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.
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