About themalawiproject

A registered Canadian Charity bringing clean water to rural villages in Malawi Africa.

Our Virtual Fundraising Event

In Support of Clean Water

Video Link

Every Charity has a story to tell, and we would love for you to join us to hear about ours, including our adventures into some exciting new areas:

  • Receive an update on our current activities from project founder, Helen Timoffee
  • Hear about our exciting new initiatives
  • Meet some amazing team members, volunteers and beneficiaries
  • View videos showing our activities from the field,
  • Take a virtual tour of our South Facility
  • Hear a message from one of our partners

Unfortunately, though we can’t meet in person, we are truly looking forward to connecting and sharing our story with you virtually

Video Link

Meet Kate

-An Inspiration For All of Us –

Kate, an inspiring 9 year old girl from California, has taught us just how much difference one child can make by deciding to take action. Her story is an amazing example of charity and love for humankind around the world.

While at summer camp, Kate learned about children living in villages in Malawi who are unable to access a source of drinking water near their homes due to broken water wells. She also learned about children having to drink contaminated water, and being constantly sick because of it. Many kids her age would not have thought they had the power to do anything. Not Kate: she didn’t think kids are too young or don’t have enough experience to help create change.  Kate came up with her own way to help children in Malawi who are suffering from water borne diseases.
So what did she do? Kate decided to bake 600 muffins and make bead bracelets to sell to raise money for the Malawi Water Project. For any bakers reading this you know that is no small feat. Kate’s efforts raised an amazing $2200 CAD, which was matched at 15% by ATB Cares, for a total of $2530 CAD, a truly amazing amount for a 9 year old. Kate’s donation will go to help repair boreholes (water wells) in villages and construct and install household Biosand Water Filters.

9 year old Kate baked and sold 600 muffins in support of the Malawi Water Project
Kate is truly a very special girl and an inspiration to all of us. No matter how big or how small and no matter how old or how young, we can all make a difference.   It just takes the desire to help, some creativity, and perseverance, and Kate has shown she has an abundance of all these.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said: Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
On behalf of the many children who now have clean drinking water because of her actions, I would like to convey a big thank you to Kate and her supporters.

From COVID to Boreholes

Keeping Things running During an Epidemic

You can’t keep a good “Team” down.
In April we decided to close our Biosand Filter Production Facilities (factories) due to the COVID-19 threat. After initially going to rural communities to deliver information on COVID-19, teaching proper hand washing and social distancing, we were concerned about spreading the virus amongst our staff and volunteers at the factories as well as the danger of spreading it to the villages.

So much was unknown about the coronavirus and the expectations were that Malawi’s health care system would be completely overwhelmed with people suffering from severe symptoms of the disease caused by the virus. However, the fear of massive numbers of people becoming infected did not materialize, so our teams encouraged us to open the factories and assured us that they could implement the government’s regulations for employers and begin constructing and installing filters once more. All the government rules were implemented and the teams went back to work in May. The number of volunteers at the factories at any one time was reduced. The community information sessions on proper sanitation and hygiene (the event where the filters are introduced) were limited to small groups and organized so that people could social distance.

Filter installation and follow-up resumed with safety measures in place. Below, two members of our team are following up on filters funded by our partner Formidable Joy

New Initiative!!!


Not only have our teams encouraged us to resume most Malawi Water Project activities, they have embarked on a new activity that is badly needed in rural communities. Boreholes (drilled water wells) have broken down and they supply water for hundreds of people.  When they break down, women have to walk much further to get water, which uses up time needed to tend to children, gardens, and animals.

Villagers are unable to repair the wells, usually because they do not have the money. Also, they often have no one who knows how to do the repairs, it is not easy to find a parts supplier, and they do not have transport to get the parts to their village. That’s where we can help.
Fisherman’s Rest, a non-profit organization working with us in the South, has trained our South team to repair boreholes and put us in contact with a local parts supplier.

In the South, we already have a list of at least 15 boreholes in need of repair. Next month we plan to begin the same work in the North as well, and that team is already compiling their needs list.
But none of this is possible without your support!  While the teams’ travel costs to sites vary, a complete set of borehole parts is about 250,000 Malawian Kwacha, ($480 CDN), though not all repairs cost that much. We recently did one where the part was about two dollars. Imagine being able to provide a water source to hundreds of people for a Toonie! We also sign contracts with village borehole committees who agree to pay for the cost of the parts over a 12 month period. This has been quite a successful process implemented by Fisherman’s Rest, who have found that most communities repay the cost.

Your donation can go a long, long way!
If you are able to contribute and assist us, please click below. Any amount will move us toward our goal of providing clean water to rural villages in Malawi.  

What a Difference a 9 year old girl can make


A generous donation of $650 CDN has been made by Kate, a 9 year old girl living in California. Kate learned about the struggle to obtain water in Malawi in her Vacation Bible School session. She has made and sold 600 cupcakes and donated all her profits so that the people of Malawi can have access to clean water. 

The money will go to repairing boreholes so that girls just like Kate don’t have to miss school to travel long distances to a river or creek to bring water for their families. It will help construct and install biosand water filters for families so they don’t have to drink contaminated water and get ill.

Thank you so much Kate, you are truly making a difference.

Our Response to COVID-19

It is a very stressful time for the people of Malawi. In a country that is one of the poorest in the world, there is a great deal of fear among the people in rural communities, especially the elderly. If someone becomes extremely ill, there will not be access to a hospital with oxygen or a ventilator.  In order to try to alleviate some of the fear, the project teams (North and South) went to communities to dispel the many rumours that are going around and disseminate accurate information, along with hand soap

It was a long day for the teams, who worked hard to reach as many villages as they could to deliver soap graciously donated by our partnerFormidable Joy, and laminated posters with pictures and simple instructions in Chichewa (the local language) developed by Tiyamiki Sewing Malawi.
Village Chief receiving posters and soap for his community
The teams, with the help of our community volunteers, managed to distribute 200 posters and 1560 bars of soap among 25 communities just before the planned country lock down that was to occur on Saturday, April 18th. The volunteers, now staying home, will continue to emphasize hand washing, proper hygiene and social distancing in their villages. The volunteers made sure that large groups did not attend the demonstrations, in order to emphasize that villages should not hold large gatherings during this pandemic. 
The type of anti-bacterial soap distributed was particularly appreciated. Dausi, one of our staff, reported that his child no longer has skin rashes. They have cleared up after using the soap. 
Sarah (our volunteer Country Director) and the team spoke about the need for hand washing and demonstrated how germs can cling to hands by using a bowl of water with pepper sprinkled on top. When the Chief put his finger in the water the pepper clung to his finger. After washing his hands with soap, he put his finger in the water and the pepper was repelled. It is a visual way to discuss germs and the importance of hand washing. Everyone who saw it appreciated the demonstration.
The team in the South faced many questions from the villagers, primarily about how best they could help the elderly where there is essentially no access to hospitals. One of the questions was about Traditional African medicine. One of our volunteers admitted that he and his family never go to the hospital and they use Traditional medicine instead. Sarah thought about the question and felt that as long as the medicine isn’t harming their bodies or anyone else, then as far as she was concerned, they need to do what they feel is best to keep their bodies healthy.  Traditional African medicine has been used for generations.
A Village Chief participating in a hand washing demonstration
Everyone was interested in learning how to protect themselves and their families from the virus. 
Staff distributing hand soap
Social distancing was introduced; however, it is going to be very difficult since the dwellings are small, located close together, and families are large. The team did discuss how important it is to try to keep 2 meters apart, emphasizing that if anyone feels sick with a fever or if they have a cough, they need to stay away from others and wash their hands frequently.
To keep our team members safe and to help with the containment of the virus, we have closed both Biosand Filter Production facilities (factories). We have guards staying at the factories to keep them protected from potential intruders. We have just learned that there were demonstrations throughout the country protesting the government mandated lock down. The vendors who would be forced to close their stalls during the lock down are protesting that they would rather have the virus than have their families starve. They cannot feed their families without the income from their stalls and, of course, there is no government assistance for small businesses or anyone else.  At this moment, the government has decided not to implement the lock down.

Doctors and nurses at the government run hospital in Blantyre went on strike because they did not have the personal protective equipment that they needed. People needing medical care were being turned away from the hospital. There is a large maternity ward and expectant moms were not getting food because families were not allowed to go into the hospital to give food to their loved ones. There is a concern that things will get worse as time goes on since there will continue to be a shortage of protective wear. 

Sarah had planned to stay in Malawi during the pandemic but has now decided to return to Canada. Although no commercial flights are operating, the US Embassy has arranged a flight for those who wish to return. There was room on the flight for Sarah and her daughter, Mayamiko, so they were set to fly yesterday to Canada via Washington.
We will continue to do what we can to try and help where we are needed so that people like little Yamikani, her parents and grandparents will stay safe.

2019 – Disaster and Growth

2019 was truly an eventful year for the Malawi Water Project. Unfortunately, in early March, cyclone Idai struck the eastern coast of Mozambique and the southern part of Malawi. Our operations were halted while we provided emergency assistance to the people hit the hardest by the flooding including some of our biosand filter owners, whose mud houses completely collapsed. Attesting to their strength our concrete filters survived and only needed re-installation. Fortunately, our factory was not damaged including our solar panels which thankfully weathered the storm. Sarah our volunteer Country Director worked with the government health authorities to deliver blankets, water buckets, clothes, little clay stoves and food staples to those left homeless by the cyclone.

Sarah was able to act quickly to deliver many items to survivors of the cyclone

The villagers were very thankful for your support which helped them survive until they were able to get back on their feet.

Despite the setback of almost a month for the South Project, we can confidently report to you that the Malawi Water Project is making a significant impact in the health of people living in rural parts of Malawi. Our teams  have now installed over 2600 biosand water filters, providing clean water to over 20,000 people. As well, we have conducted numerous community health meetings which have provided education on proper sanitation and hygiene to over 14,000 people. 

This year our North team installed a number of filters in villages on Lake Malawi. Because there is a cliff behind the villages, borehole (well) drilling equipment cannot be brought by road and it is too heavy to bring by boat. That means that those living on the lake rely on the lake water for everything, including their drinking water.

The  biosand water filter ensures the lake water is clean for drinking and food preparation. That along with practicing proper sanitation and hygiene help the lake communities stay healthy.

Filters are delivered by boat and our team goes out with the filters to install them to teach families how to properly maintain their filter and improve their sanitation and hygiene practices. The filters along with training on sanitation and hygiene have been very effective, especially in those villages that have consistently suffered from outbreaks of cholera.

Delivering filters to a village on the lake that routinely suffers from cholera

Each year we increase the number of filters being produced and installed. The North team needed an expansion to their factory so that they can build filters in the rainy season. That extension is now almost complete.

Extension to the north factory almost finished

We have been able to successfully partner with a number of other organizations in Malawi. These include St. John, International. We worked with them to develop a Guidebook on sanitation and hygiene. We are also partnering with Luke International, a Taiwanese organization, and with Formidable Joy, a USA organization, who are helping to provide Biosand Filters to villagers living near Lake Malawi

This year we were fortunate to have a volunteer from Canada, Tom Smillie, who  visited both the North and South Project areas. He visited families who are part of our program and heard how much of a difference our involvement has made in their lives. Tom was able to meet with the team members and volunteers to thank them for their work.

Tom visiting a village with Sarah and Derlinie our Field Coordinator in the South

On behalf of the beneficiaries, our teams in Malawi, our local agents, and our board members in Canada, I would like to thank you for your kindness and continuous generosity in assisting the Malawi Water Project to help families who are in such need.  We have witnessed the gratitude of the families whose health has been significantly improved because of your caring and concern. YOU are part of the transformation that is truly making a difference.

A special acknowledgement to those of you who have donated through ATB
Cares. ATB Cares has provided a huge benefit in that they do not charge an
administrative fee for handling the donations and we frequently receive an
extra 15% of each donation from ATB Cares. We are not able to know who
made the donation unless you allow your name and comments to be shared. When
making a donation, please make sure your name and comments can be
shared. This information will only be shared with our charity, then I will be able to thank you individually.


Our Youngest Donor….



Donate Now

On his fifth birthday Amadeus, instead of receiving gifts from his friends at his birthday party, asked his friends to donate to the Malawi Water Project. He wanted to help his great aunt Helen make sure children in Malawi have clean water to drink. He raised $30 on his birthday and has donated that amount to the water  project. Not only did he give up his birthday gifts from his friends, he has set an example for other children his age to help others less fortunate. The children in Malawi thank you, Amadeus.

What Are We Doing In Malawi?

Donate Now

How Long Are We Going To Keep Doing This?

…..We Never Thought About Stopping  

So The Answer is “As Long As It Takes”

It will be 10 years on December 9th, 2019  since we sent a container of needed supplies to Malawi. How time flies! Although the container helped many people, their number one concern was the water. Because of water borne diseases adults couldn’t work or start small businesses, children were dying from cholera, dysentery and diarrhea. In December 2011 we started the Malawi Water Project.


This year was full of excitement but also heartbreak.

We were very sad to learn that Esther Mponda, who was herself an orphan at thirteen and responsible for raising 3 younger siblings unfortunately has recently died in her early 40’s. You may have heard me talk about Father Raphael Mponda the young priest who was instrumental in getting our water project off the ground in Malawi. Esther was Raphael’s wife. Her death is a great loss not only for her husband Raphael and their three children but for their community. Esther was very involved in helping others.


What have we accomplished since the Project began?


As of September 2019 we have installed 2,459 filters bringing clean water to 19,668 people.




Our monitoring system allows us to use GPS coordinates to locate each filter.



Along with drinking clean water, it is crucial for villagers to change their behaviour to improve their sanitation and hygiene. Part of our involvement in a village is to teach families how to protect themselves against water borne diseases.



We have held 147 Community Health Meetings enabling us to reach 14,206 people with information on proper sanitation and hygiene.




Currently we are operating in two locations in Malawi, one in the North and one in the South. We have a very enthusiastic team.

Our team has had extensive training on how to properly construct, install and maintain the biosand water filter. They have been taught how to follow-up with every filter and set goals with each household assisting them in changing their behaviour to incorporate proper sanitation and hygiene in their daily routine. We emphasize how important it is to keep accurate records and have taught the team how to use computers.

As part of our team we have a group of very confident young women. It has been proven that as many as 30—50% of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects fail after two to five years. One reason why they fail is that they don’t include increasing the knowledge and training of individuals living in the country and working in the Project.  Excluding women from water, sanitation and hygiene project planning is another key factor.



Our Project follows a system

We determine whether or not we work with a village after meeting with the Village Head or Chief. If he or she is interested in working along side of us we hold a community WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) meeting to explain how dirty water is making their village sick. The team explains how families can improve their village by using proper sanitation and  hygiene practices.

The village Chief assigns a committee of volunteers who work with our team members to go to households and assist with the training on sanitation and hygiene so that the home meets all requirements for a healthy home. The team members show the participants a filter and explain how it works.The villagers sign up if they want to purchase a filter for a nominal fee. It is important that beneficiaries pay something toward their filter. They then have pride of ownership and just like us, they take better care of things they have worked for.


As we all know, changing our behaviour is the most difficult thing for us to do. Our trained staff work along side villagers to teach them how to have a proper clean latrine (pit toilet), how to construct a hand washing station, how to use a dish drying rack and clothes line to disinfect clothes, blankets and dishes. They are taught to dig a rubbish pit and construct a bath house. They are taught how to use a clean designated container for filtered water.

The number of changes we are recommending that the villages make can be overwhelming so it takes time and encouragement to reach all of these  goals. Developing the infrastructure can be costly for the family. Competition can add fun to making the changes.

How do we measure success?

We are committed to sustainability. Sustainability to us means that the villages we are working with will spread their knowledge and inspire other villages to follow their example to improve their health. We also are working hard to increase our partnerships within Malawi.   We are becoming recognized by International organizations. In partnership with St. John Ambulance  we have developed a Guidebook for Volunteers who are working in their villages to improve health, sanitation and hygiene. The Guidebook has been translated into Chichewa and is valuable not only for St. John volunteers but for our volunteers as well.



We are working hand in hand with Luke International which is a non-profit organization supported by the Taiwanese Government to provide biosand filters and training on proper sanitation and hygiene to communities they are working with on Lake Malawi.


Cindee Rood who is the founder of a US Non Government Organization called Formidable Joy has been drilling wells in Malawi. Cindee has purchased filters to go to homes in villages on Lake Malawi where a borehole cannot be drilled.





In Canada Rotary International supports getting clean water to rural villages. We are so grateful to the Centennial Rotary Club of Calgary for their support in getting filters to families in both the North and South Regions.





Thanks to two amazing supporting families, we were able to install solar panels and a sand sorting machine that will not only separate the sand from the gravel that is needed inside of the filter but it will at the same time wash this sand to the correct degree.







The solar system we installed is working well to power the factory and the water well pump. It survived the cyclone in March!!




We were held back this year due to the devastation following cyclone Ida in March which resulted in several homes including some of the homes of our beneficiaries being destroyed. Because the filters are concrete and very strong they survived. If you would like to view a short video clip showing a house that has collapsed in the TA or Traditional Authority of Kasisi click on the picture below.



Sarah, was able to act quickly following the cyclone and was able to gather and deliver items that were badly needed. The south team prepared buckets with maize flour, salt, oil, blankets, clothing and small clay stoves. The items were delivered with the help of the Government Health Services Officer who was aware of the communities most in need.


What’s ahead?

Our future goal is to become a Center of Excellence for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Malawi. We would like to be of service to other organizations who are working in water, sanitation and hygiene. In March we held a Train the Trainer Course  for our Community Health Promoters. It was called Delivering Effective WASH Training.  It was intended to teach our staff how to train volunteers to work with their villages to improve sanitation and hygiene.

Since the training was held, the North team has trained 18 Chiefs who will set up health committees in their villages and will train their health committee members on proper sanitation and hygiene.

The South Team trained  volunteers who will go back to their villages and support their community members on their quest for a healthy village.

New 2020 Added Service: Repairing Existing Water Wells

We are excited to announce that we are increasing our methods of bringing clean water to villages by repairing existing water wells or boreholes.

Many villages have had NGO’s come in and drill a borehole for their community which is so appreciated by all of the villagers, however, often the NGO does not follow-up with the village to make sure their borehole is continuing to work. It is the responsibility of the village to collect funds for parts and labour to repair their borehole. This is not working since it is very difficult for the village to save the money, it is difficult to get transportation to purchase parts and there are not many individuals who know how to repair the boreholes.

In October we trained all of our workers on borehole repair.

Our Field Coordinator in the South reported that the team was so excited because when they go to a village to install filters, often the village does not have a working borehole. Now they will be able to fix it. The plan is for the Chief to sign an agreement on behalf of his or her village to collect the funds for the parts and to pay us back over a year or two depending on the cost. We will also try to connect with the NGO who installed the borehole to ask for help with the costs of labour and transportation.



During the training the team went out to villages with boreholes that were not working. One borehole  at a school was not working for almost a year. Because the trainers had the correct tools, they were able to fix the borehole in 2 hours with a replacement part that cost about $120 CDN. The children were so excited to have water at their school again.




The people of Malawi thank you for your ongoing caring and support. Zikomo!

Thank you so very much to everyone who attended the Information Session on the Malawi Water Project on November 10th. We are most grateful, too, for the generous donations received at the event.

As we had hoped to do, we were fortunate to be able to connect with our volunteer Country Director, Sarah Falconer, via Skype to get a live, up to the moment update on the latest developments in the project. The connection with Malawi is always tenuous at best so we were happy that it was successful.

We were also fortunate to have Tal Woolsey from CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology) attend, share his passion for improving lives through clean water and education, and give us a few words on his perspective after having worked in Africa “on the ground” for many years. He has been instrumental in supporting our Project since its inception.

“There is no passion to be found playing small and settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”           Nelson Mandela



The Adventure Continues – You are Invited!!


Invites you to an information session in support of clean water

On November 10th, 2019

Join us for a video presentation of current activities, get to know our team members in Malawi and connect with a surprise guest live from Malawi (we hope!!!).

Event Details

Information Session and Fundraiser 

Date: November 10th, 2019

Time: 11:30 AM

Place: Deer Park United Church

77 Deer Point Rd. S.E Calgary, AB

Come and hear about the latest Malawi Water Project milestones and join us for free lunch and beverages

The MalawiWaterProject provides clean water to rural villagers by constructing and installing the household biosand water filter and by providing education and training on proper sanitation and hygiene. Come and learn about the impact your support is having on the health of families in rural Malawi, Africa.




Annual Visit to Malawi

A Project Update from Helen Timoffee

Each year usually in May, I travel to visit the Project to give support to the teams and review how things are going. In early May my husband Jerry accompanied me to Malawi to meet with Sarah (our Country Director) and our teams, in order to review the Project and survey the damage done by recent flooding.

Many people in southern Malawi had been affected by the flooding. The water had receded so people were beginning to move back to their villages to start again.  We saw areas where crops were completely washed away and mud huts had collapsed.

The lodge where we were staying in Blantyre also provided accommodation for the UNICEF staff who were responsible for coordination of the flood relief efforts being done by many of the large non-governmental organizations (NGOs). We spoke with the Coordinator of UNICEF who will be in Malawi for the next two months. The NGOs had set up large camps with tents, food and water, as well as, portable toilets.  Now, the challenge for people affected by the flooding is to return to their villages, start rebuilding their homes and replanting their crops.  UNICEF will be closing the camps soon. We met with one of their staff, a structural engineer who is assessing the damage done to schools and other public buildings affected by the floods. It certainly takes a coordinated effort to provide the most effective disaster relief response.

We visited some of the villages affected by the flooding and where Biosand Water Filters had been installed by the Malawi Water Project. These villagers did not live near the camps, so they stayed in their villages and have not had assistance from the large NGOs. It is amazing to see the resilience of these families. They have already replanted their crops and are in the process of rebuilding their houses.  In order to help our beneficiaries get back on their feet, we gave each family a water bucket, a bag of maize flour, cooking oil, salt and sugar as well as a blanket. Our project team will also reinstall or replace their Biosand Filters as needed. The families are very thankful for the help you have given.

I was distressed to see the condition of some of the children in one of these villages. The children had distended tummies (which may be a sign of parasitic worms, or it could be malnutrition). They also had many grey hairs, which does indicate malnutrition. Parents may have received limited education on nutrition because they are far from a clinic or health facility.  Many of the children’s teeth were brown, which is unusual since in Malawi most children’s and adults’ teeth are sparkling white.

One of the highlights of our time with the team was to thank our long term volunteers who have been with us for several years. We gave all of our volunteers a backpack filled with food items, however, we gave bicycles to four of our volunteers who have worked with the team since the beginning of the Project in 2012. They live far away from the factory and walk long distances to come and help sift and wash sand and gravel. They are given lunch and bars of soap when they come. We awarded their hard work with a bicycle which was greatly appreciated by each of them and was encouraging for our new volunteers who have recently joined the Project.

Volunteers sifting sand and gravel to prepare the media to be installed in the filter.





Four Volunteers were presented with bicycles for their hard work and longstanding commitment to the Project.

Jerry worked with Derlinie, our Field Coordinator, reviewing the financial records and receipts.

Filter production at the Project’s South factory was delayed in March because of the flooding. Sarah and the team members were out assessing the conditions of the filters and delivering emergency supplies to families. Everything is back on track now, but there will be a shortage of food in a few months when the current maize runs out and the new crops are not ready to harvest. We have saved some of the funds we received for disaster relief to help provide  food for families when that crises arises.

We have been partnering with other organizations to bring clean water and provide teaching to villagers on proper sanitation and hygiene. One of our joint initiatives was the development of a Guidebook with St. John Malawi. This will be used as a reference by trained staff and volunteers who are working with villagers to improve their health and hygiene.

We are also partnering with Luke International, a Taiwanese organization and with Formidable Joy, a USA organization who are helping to provide filters to villagers living near Lake Malawi. Because of the rocky terrain and lack of access to bring in drilling equipment, it is not possible to drill a borehole so villagers need to use the lake as a source of their drinking water.

Communities that rely on Lake Malawi for their drinking water are in need of filters – as you can see, the lake is used for many purposes.

On behalf of the beneficiaries, our teams in Malawi, our local agents, and our board members in Canada, I would like to thank you for your kindness and for assisting the Malawi Water Project to help families who are in such need. We have witnessed the gratitude of the families whose health has been significantly improved because of your caring and concern.

You are part of the transformation that is truly making a difference