New Mothers

Thursday 26 April 2012: New Mothers

Mary and the crew set off today to visit three hospitals in Mzuzu having sorted about 100 kg of baby clothes from Ireland. She also had a considerable quantities of antibiotics and painkillers contributed by pharma companies with the help of Dr Paddy Feeney, who volunteered with us in 2009.
The first port of call was the Maternity Ward in Mzuzu Central Hospital where many of the newborns have very little clothes. The biggest thank you was from a young couple had just delivered twins and the double dose of clothes and blankets was so gladly received especially by the Granny. The Mzuzu health Clinic, with whom we have a close relationship through our birthing Centre was next and finally the St John of God house of hospitality from where the request for medical supplies came. All Malawi hospitals have run short of vital medical supplies following an era of very poor governance or so I’m told. praying for better times for Malawi from the new President Joyce Banda
All in all a great day’s work, but just another day in the life of Wells for Zoe.
Most organisations get a full page newspaper spread for this, but we have many calls on our time and after all we’re just small fry in the NGO world.
The pic shows two happy mothers with new blankets and clothes.

Thinking about Mission

 The woman at the well.

 

 

Yesterday, April 13, 2012, I was privileged to be at a well and pump installation ceremony at a Malawian village, a million miles from nowhere, in world terms, where we were part of a ceremony to celebrate the life of Judy Moore fromIreland. For me it was, what we call, a Sacramental moment in my life

Maybe Judy had little in common with the women in Phwokabandera village in life, but for an hour yesterday we were all one. Like the villagers, I never knew Judy, but I feel maybe she took a little peek at what was going on and was somehow with us.

The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is special to me. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman ofSamaria?” knowing that Jews had as little in common with Samaritans, maybe as little as Judy had in common with the Malawian women who gathered for clean drinking water. that her death inspired.

The story speaks of living water.  We understand that Jesus was speaking in a symbolic way, referring to the spiritual nourishment, but being human as well, I feel that He fully recognised the physical value of clean water. So, in a very real sense, caring for both the spiritual and the physical health of the people of the world is the duty of every Christian.

We honoured Judy and also thought of the enormous water crisis that faces our world and threatens the lives of millions. It feels a little strange to say that our work yesterday was not just about a hole in the ground and pipes and valves, it was really about people, real people, every single one of them looking on, working and taking part. It was also about the impact that this water will have on their lives. It’s a miracle, a burden relieved. Much illness banished and opportunities to be taken. Imagine the thought of being cured of illness, being able, as little girls, to go to school every day, as a mother to look at your precious little ones without fearing the real killer, diarrhea. Imagine even saving one precious life. Illness and death of children are a constant reality here in Malawi, due primarily to waterborne disease, which is the number one cause of death for children under 5 years of age!

We thank Maria Corrigan, Judy’s close friend for giving us the opportunity to turn the unbearable heartache of her death into something as life giving as a pump and well in Phwokabandera

We pray that all the children who prayed, sang and celebrated with us will reach their full potential unaffected by totally avoidable illness due to waterborne disease. This is a real scandal in our world of technological advance and supposed enlightenment.

I have spoken of Christian values, because of the Easter season and the integral part water plays in our ceremonies, but this of course is a human problem and affects all people of the world, with or without religious beliefs. Our mission in Malawi is to people of all faiths and none. I pray here for all those who offer a cup of clean water to those who need it.

Just a few years ago, hundreds of people lost their lives as the tsunami washed over vast areas, devastating all in its path and leaving contaminated water in its wake. The scale of death was frightening and the response remarkable mainly because the deaths were sudden, visible and all over the news. Since then, millions of people have died from easily preventable water-related diseases in developing countries around the world.  But the world hardly noted their deaths, because they have died slowly, silently, far away, insignificant to the bigger World and unworthy of any media coverage.

Jesus asked the Samaritan woman to give to Him a drink of very real water to satisfy his very real physical thirst.  Somewhere else we read “Lord, when did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink?”  Jesus is living today – living among the poor in remote areas of Malawi and Zambia where we work…and through their voices, Jesus says to us, “Give me a drink.”  A week after Good Friday we remember that His last words on the cross were that, he was thirsty.

We believe that the Spirit of all our God’s is working to solve the world water crisis.  Working through agencies bringing clean water in many places, working in a practical way, using skin and bone people, working toward a world where all God’s children will be healthy, educated and lead more fruitful lives.

I am not one for labels and our family in Ireland will have a giggle at me doing the holy bit, but, I suppose, like it or not, we have become part of this mission now. We didn’t plan it but it has happened, and we hope, like the woman from Samaria that He may wash away a few of our sins as well.

We thank God for Judy’s life and we pray for her family who mourn her.

We thank Maria for her thoughtfulness and we thank all those, women at the well who will think of her every day, as they carry her clean, safe drinking water of life.

Yesterday was a GOOD NEWS DAY; thank God, Allah and all those who guide our paths.

The Genesis of Aid (A Parody)

February 28, 2012 by Ben Ramalingam

On Friday last, Good Friday, 2012 we loaded up our gear including a film crew of students from DIT, 5 bags of cement, GPS and all our various regalia, to travel to a well site using precious  fuel, over a bumpy road only to find that the well that the Chiefs had agreed to dig hadn’t even been touched in the 5 day period.

Now this is the type of failure occurring all over Africa every day. In our case we were dealing with people we didn’t know but some who were referred to us by another NGO. We didn’t do our job properly, because we talked to the Chiefs and men, even though we only do all our arrangements with the women as the prime movers. We slipped up badly. We had a plan to film the well on Friday, make the slab and on the following Friday complete the job. This was our plan, A bad plan. If the community don’t participate, there’s no plan. We know this because we have learned, that if it’s women’s business you talk to them. We know this, but we had a momentary rush of blood to the head. We will never repeat this mistake again. Of course constantly revisiting bad plans happens all the time in Malawi, so the locals are sensitised to this approach!!

If there were people around on our first visit we would have discovered an area polluted by aid. The EU paid for one school block, which is now in a poor state. Another prominent member of the Aid business built another block, by providing all the money. There was no voluntary community  involvement/participation.

There was a sponsorship plan in place for children.  We met them, with their documents showing their name, number and name of sponsor. I’m sure the sponsor got the smiling picture and the letter maybe, but I’m also sure that the heads covered in scabs, the poor clothes, the lack of school fees, or whatever else was promised would disappoint, a little, at least.

As a general rule we don’t work with people who have become beggars as a result of Aid without input.  But strangely this is what we found

I’m sure the proposals called it development aid, with high ratings for aid effectiveness. There would also be these  wonderful reports, of sustainability, strategic planning and whatever the new buzzword might be on the day.

Oh! what did we eventually do, after all the interviews and filming was done? We said goodbye to the kids and let the chiefs know why we were leaving with our cement, never to return.

On our return journey, we met a group of women, the real people of Malawi, explained what had happened, told them how to reach us when they were ready, and had their well dug. We’ll soon get a call, build the well in close proximity and have clean water for 122 poor souls and up to 500 children at the school.

We work, we say, is about Inspiration, Education and Challenge. This is what we mean by challenge.

Malawians, particularly Malawian women are capable of developing themselves if we leave them alone and support them with what they need rather than with what we think they need.

Luckily I came home to find this amazing blog by Ben Ramalingam to whom I am deeply grateful for my restored sanity and a renewed belief in how we approach things

In the beginning, the Donors said, “Let us make development in our image, and in our likeness, so that we may bring about changes in developing countries”. And other Government Departments replied, “Yes, but not too much change, and not all at once, who knows What might Happen.” And the Donors did reflect upon this, and after a time they did say, “Let there be Aid Programmes”.

 

And lo, having completed the appropriate paperwork and then randomly recruited staff members on the basis of spurious social connections, the Aid Workers did create a great many Aid Programmes upon the land, with rather fewer in the sea.

 

Now at first many Aid Programmes were formless and empty, there was darkness over any possible engagement with intended beneficiaries, and attribution of impact was absolutely nowhere to be seen. With naught else to look at, the Donors did peck at the financials like bureaucratic vultures.

 

And the Donors did say, “Let there be light on this programme”, but there was no light, merely quarterly reports cut and pasted from other endeavours. But the Aid Workers saw that the reports were sufficient to get the donors off their backs. They called the reports “evidence-based” and they did construct programme narratives, after a fashion. And there were visits and some more reports.

 

And the Aid Workers said, “Let there be a separation between us and the communities we seek to serve, to keep us even further away from messy reality, lest our donors seek to explore this area further, nobody needs that”. So the separation was made and the people ‘under’ the programmes were divided even further from those people ‘above’ them. And it was so.

 

The Aid Workers called the separation ‘our new decentralised structures’ and occasionally ‘our new national partnership modalities’. And there was more reporting and the first mid-term reviews.

 

And upon reading the reviews, the Donors said, “Let all the programmes under this sky be gathered to one place, and let duplication and waste disappear.” But it was not so. Instead the Aid Workers did gather in the bar and Grumble about it over numerous beers. The next day, the Aid Workers said those programmes whose representatives had gathered in that bar formed ‘a new Coordinated Operational Network System, or CONS’. And the Donors did scratch their heads, and then said, “Well, Okay”.

 

Then the Donors said, “Let the programmes produce results: monitoring systems and  impact-bearing evidence, both qualitative and quantitative, according to their various kinds.” But again, it was not so. The programmes produced reports bearing more narratives and nice photos on the front. But the content was heavily skewed according to pre-defined objectives and indicators that could have been copied off a cereal box.

 

And the Aid Workers saw that it was rather woolly and vague, and were satisfied. And the Donors saw that it was not Actually very good, but would at least keep the Right Wing Press off their backs for a little longer.

 

And the Aid Workers Head Offices said, “Let there be journalists and blogs and tweets to separate the donors – both individual and institutional – even more quickly and deeply from their cash. And let our Woolly Results serve as signs to mark our fundworthiness. And let there be pictures of children, ideally being hugged by tired-looking pretty white girls.”

 

And it was so. Head Office made two great lights—the greater to shine into possible funding  opportunities, and the lesser light to identify photogenic but hungry looking babies. Head Office also invited the stars and celebrities, after their Compassion-Fashion-Kicks. And Head Office saw that it was good.

 

And then one Aid Worker did Stand up and Say, “Let our Programmes be shaped by those we seek to serve, and Let them tell us what is good and right, and let us shine a true light into these programmes of ours, so that a light may then shine forth from them. And let that Light be Truly called ‘Development’.”

 

But the other Aid Workers did say, “Shut up and sit down, What are you playing at, Dost thou wish to get us all into the Deep Excrement?”

 

Thankfully the Donors were too busy creating new Declarations of Aid Effectiveness, within which all new and existing efforts should be fixed, according to their kind, and so did not notice.

 

And so this Aid Worker did leave that place, and became a Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist.

 

The other Aid Workers blessed her departure and said “Come back when our next mid-term review is due, and verily your rates will be good.” And they were.

 

And then finally the Donors, after yet more ambiguous reviews, did say, “Let your programmes prove their sustainability, such that we shall see how they continue after we reduce core funding.” And this Exit Strategy they all did  promise to abide.

 

And so, after more grumbling, questionable reports, and beers, the Aid Workers did leave that place to work in areas which were more aligned with the Donors current priority interests. And so it happened that National Partners were left to wind the programmes down within one year, albeit at a fraction of the original cost and with Minimum Overheads.

 

And then, two more years after that, New Donors and their staff members did arrive, and they did say, “Let there be an Aid Programme Just Here.”

 

And, lo, it was so.