MAY 2018 Trip to Malawi
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
The filters are working well and flow rates are good. The villagers had dug rubbish pits and latrines.
They are using dish drying racks and handwashing stations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The year began positively with our Project fully staffed with trained, enthusiastic team members ready to make a difference. We are concentrating our resources in remote areas of Malawi in the North and South of the country.
Our statistics as of the end of December, 2017 are as follows:
- We have installed and followed-up on 1675 filters providing clean water to over 13,000 users
- We have held 124 community meetings which have provided training on proper sanitation and hygiene to 12,700 participants.
In February we hosted the African Biosand Implementers Network conference at our factory and training room in southern Malawi. There were 21 attendees who came from 8 different East African countries and Canada. All members are actively working on Projects that are constructing and installing the biosand filter.
It was an enjoyable event and everyone learned from each other.
Well, 2017 has been a very active year for the Malawi Water Project. Here are some of the accomplishments.
- We have received approval as a Registered Canadian Charity
- We have completed the construction of a biosand filter factory
- We have developed partnerships to extend our impacts and move to sustainability
- We have reinforced and expanded our training
- We have supported the creation of sustainable healthy villages
- We have installed 1542 filters as of the end of September providing clean water to 12,017 users
- We have held 122 community meetings which have provided training on proper sanitation and hygiene to 12,596 participants
In January 2017, we incorporated an independent society and were approved by the Canada Revenue Agency as a Registered Canadian Charity. This enables us to reduce the administrative burden the Malawi Water Project places on Deer Park Church volunteers and allows for donations from potential donors, often corporate, who are prohibited from donating to religious organizations.
We have named the new charity Healthy Lives International Society so that we don’t limit our activities and it will continue to operate under the trade name of Malawi Water Project. Donations can be made directly to the Malawi Water Project under the new organization or, as before, through Deer Park United Church.
This year I travelled to Malawi twice. Once in May with my sister Peggy and the second time in September on my own.
While there, I was able to work directly with a volunteer who has been living in a village in southern Malawi and working hard for the Project for the past year. Her name is Sarah Falconer, and we are very fortunate to have her.
One of Sarah’s many accomplishments was management of the complicated task of building a factory dedicated to biosand filter construction. This factory is a huge benefit to the Project because it will increase filter production.
Sarah has also been instrumental in establishing 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. Again, building partnerships to expand our impact, we also included three staff from a nearby organization involved in teaching community health promotion.
Life in the cities in Malawi is improving and a middle class is developing; however, life in the villages has become more difficult. Extreme weather patterns have resulted in more severe droughts and flooding. The need for firewood to cook and boil water has resulted in large trees being cut down and erosion is the result. When these disasters happen there is very little food to eat. A staple food for all villagers is a porridge made from maize flour.
There is an ongoing lack of government resources for schools. 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.
Medical services are minimal. Death is so common. I saw a young man lying dead on the side of the road. No signs of violence. People were waiting for an ambulance to come which could take hours.
There is currently a serious health issue in the Chikwawa area which is where our factory is located. There have been sixteen cases of cholera reported and the number is rising. Medical staff from Doctors Without Borders are working day and night to contain the outbreak. They have erected a tent outside of the hospital to treat patients.
As a result of the outbreak, we have been asked to attend emergency government meetings to present on the biosand filters. There are routinely cholera outbreaks in various areas of Chikwawa. We have been vocal in telling local health units that they need to focus on long term solutions not only react when emergency situations arise.
We have described a village to them that has worked hard to become cholera free. Delia Mtonyo is the Headwoman in her village.
Delia talked to us about how her heart would break every time cholera would hit the village. People would get ill, especially children. By the time the villagers had carried the person 10 kilometers down the mountain to the clinic, they would have died. Mothers had children die in their arms. Delia did not want her village to go through that ever again. She 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. We delivered 16 filters to various homes. Those 16 filters are providing clean water to 200 villagers. Because of the culture of sharing, 16 filters are enough for the community they know how important it is to use them every day. We have trained community health volunteers to support their neighbors in creating a healthy home.The village began work on changing their behavior and their environment such as using clean pit toilets 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.
On behalf of Delia and all of the chiefs who are leading the way for their villages to become healthy environments and all of the people, especially the children who are benefitting, I would sincerely like to thank you for your ongoing support
Our May 2016 trip was extremely busy but very satisfying in that we dealt with many administrative issues, training needs and follow-up of the Project.
My daughter Karen and I visited the three project areas and then held a training session for our Field Coordinators.
We met with the Administrators of each of the Project areas and went through the budgets as well as the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed with each of them. We have also signed Letters of Expectations so that everyone is clear on their responsibilities.
We introduced a new tool to help with the monitoring and evaluation of their project areas. It is called the Kobo Toolbox and is an application that is used by many larger NGO’s to record data in the field and works especially well in remote areas that do not have internet access. We have supplied Samsung tablets to each team member so that they can complete the forms on the tablet and once they connect to the internet the information goes directly to Canada.
We have developed questionaires specific to our Project that are completed by our Biosand Filter Implementers and by our Community Health Promoters when they are visiting a beneficiary of the filter and when they are working with a family on teaching proper sanitation and hygiene techniques.
The Kobo Toolbox application has GPS as well as picture taking capability. The first reports are coming to us and it is wonderful to see the information completed along with the location of the filters on Google Maps accompanied by a picture of the family.
Another new dimension that we added to the Project was water testing. We took a field kit with us to test water for contaminants and showed each of the Field Coordinators how to use the kits. We left the kit with the south team and will have two more sent to the other two teams so they can begin testing water.
We also went out to the construction sites to follow-up on the work the teams are doing in the field and we visited beneficiaries who were very pleased with their filters and who are trying very hard to meet all of the requirements for a healthy home.
We were pleased to learn that so many families have been helped to stay healthy and are very grateful for our assistance.