The Training is Finished and the Work has Begun Updated May 2012

What’s New

The training is finished and the work has begun


  • 24 people have been trained. 16 have been trained to give effective presentations on proper sanitation and hygiene and are called Community Health Promoters, 8 of the 24 were trained on the construction, installation and maintenance of the biosand water filter.
  • three sites have been set up in the north, central and south of the country for the operation of the projects.
  • each team consists of at least 2 Community Health Promoters (CHP’s) and at least 2 Biosand Implementers.
  • the CHP’s give presentations to the villages and teach about the importance of clean water, introducing the concept of the biosand water filter. Those villagers who are interested in having a filter are asked to attend a half day information course with the biosand implementer. If they continue to be interested in receiving a filter, they come to help make it or pay towards the cost of the filter.
  • the CHP’s go out to monitor the maintenance and useage of the filters. If there are problems that they can’t fix, the biosand implementers go out to repair the filter.
  • Save Your Pennies for Malawi !

 Since the penny is being taken out of circulation we are asking everyone to save their pennies to purchase more filters for Malawi. Contact Helen at 403-271-5924 or Nancy at 403-278-7506

Details of the Project:


In December we held a training course on water, sanitation and hygiene that was coordinated by Tal Woolsey from CAWST in Calgary ( Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology).  The course was taught by trainers from their Zambia Water Expertise and training Center. It was a 2 week course and covered such topics as harmful bacteria, proper food handling, hand washing, placement of latrines, etc. The intent of the training was for people to learn how to give presentations on proper sanitation and hygiene so much of the training time was spent on presentation skills.

The second part of the course covered the construction, installation and maintenance of the biosand water filter.   Twenty four people in total were trained, approximately 16 were trained as Community Health Promoters responsible for going back to their villages and giving presentations on the material they learned. The biosand implementers were trained to go back to their communities to construct, and install the filters.

During the training Lord Bishop Fanuel Magangani was interviewed by the media. Tal is speaking with a member of the media, describing the training and the biosand filter.

The biosand filter course was intended to teach the techniques of properly constructing, installing and maintaining the concrete filter. It was a hands-on process and several filters were constructed under a temporary shelter.

The biosand implementers learned about construction of the concrete shell as well as how to make the  diffuser plate and lids, sift the sand and gravel to appropriate sizes.

Following the training , three water filter construction sites were established in three areas of the country. The northern site is at the Chiwowa Chisala Demonstration Garden outside of the city of Mzuzu. It is being operated by the Anglican Diocese of Northern Malawi. It is located at the site where we held the training.The second site is at Kalupe village outside of Zomba. It is being operated by the Blantyre Synod Health and Development Commission. The following is a picture of the site where the shelter will be constructed to protect the filters and the media from the elements.

The third site is operating at a health clinic in the village of Mfera in the area of Chikwawa. It is being supervised by Father Raphael Mponda from the Anglican Church in southern Malawi.  This is the shelter that has been constructed at this site.

The programs focus on teaching proper sanitation and hygiene as well as the construction of the bio sand water filter.  Each program has at least two trained Community Health Promoters and at least 2 Biosand Implementers on each team.  The team works together to implement the program.  The Community Health Promoters (CHP’s) interface with the community by setting up training sessions in schools, villages and during community gatherings.  During the presentations, the CHP’s introduce the concept of the biosand filter.  If people are interested in having a filter in their home, they sign up for a half day training session to learn more about the construction of the filter as well as the care and maintenance of it.

Interested individuals come to the site for half a day to meet with the biosand implementers and view the construction of the filter. If they are interested in the filter they either help with the construction of it or pay something toward it. They are also responsible for transporting the filter to their home. This helps to ensure they have a vested interest in their filter and will take care of it once it is in their home.

The CHP’s follow-up with the owners of the filters to make sure the filter is working well and that the owners are caring for it properly.

The rainy season in Malawi begins in December and ends in April. Although there were struggles in getting materials to the sites to construct the shelters, all the shelters are now constructed and production of the filters is occurring.

The greatest challenge occurred in the Chikwawa region where they were hit with major flooding. Villagers lost their homes, their livestock, their latrines and some lost their lives when fishing in the swollen Shire river and were taken by crocodiles.  The Mfera Medical Clinic which is the location of the filter construction site has set up a cholera clinic as a result of the floods. This emphasizes the need to purify the water.

These are pictures of the flooding.

Despite the hardships that have resulted from the flooding, the team in Chikwawa has finished building their shelter and has constructed 18 filters. They are now working on the sand and gravel (media) for inside the filter, the diffuser baskets and lids. The CHP’s have spoken with many groups about proper sanitation and hygiene and 42 chiefs from the surrounding villages have attended a session to learn about community health as well as the construction of the filters.  There is now a waiting list for filters. The only problem that we are having is that the people are telling our team that they can’t afford to pay for the filters. Our teams in the field feel it is very important for people to have a vested interested in their filter. This can happen by paying something toward their filter or helping to construct it. We are working on either reducing the cost or trying to get them to put in some work to make the filter. It is difficult because they are also rebuilding their houses and latrines.

The other two areas are working away at presentations and filters. The Zomba team is currently going out to the villages to monitor the filters and the usage.

I am learning about the culture as we go along. I have found out that the teams are reluctant to tell me if there is a problem. I need to ask them specifically about each component and if there are any issues that we need to address, then I will get information on what is really going on and I can help solve the problem.

I am continually amazed at the strength and perseverance the people have when faced with such adversity.  I really felt that the program in the Chikwawa area would become a low priority while dealing with such devastating problems as losing their homes, their livestock and the most heart wrenching of all, their family members. But they are continuing to attend the presentations and learning about proper sanitation and hygiene as well as about the filters and they are asking for a filter for their home. We have a waiting list of people who need filters.To raise funds for more filters we have decided to launch a “Pennies for Malawi Campaign”.

Since our government is taking the penny out of circulation and when asked what we should do with our pennies, Jim Flaherty said “Give them to a charity”, we decided that this was a good idea and we could ask everyone to save their pennies and other coins for filters.  Nancy Swerhun and I are going to collect pennies and put them toward the“Pennies for Malawi” campaign.  Please let your friends and family members know to save their pennies and any other coins they would like to donate. You can bring them to Deer Park Church at 77 Deer Point Rd or call  Helen at 403-271-5924  or Nancy at 403-278-7506. Thank you for your help with this campaign.  For those of you who are not in Calgary and would like to collect coins for us, please let me know and I will send out the information so that people know who will be collecting pennies.

Down the road we may need to have a penny rolling party!

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