Emily, Ben, and I got to celebrate Veterans Day at the Remembrance Day ceremony outside Cobbe Barracks with the 1st Malawi Rifles Battalion in Zomba! We learned a lot about the contributions and sacrifices of Malawian soldiers. I hope you enjoy the article, and please don't forget to hit that share button!
A few weeks ago I accompanied an NGO out into the field to do observe their training program designed to keep girls in school and educate them on the dangers of early marriage, school drop out, pregnancy, and child abuse/neglect. This was a great training to witness! So nice to see people so committed to working with girls here in Malawi to focus on their education! Zikomo, ANPPCAN-Malawi!!
WATERSTEP REFLECTIONS FROM BALAKA, MALAWI
If someone asked me to sum up the last few weeks in one word, that word would be INSPIRED. From the outside, inspiration may not be a word often associated with Malawi, as most news highlights the high rates of corruption, HIV, child marriage, environmental devastation, and grinding poverty. However, if you peer just beneath those cliches you find people who are not victims or complacent to the situations they find themselves. No, rather you find those who strive to build a better station for those around them.
It is just those kinds of people who I found down a rock strewn, dusty, dirt road, winding its way through dry river beds and rural farms in Balaka, Malawi. In this most humble of sites you will find people dedicated to improving the lives of their children. I have had the honor to work with a group of educators and community leaders dedicated to bringing health and hygiene training, improved sanitation, and safe water to the students of the Dziwe Secondary School.
The school itself serves nearly four hundred of the communities' children; almost half of which are girls who live in the compound's dorms during the school year. Also residing on school grounds are the headmaster, teachers, and their families who live in small cottages. Despite unreliable grid power and limited resources, the teachers and staff have worked hard to improve the quality of life of their students. This is evidenced by the previous construction of well-designed latrines, solar panels for classrooms, and the on-going work on an irrigation canal designed to drain pooling water away from school buildings to prevent the spread of malaria.
Led by the school's Headmaster, Mr. John Mizeki, around 20 people from both the Dziwe Secondary School and the local Community Based Organization (CBO) met to receive training and equipment provided to me by WaterStep.
For those who don't know, WaterStep is a Louisville, Kentucky based non-profit organization (NPO) that provides safe water to developing nations and disaster areas through training, and equipment. I have been associated with them for a couple years, and even spent some time in Costa Rica with them installing water purification technology and providing health and hygiene training to rural schools.
WaterStep's Health and Hygiene training is an interactive lesson set that can be tailored to any audience from school children to adults. Here, I trained adults who will later train both the school's students and other individuals who can benefit. By utilizing a training the trainer method I hope the knowledge provided will reach many more people in the area. The group in Balaka consisted of people with varied backgrounds such as science teachers, grounds keepers, treasurers, and the area's chief.
Taught via skits and demonstrations, the class provides simple, cost effective means to reduce disease transmission within the target population. The group first learned about germs, and how they are spread. Following that foundation, I taught how to prevent the spread of disease through washing hands, using surface cleaners, creating fly traps, and other methods. We also discussed how to mitigate health and hygiene problems they are specifically concerned about. Following the classroom session the group performed skits to reinforce the training, a method I borrowed from The NGO Malawi Matters, and we walked around the compound to create a actionable plan to reduce disease.
Next the group learned how to install, operate, and maintain the two pieces of equipment provided by WaterStep, the Bleach Maker, and the M100 Chlorinator.
About the M100 Chlorinator & Bleach Maker
The M100 Chlorinator utilizes salt, and a 12 volt battery (car battery) to purify large volumes of water. I'll do a more detailed post about both the systems later. However, the football sized M100 is more than capable of providing safe water to the entire school. It's an incredible technology!
The Bleach Maker..... makes bleach. That might not sound all that incredible, but using the same salt and car battery from the M100 creates a medical grade bleach in about an hour. This can then be cut with water for general sanitation. Whats more, any excess can be packaged and sold turning the simple machine into an income generator for the school. In fact the headmaster has already found potential buyers.
Before I go forward, it is important to note that to be invested in the project, the school painstakingly, over the course of weeks, raised the money to purchase a battery, battery charger, and containers for the bleach. That's how dedicated they are!
It has been a privilege to work along side such dedicated people from the Headmaster Mizeki to the teachers who will teach health and hygiene to their students, to the staff who will climb a 20 foot tower everyday to chlorinate the tank that provides drinking water to the students. I hope their story leaves you feeling the same as I do.....INSPIRED!!
If you enjoyed this article please like and share on Facebook. As always we welcome your comments.
If you want to learn more about WaterStep and their mission please follow the link to their website
If you want to hear about another organization doing incredible work in Malawi please check out our article Malawi Matters
If you want to hear the story of another dedicated Malawian working to improve peoples lives please follow the link to our interview with Aaron Maluwa
Moni nonse! Did you know that Chichewa, the national language of Malawi, is spoken by over 12 million people across four countries? I've been taking private Chichewa lessons for a month now and I wanted to do a post to talk about my progress and share some of my favorite words and phrases! For friends and family coming to visit, start studying!!
What does a chief in Malawi actually do? What roles do they play in the life of a village? How do they see their work and their position connecting to the broader political structure of Malawi? If you want to know the answers to these questions, go ask a chief! That's exactly what I did and this post is the result!
How far would you go to get an education? Literally. How far? Would you travel miles in the dark? Would you ford dangerous rivers with your books and uniform tied to your head? Would you skip meals for days? Would you sleep under the stars, exposed to wild animals and the weather? What is education worth to you? Read the story of Aaron Maluwa, Director of education programs for the Museums of Malawi, and learn a little more about what it can be like to pursue an education in Malawi. In this post I share Aaron's remarkable story of perseverance and I share a bit about my own experiences with education. The key lesson here is that education is empowering!!
Now that we are finally settled in Zomba, we can do our first blog post from Malawi! Here you can read all about the wonderful organization we've been working with for the past month: Malawi Matters. Learn about the history of the organization, they great work they do, our small role, and see some great photos!
In May I found a way to engage with a project near and dear to my heart: keeping girls in school! I worked with my mom and a great group of ladies from Hopeful Lutheran Church to sew reusable feminine pads that I will be delivering to women leadership working with Malawi Matters. These pads are the literal difference between school and no school for girls across Malawi. What a difference these pads will make! Thanks ladies!