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.