An Update

Lucan Newsletter: June 28, 2009

A woman said to me this morning: ye don’t seem to be doing anything in Malawi these days!!.

Having convinced her to the contrary, I decided to write a little note.

Our main focus is still on the provision of clean drinking water and to this end we are making pumps in our temporary factory since October at a rate of about 10 per week. They cost about 30 euro and can supply clean water, to a village of about 150 people. We hope to begin building the permanent factory next week, now that we have finally got planning permission. We have just begun a programme of replacing in excess of 200 failed and broken pumps installed by others over the years. New wells are dug at the end of the dry season in October.
Our programme of dam building and irrigation continues as the villagers teach each other to build the most rudimentary, but effective of structures, adding fish ponds as they go.

Our six acre model garden is booming (and blooming). The idea was to research appropriate, open pollinated, vegetable seeds from globally appropriate areas, to see when and how they would grow and encourage local farmers to adopt them. The type and variety varies, but last time I counted, we had 79 varieties of plant. These are all grown using green manure and compost and we control pests with brews of local plants including tobacco!! researching as we go. We don’t use any artificial fertilizer or chemical pesticides. All work is carried out by 12 men and women employees, few of whom have any formal education. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way and what they have achieved in a year and a half is staggering.
Another part of the programme involves the production of improved variety fruit tree seedlings by budding and grafting, including pears and apples from Seed Savers in Scariff, Co Clare. Now that we have something to show, we offer farmers an opportunity to come and stay in our new hostel, learn how we do things, cook and eat what’s available and bring seeds and seedlings home. We are excited that Malawians can teach their neighbours.

Our school programme is developing; we have finished our seventh primary classroom, done some teacher training and provided loads of books and equipment, donated by schools here. Whereas our initial focus was narrow we now find ourselves involved in meeting the needs of the people we work with. In February we opened a two classroom facility for orphan day care in the most deprived area of Mzuzu. We now have up to 250 little ones attending where we provide one meal daily which may be the only food most of them get. Our Malawian partners had agreed to run it, but without money we were left to fill the gap. Mary took on 8 employees in May, did three week’s training and Árus Kate is flying.
Our latest venture is a remote, rural birthing centre. In one of our areas we found a midwife with about 10 clients per month, bringing life into the world in a building which would be demolished by even the most moderate animal rights activist. A leaking thatched roof, a concrete bed, no light, no water, no painkillers, no gloves, no aprons….. You couldn’t imagine how horrific this is; our cattle are treated better, and you thought hospital trolleys were bad!
These are amazing women, illiterate but intelligent, proud and hard working, capable but deprived. They don’t want our handouts, which have robbed them of their dignity but they do need our help. We are in the process of constructing a new building, which will be approved by Mzuzu Central Hospital, who have agreed to send an ambulance for emergency cases.

Last year we hit up a relationship with DIT, when 10 students came out to volunteer at Easter for two weeks. They were real volunteers, paid their own way and worked hard and made a little financial contribution to the projects. What we ask all our volunteers is to work with the people, journey with them, but always try to Inspire, Educate and Challenge, something they certainly did. The seventeen who came this Easter followed the amazing example and we couldn’t be more proud of them. Our young people are so confident, competent, loving, generous and observant. As Business students, we asked them to be analytical and critical and we have learned so much from them. The real plus is that we have a third year Business and Accounting student, Liam Stewart, from Cavan, doing his 6 month placement, from DIT, out in Mzuzu at the moment and he is a revelation.

We have also been adopted by the Blackrock College Outreach programme for the second year. This year the number has gone to 76 and they come in two groups for two weeks each to work with the poorest rural villagers. Last year they were truly amazing, they were straight into action once they arrived and as young men were a true inspiration to the youths of their own age who had never seen white people doing manual work before. Young people who give up two weeks of holiday time after their LC results, when most of their counterparts are enjoying the pleasures on the med are to be loudly applauded.
Having spent 8 weeks in Malawi so far this year, we leave on July 21, for 8 more and will finish with another month in November.

So we haven’t given up yet!!
Our website, usually updated daily is: http://www.wellsforzoe.org

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