Mary’s interview on Radio na Gaeltachta: (Irish Language)

Rónánbeo@3: Dé hAoine 14 Samhain 2008

Mary Coyne ag cur síos ar an gcumann carthanacht “Wells for Zoë” a bhunaigh sí fhéin agus a fear céile John sa bhliain 2005, le huisce glan sábháilte a chur ar fáil do phobail i dTuaisceart Malawi san Afraic & ar an dlúthdhiosca úr atá foilsithe acu don eagraíocht.

Mary Coyne talks to Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí (the presenter of ‘Rónán Beo @ 3’) of RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on 14th Nov 2008 about Wells for Zoë and the new cd ‘Wells for Zoë – Water of Life’. He played the Michael McGoldrick track ‘Watermans’ from the cd. He had also played the Éamonn Coyne and Kris Drever track ‘Lakeside Barndances’ the day before. Thanks Rónán! Maith Thú!<a

Heidi Talbot the girl from Kill

imagesAs with Karine, I still haven’t met Heidi, but I did see and hear her sing in Boston and thought she was a real cutie, and that was only her voice, which is a most wonderful instrument, I just love it.
I’ll shut up and let people who know those things have a say.

“Heidi Talbot sings in a voice that’s both awestruck and tender” (New York Times)

“Talbot is exquisite. . .Björk combined with Enya” (Village Voice)

Look out for a new star in the glittering firmament of great Irish singers: with the release of her new album In Love and Light, Heidi Talbot is truly set to shine. Already well known to US audiences as lead singer with the Irish-American supergroup Cherish the Ladies.
From the Scottish traditional ballad ‘Glenlogie’ to the vintage Ink Spots hit ‘Whispering Grass’; Tom Waits’ bittersweet classic ‘Time’ to an old parlour hymn, ‘When they ring the  Golden Bells’, In Love and Light draws from the full, diverse spectrum of influences that inform Talbot’s exquisitely expressive, honeyed yet ardent singing. Complemented here by the likes of Eddi Reader, ex-Solas guitarist John Doyle, fiddler John McCusker and flute/whistle ace Mike McGoldrick, it’s a voice that’s drawn comparisons as varied as Norah Jones and Alison Krauss, Lucinda Williams and Mindy Smith, but which could only have emerged from Talbot’s own particular talents and background.

“Talbot brought the crowd to silence” (Boston Globe)

Heidi Talbot

Heidi Talbot

Growing up in the rural village of Kill, Co. Kildare, Talbot sang in the church choir run by her mother, Rosaleen, meanwhile absorbing the vibrant array of music that filled the family home. “I’m the middle of nine children, it wasn’t like I had loads of money to buy my own tapes and CDs,” she recalls. “I would mostly have heard what everyone else was listening to, whatever was playing in the house. With my Mum, it was Nana Mouskouri and Dolly Parton, but then there’d be Guns’n’Roses and the Pogues coming from my brothers’ bedroom – just a bit of everything, really.”
Whatever the style, Talbot always knew she was born to sing. “I used to get into trouble in school for playing gigs – I remember the headmaster giving out to me because he’d seen my name in the paper for a pub gig, and I hadn’t come to school the next day, so he told me off and said I had to sort myself out, get my priorities straight.”
At sixteen, Talbot enrolled at Dublin’s celebrated Bel Canto singing school, studying for the next year and a half under its founder and director Frank Merriman – “the best teacher in the universe,” according to Sinead O’Connor, another former student. Adapting the classical bel canto technique, mainly associated with opera singers like Maria Callas, for vocalists of any style, Merriman’s method – also known as “bel canto storytelling” – focuses on using the voice as naturally as possible to communicate a song’s narrative elements, teaching that certainly tells in Talbot’s intuitive, eloquent phrasing.

“Ms Talbot is one of the most generous musicians I know. I love the way she sings and she loves what she does. She is CLASS!” (Eddi Reader)

“from the first note she hits, one gets the sort of hair-rising goose bumps that only come along every so often” (PopMatters)

“Sheer, unadulterated class” (Isle of Wight Press)

“the impossibly lovely voice of Heidi Talbot” (All Music Guide)

I found this interview with Heidi on Spiral Earth

Karine on Spiral Earth

Karine Polwart – Another free download and wonderful charity CD

A few of you might have heard Karine’s song “Well For Zoe” at a live show or in its demo form as a free download from her site. It’s now graced by the resonant vocals of the wonderful bluegrass singer/multi-instrumentalist Tim O’Brien and the superb fiddling of Stuart Duncan and available free from –

The song opens a new CD on Nashville based Compass Records in aid of Irish-Malawian rural water development organisation WELLS FOR ZOE The CD features tracks also from Sinead O’Connor, Crooked Still, Paul Brady, Salsa Celtica, Heidi Talbot, Kris Drever and others.

Check for details with the link. It’s all in a good cause!

Orphan Day Care Centre

some of the 200

some of the 200

Light Airy Building

Light Airy Building

Orphan Care (from early October)

Up to now we have avoided things like HIV / AIDS and Orphan care because the world is already spending millions already and one assumes that serious progress is being made. (Now comes the however)!!
However in recent times our views have changed and we now feel we can support the communities, where we work, by applying low cost community to community support.
Our orphan care in villages involves supporting the carers, schools and communities by enabling them to produce more appropriate foods for their diet thereby allowing the ARV’s to work more efficiently. This approach leaves the children in their community, allows them to retain their land rights and supports their community as well. In this way orphans prove to be an asset rather than a liability.
The long term plans for the site are to include a two classroom day care centre, a little enterprise centre for anyone with business ideas, a night shelter for the women and children who inevitably will be chased, a small garden, a well for water.
Depending on the support we get, we could have an early start nursery school, with paid staff, up to date, appropriate books, and better food for the children.
We are told that the women support all this work at the moment from a honey business: they have about 50 hives in the forest about 60km away, collecting and selling the honey and making candles from the wax.
Improved extraction methods and a little simple technology will help with efficiency and profit. So, as they say, we are on it!!!. All our work will be for the community not the group and Naturally we will monitor the integrity of the group, and if we find that they have been dishonest, we are out of there as quickly as we cameEstimates of the orphan population in Malawi range between 950,000 and 1.2 million children under 18 who have lost one or both parents. At the present time it is estimated that less than one-third of these children receive any supportive care from public or NGO social services.
These figures are bewildering and make little sense, but when you see one or two hundred hungry kids, close up, then, you have a real dilemma. So don’t just feel guilty, do something about it. But for an accident of birth, they could be yours.

What we try: Submission to a Government Report on Malawi

Another view of what we do

Wells for Zoë - logo

Wells for Zoë - logo

Wells for Zoe (CHY 17275)
We have been a registered NGO in Malawi since May 2008.
We’ve been working in Northern Malawi since June 2006;
We don’t do charity or aid.
We believe in a hand-up without handouts and that inspiration is more valuable than charity.
Our focus is on the provision of clean drinking water, using hand-dug wells and a low cost, low tech, sustainable, PVC hand pump. (Canzee pump costs 35€ and delivers 20L/Minute from 25 M deep)
We can provide clean water for life to a person for 1 euro.
We work in rural areas within 50 km of Mzuzu. (submission relates only to this area)
We are trying a “trickle-up” approach.
All of our planning and training happens on the spot, in the fields.
Our office is still mobile, Skype and Google Earth are excellent.
The founders pay all expenses, so there are no donor issues on administration costs.
Our programmes include, water pump manufacture and installation, water storage, irrigation, a seed bank, fruit tree propagation, a model garden, a model farm,
a 0% interest micro-credit scheme,
a compost-making and green manure system,
chicken rearing, a few fish tanks, school building,
tree planting, marketing, orphan day care, beekeeping and honey processing.

We work in about 40 villages, have 26 employees, half are full-time, none are white, most are illiterate and 70% are women.

Northern Malawi
Northern Malawi is about 30% of the area of the country, with 12% of the population. (give or take)
A typical village can have, maybe ten related families, living in thatched mud huts, scraping by on what might be called subsistence agriculture.
The staple diet is nsima, a maize flour.
They also grow beans, pumpkins, cassava, tomato and potato. (small quantities).
There is never enough food, so there is a hungry season every year.
Tobacco is a cash crop, with high fertilizer and labour requirements. If the price is high, there is less land for maize.
There is little generational, agricultural knowledge about food other than maize, which is grown, once a year, in the rainy season. Such is the depletion of the land that maize fails without chemical fertilizer.
(The subsidy scheme has problems with corruption and only about half the subsidised fertilizer goes to the poorest farmers.
1 extra kg of fertilizer gives 3 extra kg of maize
1Kg of Fertilizer = 200Kw or 18Kw subsidised: 3Kg of Maize = 150 Kw from ADMARC
(Chemical fertilizer is finite in quantity and the cost is related on oil price and availability.)
There is one rainy season per year but water is rarely stored.
Seed varieties are few and expensive. They don’t save seeds. Shops only sell hybrids.
There are few cattle. Donkeys or horses are rare.
Almost all cultivation is done by women, by hand.
Wives are paid for, and so are expected to collect all water and firewood, have up to 10 babies to care for, and in between are responsible for all the food, from seed to plate.
Corruption is an issue.

The Issues as we find them (for us)
Access to clean water:

The problem: Water can often be a smelly, disease-infested liquid.
Women walk for miles get it,
Girls stay out of school to collect and carry it.
Broken pumps, incapable of village level maintenance,(are everywhere)
and dropping water tables.
(the most common pumps we find, have high failure rates, can’t be fixed locally and have a limiting depth of about 6 or 7 metres)

The solution: It’s simple in Northern Malawi: Dig and build a well. Install a Canzee pump. We supply cement and the pump, the villagers do the rest. Total cost €35 for the pump, €65 for the cement: €100 for 100 people.

Water Storage

The problem: One rainy season, no water stored.

The Solution: Build simple earthen dams, at no cost, except the labour . Store enough water for the period from June to November.
Use no cost, earthen irrigation channels to distribute water.
Use the neglected dambo (swamp) land, and get 2 extra crops per year.
Problem: Vegetable seeds are scarce and expensive.

Solution: We bought 6 acres of land, set up a seed saving farm to research new, open pollinated plants, (from Scariff to Santiago).
We save seeds, give them to farmers, teach them to do the same.
The Irish Seed Savers organisation are helping us, and we’re all retaining diversity.

Problem: The land we work with is seriously depleted and totally dependant on chemical fertilizer, which is expensive even when subsidised, scarce, beyond the reach of most poor farmers, (Its continued use further depletes the organic soil)

Solution: Again it’s a simple one: a combination of compost and green manure. Our programme includes a campaign on both. To encourage this we have a carrot and stick approach: no micro credit, if you don’t and some specific fertilizers containing P and K, if you do. The legumes provide ground cover, weed suppression, water retention, and help with erosion. We avoid weedkiller and pesticide. (Using planting)
Problem: Deforestation means that women and children have to walk miles to find and carry firewood.
Solution: We encourage and train villagers to grow their own seedlings, and have their own trees
Last November we started fruit tree propagation by grafting and budding on the farm, and as they are ready we give them to families and teach them how to look after them. (We of course take cuttings or seed in return!! We recently brought Irish apple and pear rootstock courtesy of ISS, and await developments.
In July we have a volunteer, expert on soft fruit, from Dundee, coming for a month to help out.)
We have two potential oil sources, Moringa and Jatropha trees, which grow in marginal soils. The prospects look good.

Problem: Knowledge of simple agricultural and irrigation techniques is lacking in rural communities.(and basic technologies are unavailable)
Solution: In August, we will begin building a residential Agricultural and Technical college (Loose terms) for illiterate women (and a few good men) so that Malawians, who have learned, can pass on their skills. (Not monuments to our ego)

Micro credit

Problem: Having no money or no access to credit is a big hindrance to development. Having to pay 50% interest is a crime. (Even the micro Credit groups in Malawi can charge up to 25%)

Solution: We have introduced a zero interest micro credit scheme, mainly for chicken and fish rearing and business startups. (Applies to everything)
It’s a cooperative venture in villages, where all the members are responsible for repayment. (Repayment so far is 100%)


Problem: Rural primary schools have to be seen…….. They can lack walls, roofs, floors, furniture books, copies…
Solution: Our first venture in school building inspired a community to build a 3 classroom school in two weeks. It cost €2700 for 300 children.

We recently sent out 5000, used, special education books, to make a start. My wife, Mary has begun a programme of, on the job, teacher training. (38 years teaching experience, deputy principal, 20 years special Ed, Designer of programme for Dept Ed, Lecturer in Urban Education in TCD for 9 years)


Problem: Rural people have little or no sense of how to rescue their own lives: they have arrived at a kind of learned dependency, they wait for the Government or the Aid worker to tell them what to do, and they often die waiting.
Solution: We don’t do aid, we give a hand up rather than a hand out. They get all inputs on long term micro credit and achieve the dignity of ownership. We feel inspiration is much more powerful than charity.
We try and put them on the road to helping themselves
We say, don’t wait, if aid comes take it, otherwise keep with the programme.

At Easter we had a group of 10 DIT students, who made a big impression and were inspirational. In August a group of 66 post Leaving Cert Blackrock College students, parents and teachers coming out to meet and stand by the people we work with.
Visitors and volunteers pay their way and make whatever contribution they can, if any, always keeping in mind inspiration, education and challenge.
No money collected from the public can, in any way pay for their trip.

Problem: When I began my quest for information on water in Malawi, I spent 6 months of intense emailing to agencies with water programmes and others.
It was as if they had all signed the official secrets act.
No help, no information and a few even suggested that I should give them my money and leave it to the professionals. (3 years later I realise aid is a big business with a huge turnover and highly paid executives, with their boards, strategies, and large advertising budgets. I also know that the people who care are everywhere to be found but they’re hard to locate). Poverty seems to be good to everyone except the poor
Solution: I answer maybe 40 emails a week, passing on anything I have learned about Malawi: the climate, water pumps, well logs, altitudes, rainfall, seeds and whatever.
We co-operate with about 20 organisations, from St John of God’s, Br Aidan Clohessy, who gave us assistance, vehicles, staff, advice and of course accommodation up to and including this summer. (we are building accommodation beside their new student accommodation: they have first world facilities and are an example to all))
We work with Fr John Ryan, Professor of Maths at the University, another amazing Tipp man, who we discovered through Johanna Fitzpatrick who, with her family runs what we call our sister organisation, Small Change; she came all the way from Cork today for support, and is in the gallery. (We began working with some of the same people, at the same time: now we’re doing great work together with Fr John).
We support CCAP (Presbytarian Church of Central Africa), by modifying and fixing their pumps and hopefully selling them 500 new pumps next year.
We work with and partner: CADECOM, Mzuzu Dioscse, (MW)
SIFAT, Servants in Faith and Technology (USA)
Chapin Living Water, Drip Irrigation (USA)
Seed Programs Inc, Seed ( USA)
Cranfield University (Dr Richard Carter) (UK)
Mzimba District Commission, (MW)
Small Change (Fitzpatrick Family) (Cork)
Every Home Global Concern (AU)
Seeds of Hope (USA)
UNGUERE Project Mzuzu (MW)
Mzuzu University, Forestry Dept (MW)
Land Resource Centre, Lilongwe (MW)
Seed Savers (Scariff, Co Clare)
Ripple Africa (UK)
Mbawemi Women’s Group (MW)

Northern Malawi needs a Revolution. (A very Green one)
Any solution to our problems (in Northern Malawi) must be conceived, designed, structured and implemented by the rural poor.
They must be allowed to build on what they have.
What they need from us are, options from friends, rather than agendas from commercial opportunists.
Water management and irrigation should be the foundation.
Chemical-based agricultural inputs need to be critically analysed in terms of cost and ecological impact. (they failed on both fronts in the first green Revolution)
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to our agricultural problems.

Poor farmers should be supported to achieve self-sufficiency at the farm level through ecologically sound farming methods. (and livestock production), and not be driven by market forces.

Local trade in farm surplus should a priority, while indigenous crops should be heavily promoted.

We think of it as a trickle up policy. (Food secure people may become producers)

Finally, why is there always a rush for the cash crop when the rural poor are all hungry?.

What would help us?
Current databases, kept up to date,
• of small, voluntary groups and individuals working in Northern Malawi. Networking.
• of projects, their content, locations, scale and who to contact. (Projects start and disappear as quickly, run out of funds…)
• of Government projects on water, irrigation and organic farming and a letter from the Ministry to enable us to see them.
• of individuals (Volunteers), anywhere, who could advise, for free.
• of agricultural, forestry and fishery research locations.

• Information: a website maybe, for Malawi would be great, showing what’s happening, how public money is helping the poor. Could it be set up in Malawi, employing Malawians, with their success stories.

• Importation of pump making materials is proving difficult and expensive. Tax and Bureauracy
• Late this year we will begin building on a site beside Coca Cola. We start with the pump factory and units for school furniture and an innovative cooking stove. Inputs may help

The Last word
Malawi is, probably, the most aided country in the world, but it’s hard to see the benefit of 40 odd years of donor aid, when you’re in a village.
Small sums of money in Northern Malawi, can effect great change, if it can be somehow, strategically placed with the poor themselves, as micro credit, maybe.
What we do in W4Z isn’t sexy nor does it create front page news, but it is effective. ( For us it’s no more than a small start)
It includes, educates and inspires poor, remote, illiterate people.
It starts with what they know and builds on what they have.
We wont judge success in Malawi by how much money we spend, but by how effective it is in benefiting the very poor.
If we give Irish donors or taxpayers money to the people of Malawi,
we should insist on getting the best value for their money.

Griffith College volunteers

From the Griffiti Magazine

Wells for Zoe
Imagine Ireland hundreds of years ago, no mobiles, no bebo and more importantly… no clean drinking water. Where would you be? How would you cope? Can you even imagine? Well unfortunately, it is still happening in parts of the world. Why am I telling you something you already know? Because GCD has students that want to make a difference… Are you one of them?

Ciara Healy

After visiting Mzuzu in Malawi in 2005, retired couple John and Mary Coyne, a property developer and a teacher, decided to set up the Wells for Zoe charity. The name for the charity came from Richard Cansdale, whose daughter Zoe was killed tragically in a motorcycle accident. Zoe is also the Greek word for life, so Wells for Zoe means “Water for Life”. Richard was the man who finalised the design for the Cansee pump.

The group focused primarily on providing the region with fresh clean drinking water, however now they have branched out into a wide range of different projects in order to develop the area. But two people can’t fix an entire country’s problems, but fortunately, that’s where Griffith College students come in. Two first year students, Paul Durning studying Business and James Walters from the Journalism faculty have already made it over to the African state and it has made such an impression on them that have decided to go that one step further. Together with the help of the Griffith Students’ Union, they have decided to get a group of 17 students from all 5 faculties over to Malawi in early 2009 to help make a difference to the lives of hundreds of people.

Where are we going? Malawi is said to be the heart of Africa, the people are so friendly and welcoming impression to their visitors. It is roughly 4 and half hours from the airport in the capital Lilongwe where the students will fly into. Once we arrive there, we will be collected by two army jeeps donated by the Irish army earlier this year to complete the journey to Mzuzu.

The original idea of giving the people fresh clean water came from the fact that only 19% of pumps over 25 years do work. 60% don’t work on any given day. Imagine walking 6 miles for a bottle of water only for the shop to be closed, and not having a mobile phone to call someone to come and fix the well. The Wells for Zoe charity’s goal is to supply the region with the Cansee pump. These pumps are easy to set up and quick to repair, they are also cheap at just $30 each. The charity are now in the process of setting up a pump factory, which will bring jobs and wells to the country.

They are also setting up an agricultural college in order to educate the people on how to farm and generate their own business and capital. At the moment Malawis’ agricultural sector is where Ireland was 100 years ago. The college is about people learning about different methods of farming, for example, compost making, crop rotation as well as a whole wide range of new innovative farming techniques.

Wells for Zoe is based on a very simple concept “A hand up, Not a hand out”. They believe in inspiring, educating and challenging the people of Malawi in order to help them, help themselves. Some of the stories Paul and James could tell us were amazing. One woman got a 0% interest loan in order to set up her own charcoal selling business, she became very successful in her venture and is now in the process of returning her 0% interest loan. This woman came from nothing and is now an entrepreneur in her own right and all because of just a little help from Wells for Zoe.

So what will Griffith students be doing there? Last year, when DIT students went there they worked with the Malawian people to set up a school and garden in the community of Luvuwu. Since the school was set up, the community has set up a youth society and an AIDs support group as well as the garden being developed further. When Wells for Zoe visited the area in August, the drama society in the youth group was able to put on a play for them promoting awareness about HIV and AIDs. Our aim is to undergo a similar project and hopefully name the project after Griffith College with the aim of achieving the same self sustainability.

How can you help? Each student will be funding their costs both from their own pocket and through support by sponsorship. Between now and the end of January, we shall be doing various fund raising events which we need everyone to dig deep and support what can only be described as a great cause. We hope to raise more than the necessary amount so we’ve more than just our physical efforts to give to the people. So even if you’re not travelling with us you can make a difference.

If you wish to just make a donation, or know someone who would like to make a donation, the Students’ Union are setting up a bank account where you can lodge money either anonymously, or through us. Remember, every little counts. You can give a hand up to those who need it without even going out of your way.

If you want to know more about the Charity they are online at

All I can say is What a Crew and I have still to met them

Things happen quietly

I was just having a look on the net to see what’s happening with W4Z on the home front, on my return from Malawi, and found this piece from the Wicklow People.

Wednesday November 05 2008

WICKLOW TOWN’S Hilda Early and her Scottish- based sister Elaine Malcolm took to the streets of Dublin last Bank Holiday Monday for the exhausting, but worthwhile Dublin Marathon.

Hilda and Elaine were just two of the participants among the 11,700 joggers, runners and walkers who took part in the world wide known event.

The sisters were running in aid of Wells for Zoe, a charity dedicated to the provision of safe drinking water and water storage for irrigation in four remote rural areas of Malawi.

For more information or to make a contribution visit the site

It’s a more than a little humbling.
Thank you from all our empoverished friends.