanga that has had two cases of cholera this year. It is not far from the community that we are working in so we are going to deliver some filters there, however, the Chief and Diane are going to try to get the villagers to improve the health and safety of the village before the filters get there.

We left the North Project and headed south to Chikwawa where our factory is located. We arrived in Chikwawa to 32 degree heat, however, we were fortunate to have electricity most of the time at Vasco Lodge where we stayed. Since  the lodge has installed solar power which kicks in when the electricity is not working. We even had a ceiling fan that was operational most nights.

We made a trip to the city of Blantyre to view the sand sorting/washing machine.  Everything is ready for installation except the screens. We are waiting for them from Zambia. This machine will provide more consistency in washing the sand and gravel and will allow more filters to be constructed in a day.

Sand sorting machine

Evance is a new volunteer who has joined the Project at the factory in order to gain experience. He has graduated from Journalism and needs to have experience in order to apply for a job in his field. He is working on graphics & helping the team with their WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) presentations. He designed the T-shirts that we gave to the volunteers and the golf shirts that we gave to the team.

T-shirts

Team

Here are the team members and volunteers in their new shirts.

Safety sign

 

Evance also created signs in Chichewa giving safety instructions  that must be followed when constructing the biosand filters.

During our time with the South team we watched how the team members conducted a WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) presentation in a village.

The team plus all 9 volunteers attended the WASH meeting. The volunteers put on a skit about how the filter prevents illness then the team presented on the requirements of a healthy village. There were several questions about how the filter worked which was good to hear because it means the villagers are interested in the filter. The team members use large printed laminated picture posters to show villagers how the filter works and how to maintain them.

WASH meeting Derlinie

Derlinie opened the presentation by telling the villagers about the Malawi Water Project. The Chief is the woman to the right holding the little girl.

The audience consisted mainly of women and children. This village is close to the Illovo Sugar Plantation and the majority of men work there and had not returned from work yet. We were impressed at the amount of interest in the filter which was demonstrated by the number of questions asked.

The following day we met with the team and they each gave a presentation introducing themselves and telling us what their goals were for the Project in the next 5 years. We listened to their presentations and discussed some of the issues that the team is experiencing.

Sarah, Helen, Derlinie

They would all like to reach more villages. They would like a large lorry to deliver filters and media, take the team and volunteers to WASH meetings and get the quarry and river sand. Transportation seems to be an issue in both regions.

The team and volunteers get along well together and are like a family. They work together to make lunch for everyone on the days that they are working together at the factory.

Making lunch

To get an idea as to how the filters are performing and to receive feedback from the beneficiaries of the filters, we went to conduct 5 follow-up visits in Chimpazi village. This community is across a shallow river which we were able to cross with the vehicle. However, in the rainy season it can’t be crossed and the nearest bridge is many kilometres away.

Oscar checking river

Oscar, our driver and Project Officer, walked across the river to make sure the vehicle would be able to make it.

Chimpazi is a farming community. It is in the opposite direction from the sugar plantation so no one works at the plantation. It is a poor community. Homes are made of mud bricks and grass roofs. However, we were impressed with the work that this village has done to keep their village clean and healthy. There are three village members who formed a Health Committee to work with our team and each have a filter.

 

Jerry, Derlinie

Lonnie checking filter

The filters are working well and flow rates are good. The villagers had dug rubbish pits and latrines.

Rubbish pit     Jerry checking latrine

They are using dish drying racks and handwashing stations.

Dish Drying rack

Lonnie with ashes

If they can’t afford soap they use ash which Lonnie, our Community Health Promoter, is showing us in this picture.

The kids really enjoy it when the team comes.

Kids with Blessings

One of our team members, Blessings is having fun with the kids.

When our team goes into a village often the borehole is not working and requires only minor repair. If our biosand implementers were trained on borehole repair they could train villagers how to repair their boreholes themselves. Sometimes the borehole only needs a $2 rubber O-ring. We are looking into getting training for our team members on borehole rehabilitation.

Constructing filters

Blessings, Aida and  Stuward working on constructing 8 filters. All molds are working.

When we were at the factory, we also went through the sand sorting analysis with all staff and they seem to know how it is done and how to enter the values in the Excel spreadsheet. The sand sorting analysis determines whether the material from the quarry will give the desired percentages of fine and coarse sand in order to get the appropriate flow rate of the biosand water filter.

Sand analysis

We had a very productive visit with both the North and South teams. The team  members are feeling positive about the work they are doing . Since they are moving further out to more remote villages who are desperately in need of clean water, they are being welcomed by the village leaders. Even though some of the villages are very poor, the villagers are willing to pay something toward their filter and they are willing to carry the filter and the bags of prepared sand and gravel long distances.

Because of the generous donation from the Spirit Singers Choir of Deer Park  and St. Andrews churches, we were able to purchase 44 mosquito nets that will be given to  families identified by our Community Health Promoters as being in the most need.

Mary receiving mosquito net

Thank you to everyone who is supporting the Malawi Water Project. We have witnessed the gratitude of the families whose health has been significantly improved because of your concern and caring.

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An Exciting Start to 2018

We had a successful year in 2017 which resulted in the following achievements:

  1. We have received approval as a Registered Canadian Charity
  2. We have completed the construction of a biosand filter factory
  3. We have developed partnerships to extend our impacts and move to sustainability
  4. We have reinforced and expanded our training
  5. We have supported the creation of sustainable healthy villages
  6. We have installed 1675 filters as of the end of December providing clean water to over 12,700 users
  7. We have held 124 community meetings which have provided training on proper sanitation and hygiene to 13,000 participants

In January 2017, we incorporated as an independent society and were approved by the Canada Revenue Agency as a Registered Canadian Charity.

We have named the new charity Healthy Lives International Society (BN784173890RR0001) so that we don’t limit our activities, it will continue to operate under the trade name of Malawi Water Project.

We were so pleased to receive a grant from the Alberta Community Initiatives International Development Grant from the Government of Alberta Culture and Tourism Department. We received the maximum amount which is $25,000. This will go a long way to support the Project in providing clean water and information on health and sanitation to remote villages.

One of our many accomplishments was the construction of a factory dedicated to biosand filter construction. This factory is a huge benefit to the Project because it also contains a training room, kitchen and an office.

We have established relationships which support sustainability and expand our impact. One example  of these partnerships is with the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. In July, a group of its students came to us to learn how to construct and install the filters, and they also funded construction of 8 Malawi Water Project filters.

 The students from Taiwan were appalled at the condition of the water that people were drinking during the dry season when the water table is low.

 

 

 

In September we held a 10 day training session on the biosand filter and on community health promotion. The training was a refresher course for our existing staff and initial training for new staff.

        
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We try to teach children about proper sanitation and hygiene but it is so difficult for them to learn because they don’t have desks or chairs. They share a notebook and pencil.

 

There are routinely cholera outbreaks in various areas very close to our factory in Chikwawa, Southern Malawi.

We have been assisting a village  that has worked hard to become cholera free. Delia Mtonyo is the Headwoman in her village. 

Delia asked our team for help. Our biosand implementers delivered filters to her village and our Community Health Promoters held sessions on how to create a healthy environment in the village. The village began work on changing their behaviour in 2014 and from that time until today, they have not had a case of cholera. We held a celebration in Delia’s village and gave certificates and prizes to 10 winners who had won the healthy home competition.

We provided Delia the tools and the information she needed to create a healthy village and Delia has taken the information and acted on it. Her village will never look back – and now, Delia is being asked by other chiefs how she managed to change her village and she is helping them do the same.

 

We Have a Matching Donation

We are so grateful to have a donor who has stepped forward and offered to match every donation made to the Malawi Water Project before December 31st, to a maximum of $10,000.
 
If you haven’t already done so, then don’t miss the opportunity to donate soon so that your donation can be doubled! That’s right doubled!
 
This donation could not have come at a better time as we have been experiencing serious health concerns in the villages near our Biosand Filter Production Facility. Doctors Without Borders has set up a tent outside the local hospital to treat patients with potentially deadly cholera. Unfortunately, this disease seems to strike at the hottest time of the year leaving patients with high fevers, uncontrollable diarrhea and dehydration in a tent with no air conditioning in 45 degree weather.
 
Our team has been working hard to make sure the surrounding villages have access to clean water and sanitary living conditions so they don’t experience these horrendous outbreaks in the future.
 
We would really like to arm as many communities as possible over the next year with knowledge about proper sanitation and hygiene and provide them with Biosand Water Filters so they have access to clean water.

 

Blessings with villagers

 

 

Lack of access to clean water has lead to a cholera outbreak in nearby villages.  Cholera can lead to death if left untreated.

 

 

 

 

Cholera Tent

 

 

 

A cholera treatment tent set up by Doctors Without Borders.  Cholera transmission is closely linked to inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities.

 

 

 

 

 

We also would like to provide Biosand Filters to communities located on Lake Malawi. Families are drinking untreated water from the lake. These communities aren’t able to have wells drilled on their land, because there aren’t any roads and the drilling equipment is too heavy to bring by boat. The filters turn disease and parasite laden lake water into safe drinking water.

Kids at lake

Your kind donation will be put to good use and provide significant benefits. I’m continually reminded how fortunate we are to have clean drinking water by turning on our tap. Our goal is to bring clean water and teach proper sanitation and hygiene to as many people living in remote areas of Malawi as possible. Together, we can help villagers protect themselves from devastating water borne diseases.

If you would like further information about our activities, please send me an email at helen@malawiwaterproject.com or phone me at 403-271-5924.

All donations will be matched up to $10,000 until the end of the year!  So join us this Holiday Season to help ensure more families can stay happy and healthy.

Our Fundraising Campaign Has Launched

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With a little help from our friends we had a very successful launch to our 2017 fundraising campaign by holding an Awareness Afternoon and lunch for the Malawi Water Project.  We were so fortunate to have Dr. David Manz, inventor of the biosand water filter, speak to us about the workings of the filter and how the filter holds the promise of clean water for everyone.

                             Ashif and Reeshma with Dr Manz

Two dedicated Project volunteers Ashif and Reeshma Bhura were able to show the location of individual households with filters using Google Maps and our new monitoring technology, Kobo Toolbox.

This past year has been very active for the Malawi Water Project. Here are some of the accomplishments.

  1. We have received approval as a Registered Canadian Charity
  2. We have completed the construction of a biosand filter factory
  3. We have developed partnerships to extend our impacts and move to sustainability
  4. We have reinforced and expanded our training
  5. We have supported the creation of sustainable healthy village
  6. We have installed 1542 filters as of the end of September providing clean water to 12,017 users
  7. We have held 122 community meetings which have provided training on proper sanitation and hygiene to 12,596 participants

Please go to our “What’s New” page above  to read more details on the year’s activities.

We have named the new charity Healthy Lives International Society so that we don’t limit our activities and the charity will continue to operate under the trade name of Malawi Water Project.

There is currently a serious health issue in the Chikwawa area which is where our factory is located. Our factory is near a school so every day we have over 100 children coming to get clean water from the filter.

The Malawi Water Project knows how important it is to continue to provide filters and training on proper sanitation and hygiene to protect family members especially children from the devastating effects of cholera.

We thank you for your continued support.

Want to Meet the Inventor of the Biosand Water Filter?

 

You’re invited to an informal Awareness Afternoon to keep you, our valued supporters, informed on the progress of the project over the last year. We have lots to share with you, and don’t forget, lunch is on us!!

Date:  October 29th, 2017

Place: Deer Park United Church, 77 Deer Point Rd. SE. Calgary

Time: 11:30am

Dr. David Manz,
Calgary based inventor of the BioSand Water Filter and cofounder of CAWST (Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology), will join us at the Malawi Water Project Awareness Afternoon for a brief talk and to answer questions about the filter’s development, its effectiveness, and its dissemination around the world.

The original Biosand filter concept was developed during the late 1980s when Dr. Manz was conducting assessments of safe water needs in South Africa and the Philippines. Initial testing at the University of Calgary, Environment Canada, National Water Research Institute and field projects in Chile and Nicaragua in the early 1990s demonstrated the technology’s promise. The Biosand filter demonstration project in Nicaragua became the country’s only cholera-free area.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Biosand filters worldwide. The filter is the key technology used by the Malawi Water Project, and continues to provide access to safe water for many vulnerable families.

 
Please don’t miss this great opportunity to hear from a great thinker, humanitarian and visionary.
http://manzwaterinfo.ca

Hope to see you there!

What’s a Biosand Filter?

September was a busy month for the Malawi Water Project and because it was so busy, I decided to take a second trip this year to lend a hand.

From September 4th to the 13th we held a training session at our new factory in the South. There were 22 eager participants who learned all about construction and maintenance of the biosand filter and all about how to teach proper sanitation and hygiene to villagers in their communities. The training was a refresher course for our existing staff and  new training for others. Everyone was completely engaged the whole time. Our trainers, Tauzen and Gladys, from the Zambia CAWST Water Expertise and Training Centre did a great job keeping everyone interested. Role playing was an important part of the learning experience.

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Learning about the technical aspects of the filter and the correct way to prepare the sand and gravel was a steep learning curve for the new participants.

IMG_3460Organizing the training was not an easy task and Sarah did a great job with a little help from her friends. IMG_3410

After 5 years, we have finally been able to purchase our own vehicle. Her name is Heidi and she is a 2004 Toyota Hilux.  This is Sarah’s special place to view the African sunset and to unwind after a demanding week.

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On a sad note, there have been several villages near our factory experiencing an outbreak of cholera. Doctors Without Borders have arrived and have set up a tent outside of the hospital so that patients are treated in the tent rather than putting patients in the hospital at risk.  The doctors are working non-stop to contain the outbreak.

We are working hard to provide a long term solution by providing household water treatment and by teaching proper sanitation and hygiene.  A success story is the village of Chiromo 2. This village used to experience outbreaks of cholera on a regular basis. After incorporating our instructions on proper sanitation and hygiene and after installing filters in the village, there has not been a case of cholera since 2014.

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These filters are in the process of being constructed. They would not be here without your help. Which one is yours?

2017 Trip to Malawi

This is to let you know about the activities that are happening in Malawi with the Malawi Water Project. Accompanied by my sister, Peggy Beswick, we spent the month of May in Malawi. We joined Sarah Falconer who has been working with the Project since September and visited all three Project areas to see how things are going.

Our first visit was to our North Project where we met with the team members and learned more about villages that are along the shores of Lake Malawi. Because there aren’t roads to the villages, transportation is by boat and because the drilling equipment to drill a borehole is too heavy to carry by boat into the village, they are forced to use the lake water for drinking. The water is contaminated and villagers especially children get sick from drinking it. There are often outbreaks of cholera in these villages.

We went with our team to see one of the villages and give a presentation on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene as well as introduce the biosand filter to the community.

 

Everyone listened intently to the presentation and were excited about the prospect of getting filters in their village. We are partnering with an organization called Luke International who is going to donate funds to construct 5 filters that will be installed in this community. Our team will install and follow-up on the filters to make sure they are working properly and the home owners know how to take care of them.

A Health Committee has been set up in the village to help families create a healthy home environment. Two villagers are going to be chosen to come and receive training at our factory site. These two participants will learn how the filters are made and how they work. They will be the first contact for the villagers when something is not working.

We stayed at the guest house of the Anglican Diocese of Northern Malawi in Mzuzu and met with “Sarah’s Girls”. Sarah has a group of 10 little friends who can’t wait until she comes to see them. Sarah has been teaching them English in the evenings after work and is a positive factor in their lives.

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During our visit with our Central Team, we drove to a village on another lake called Lake Chilwa. Villagers here are also forced to use lake water to drink since the water table has gone down so low that many of the shallow wells do not have water any more.  Two of the team members, a Biosand Implementer and a Community Health Promoter along with our Field Coordinator came with us to follow-up on the filters that were installed about a month ago. This community is using a shallow hand dug well for their water which is very contaminated.

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One of the filters had a block in the vinyl tubing so the flow rate was very slow. Felix, our Biosand Implementer was able to dislodge the blockage with a bicycle pump and the flow rate was back to normal.

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We met a young man who told us that before his family received a filter, he was suffering from serious skin rashes from bathing in the contaminated water. He now uses the filtered water to bathe and his skin has cleared up. He has no more skin problems and he was so happy.

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The chief and his wife who have given us the land to erect the shelter to make the filters are very kind and want to help the Project. The chief’s wife gave Sarah a chitenjay (wrap that is used for a skirt).

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They are happy to have the shelter and have given a room of their house to hold the jerry cans for storage of the filtered water and other supplies for making the filters. The shelter to construct the filters is rudimentary but it does the job until we have the funds to construct a factory like the one we have finished in the South.

We did some water testing and had to work by candlelight as the electricity is so intermittent. We explained the testing and the results to the team who were very interested to see the reduction in the number of ecoli after the water had been filtered.

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Our next adventure was a trip to the South Project to see the completed factory building. Sarah has been overseeing the construction of the building which has taken about 4 ½ months to complete. Definitely a record in Malawi! The building has a work area to construct the filters, a training room, office, kitchen and storage room.

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We had our team meeting in the open work area of the factory and we had a tour of the facility. The team members are so happy to have such a wonderful work area.  There is a lot of potential for the Anglican Diocese to generate a source of funds to be donated to the Malawi Water Project. Some ideas include renting out the training room, supplying lunches at conferences and offering printing services to the public. Lots of ideas are coming from the team and from the Administration at the Diocese on how the building can generate a source of funds  for the Project. These activities will move the Project towards sustainability which is our long term goal.

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The grand opening occurred on the 25th of May and Bishop Kalemba of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi dedicated the new building. A TV reporter and cameraman attended and took pictures of the ceremony. We were pleased to have several dignitaries from the community including 7 Village Headmen, 2 Traditional Authorities (elected leaders of several villages) and representatives from churches in the area including the nearby Mosque. We also had government representatives who work in the area of development and health.

Following the ceremony we drove up the mountain to Chiromo 2, a village that has been working with the Malawi Water Project since 2014.  There was a competition among several villages who are working with the Malawi Water Project and this community won the competition. The village is very clean, filters are well cared for and we viewed one of the  cleanest latrines I have seen in Malawi.

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Certificates were given to 6 community members who consistently used their filters, cared for them properly and had all of the health parameters for a healthy home.

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The village headwoman, Delia Mtonyo received a certificate as well as a bucket with a tap and soap. She has been instrumental in making sure her village is healthy. After the ceremony we sat and talked with her and she was telling us that since 2014 they have been working on keeping their village clean and healthy. She said that her village is about 10 Kms away from the clinic and there used to be cholera outbreaks in her village. Often before villagers could get a person with cholera down the hill to the clinic they would have died on the way. She has eradicated cholera in her village by using the filters and by following the instructions of the team from the Malawi Water Project.

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Everyone loved the drummers and dancers and really laughed at the drama group. The women did an excellent job of traditional dancing and singing. Here we are joining in wearing our chitenjay dresses.

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It was an excellent day and the Dignitaries were impressed. The Project is becoming known which is good, however, we have increased demand for the filters and for our team to help villages create and maintain a healthy environment.

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Our plans for the coming year are to move into more remote communities that are difficult to reach. The transportation costs will increase but it is very crucial for these communities to have access to filters and access to training on proper sanitation and hygiene which is saving lives.