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



Update on Flooding in Malawi


As most of you are probably aware, there have been devastating floods in Malawi and other parts of South Saharan Africa. The flooding in Malawi happened in the area of our South Factory in Chikwawa. Sarah, our Country Director, and Mayamiko, her 6 month old daughter are fine. They are living in the city of Blantyre, which is a 45 minute drive from the factory. Their house is strong, although some leaks have appeared in the ceiling. They have been without hot water and have had very sporadic electricity for 12 days. The flooding has been terrible in the rural villages. The worst hit area was next to the Shire River. Many of the crops were washed away, livestock have been lost and houses constructed of mud or mud bricks as well as latrines have fallen in. One of our staff lost his house. People have died mainly from their mud huts falling on them.

We were fortunate that all of our team members and volunteers are safe but many of our beneficiaries who have received filters have lost their houses. People who have lost their homes are staying at the church near the factory. They have been using our cooking facilities at the factory and we have been supplying some food. Some of the filters in people’s homes have been buried or broken. We will replace those filters.

Below is a video clip of our team pulling a filter out of collapsed house.


Many people have had to construct makeshift shelters until they can rebuild their houses.


Most people who still have filters are sharing their filters with neighbours. There is a concern that there will be an outbreak of cholera, so the filters that are still working will be crucial.

Sarah has received donations from local Malawians to purchase supplies and purchased buckets with 5KGs of maize, mbala’s (little cast iron stoves), blankets, clothes, etc. She has distributed the supplies with the Government Environmental Disaster worker to a community that was devastated by the flooding. The day I spoke with her she was exhausted.

Many disaster relief organizations are mobilizing. Large camps have been set up. After the emergency response is complete, the greater need will be to help people rebuild their houses and re-plant their crops. They will have to wait 3 months for the maize to be harvested. There will be a food shortage before their crops can be harvested. Already there is a shortage of maize to purchase.

The neighbouring country of Mozambique was hit extremely hard by cyclone Idai and our thoughts and prayers are with those so terribly affected. A large camp has been set up in southern Malawi near the Mozambique border. We will continue to do what we can in the villages we are currently working with.

We will be able to help our beneficiaries by replacing some of the items they have lost, such as their filters, water containers, buckets, blankets, clothes, mosquito nets and emergency food.

If you would like to assist please click here  and enter Heathy Lives International or Malawi Water Project. Please indicate disaster assistance in the “Add a Comment” section. Any funds you can provide will help families survive this terrible disaster.






Best Wishes for 2019


Our Project Team in Malawi and our Volunteer Management Team in Canada would like to wish you and your family a healthy, happy and prosperous new year.

Thank you to all of our donors and volunteers for a most successful year, making a huge difference in the lives of families in rural Malawi who now are drinking clean water.


woman with filter

We have great news, too!  We reached our $10,000 matching donation that was announced earlier in December.  This gift and all your other generous support have helped make diseases caused by contaminated water a thing of the past for the families we have served.

And in case you haven’t heard, the Malawi Water Project has now installed over 2050 Biosand Water Filters, providing clean water to 14,700 people!

As well, we have conducted numerous community health meetings which have provided education on proper sanitation and hygiene to nearly 13,700 people.

wash training

We are excited about new opportunities to provide biosand water filters to villagers in more remote areas of Malawi and to provide training to families who are anxious to learn about proper sanitation and hygiene.  Stay tuned for updates on our activities in 2019!


Zikomo Kwambiri ~ Thank You



Wonderful News! 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 joined a WASH(Water Sanitation and Hygiene) cluster of non-government and government officials working toward eliminating potentially deadly cholera in targeted villages. There have been 784 cases of cholera with 27 deaths in Malawi in 2018.  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 separated from the general hospital population, with no air conditioning in 45 degree weather.

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.


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 just 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.


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

Fun at the Music for Malawi Concert


Current News November 2018

Another fun and successful event for the Malawi Water Project occurred on November 3rd, 2018. With great music coordinated by our musical director Louise Forsyth, we enjoyed an evening filled with a variety of musical entertainment.



The Spirit Singers entertained us with a variety of uplifting songs and several soloists in the group performed passionate selections.



Our musical performers included renowned Calgary folk singer Barry Luft and a new a cappella group on the Calgary music scene known as Conchord.



The food, wine and silent auction provided a fun time during intermission. Thank you to  Darlene Kemp and Bernadette O’Connor for their work on the silent auction. The food and hall arrangement done by Nancy Swerhun, Andrea Collins and Teana Pickles couldn’t have been better.



The wine and beverages were well tended by Onyema, Tito and Craig.



Our volunteers did a fantastic job explaining the functioning of the biosand water filter and taking donations from all of our faithful supporters.



Gerry Simon kept things moving as our Master of Ceremonies and Sarah Falconer who has been our country manager in Malawi for the past two and a half years provided us with an explanation of the hardships and joys of living in a rural village in Malawi.



Photos are courtesy of Richard Betts photography. Check out his amazing work at 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 8.42.04 AM

From our management team in Canada

Thank you to all of the performers, volunteers and donors who supported this event.  The support means such a great deal to the families who benefit from clean water which reduces illness and improves productivity and enjoyment of life for thousands of villagers living in rural Malawi.


You Are Invited !

Music for Malawi Concert

Sneak preview of  fantastic silent auction items here


Picture of Microphone

What do Music, Wine and Water Have in Common?

They are all happening at
Music For Malawi

 A concert in support of clean water 

Music staff

Join us in supporting the work being done in Malawi by coming out to see “Musical Friends of the Malawi Water Project”  perform a variety of music for you to enjoy. Our artists include folk singer Barry Luft, A capella group Conchord and other noteworthy performers. 

Enjoy listening to live music, have a glass of wine or other beverage, cheese and desserts and bid on fantastic silent auction items. Go to Sneak Preview above to view some of these auction items.

Adults:         $30 Saturday Deer Park United Church
Under 13:    Free November 3, 2018 77 Deer Point Rd. SE.
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Calgary, AB


Our goal is to improve health and alleviate suffering by teaching villagers in Malawi about sanitation and hygiene, providing them with biosand water filters and training them on filter building and use.


Bring your family and friends for an inspiring, enlightening and fun evening to help support this project.


“Providing Clean Water, Saving Lives”

May 2018 Trip to Malawi


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.



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.