Water for Life album


Occasionally I look up what Wells for Zoe are doing, on google!!!

I came across this website with a little piece about us, tonight


An American now living in Scotland, Linda Dewar is a singer-songwriter and a player of various stringed and wind instruments. Besides being a solo performer, she is half of a duo with Scottish singer Douglas Craik, plays in an occasional ceilidh band, and is a founding member of the revue Simply Burns

We all know that music can be a powerful tool for bringing about positive change. One of the best examples of this is a project called Wells for Zoe, a small, Irish, sustainable development organisation working with some of the world’s poorest people in Northern Malawi. Their main focus is on providing water for small rural villages, but this has led to involvement in irrigation and natural farming as well. Several years ago, they opened Lusangazi farm, which is primarily a research and teaching farm.

 Wells for Zoe was founded in 2005 by John and Mary Coyne, who are the parents of Irish banjo player Eamonn Coyne (Treacherous Orchestra, Salsa Celtica and more). In 2009, Eamonn brought together some of Scotland, Ireland and North America’s finest musicians and produced a CD called Wells for Zoe, with 100% of the profits going directly to the charity. The artists include Karine Polwart, Salsa Celtica, Crooked Still, John Doyle, Paul Brady, Kris Drever, Dougie Maclean, among others, and it’s a great album even without the added bonus of helping a worthy cause. It’s available for purchase from the Wells for Zoe web site, and also from Compass Records.

Still going strong in the US and on I found it on many radio station playlists. Nice One!!


The death of the good deed

This is part of an article from the Irish Mail on Sunday, July 16, 2012 by John Waters, outlining the difficulties facing small, volunteering charities in a World where Aid and Charitable works have become, in reality, big business, with highly paid executives, big offices, perks, cars and shiploads of funding. 

A much sadder reality is that fifty years of increased funding hasn’t made any significant difference in Northern Malawi where, we minnows, work. Why is it that almost 60% of the rural population do not have access to clean water, sanitation or sufficient food, let alone a healthy diet. And why is education so poor.I would like to explain that I speak only of things and places where I work. I am not generalising or commenting globally, just relating what I see.  

My friends the Coyne family from down home, have in recent years been running a charity called Wells for Zoe (W4Z), which provides water, agricultural advice and education schemes for some of the world’s poorest people in Malawi. W4Z functions on an absolutist principle whereby all overheads are paid by the Coynes, which means that every donated cent goes directly to the organization’s projects. Such a description can nowadays invite cynicism: why would anyone want to spend their own money to devote their lives to helping others?

Answer: this is what charity is.

But the dilemma is obvious: by investing more in advertising, for example, could W4Z increase its capacity to do good? The flipside of this issue is that, once you surrender the absolutist principle of the present promise to donors, you lose the very thing that provides complete confidence. A further issue is that, the bigger the organisation becomes, the more difficult it becomes to administer on a voluntary basis. Having recently joined the W4Z board, I have been pondering these dilemmas a great deal. But the Coynes are adamant that they want the core ethos of W4Z to be maintained, and any doubts about the  practicality of this strategy were dispelled on reading the details of John O’Shea’s expedition to the High Court. Fundamentally, charity should operate on a human-to-human basis. The bigger it gets, the less personal the relationships tend to become, and this announces the beginning of an entirely different way of seeing and doing.

In a world where values and principles seem to easily get subsumed and dissolve into torrent of regulations on transparency and whatever the box tickers call it on any given day, We at Wells for Zoe will stick to being small, personal and principled. Maybe the idea that small is sexy and safe might even get its run sometime.

The full Article


A society needs to be capable of trusting people without allowing other self-protective characteristics – skepticism and caution for example – to impose levels of oversight and supervision that render spontaneity impossible.

That’s essentially what I wrote here last Sunday, but I didn’t expect to so quickly encounter such a graphic example.  This week, I picked up a newspaper in Andalusia and learned that John O’Shea has gone to the High Court to prevent people he appointed to the board of GOAL, the international charity he founded 35 years ago, from removing him as that organisation’s chief executive. I meet John O’Shea sometimes wandering around Dun Laoghaire and we sometimes have time for a cup of tea. I admire and like him. He combines passion, energy and conscience in a manner that causes problems to melt in front of him. O’Shea is one of those rare beings who see new possibilities and ask: why not? He has that entrepreneurial capacity to look at the world as a small place, in which all things should be possible. And when he considers the world’s smallness alongside the injustices that happen in it, he becomes angry, and that angry motivates him to do what other people recognize as great things, but which for him are painfully inadequate in the face of the problems he wants to solve.

I know about the dispute within GOAL only what I’ve read in the papers. Like most people, I’m dismayed. I hope that things will be resolved before long so the GOALies can go back to doing what they do best. Sometimes, yes, I think that O’Shea is not necessarily the kind of man I would be ecstatically happy to have as a boss. Sometimes I think my best chances might depend on my ability to see things his way. But this leads to two further thoughts: one, O’Shea’s way has achieved a great deal of good; and, two, the very personality quirks that I might anticipate as problematic – his bullheadedness, candour and single-minded clarity – are the qualities which made GOAL one of the most successful charity organizations in the world.

The facts speak for themselves: nearly three-quarters of a billion quid’s worth of emergency aid delivered to desperate people in more than 50 countries.  Many have continued to breathe and eat, to see their children happier and healthier than they dared to hope, because of John O’Shea.

O’Shea is the kind of man who gets things done for the right reasons and asks most of the questions afterwards. It’s hard to think of a more graphic contrast with the slow, plodding way that, for example, most State agencies go about their business, constantly looking for things to cross and dot before doing what needs to be done.  O’Shea has attracted the ire of such people from the beginning, especially when he speaks about the wholesale waste of Irish overseas aid budgets due to their being filtered through governments that are, in effect, the enemies of their own peoples.  One day over tea, hedescribed how, invited to a State reception in Dublin Castle to honour a certain diminutive African despot whom he knew to be as dodgy as a thirty-Euro note, he leant down and whispered in the guest-of-honour’s ear a diagnosis of his own tyrannical history, causing the visitor to howl in outrage. As nearby officials ran to damp down the diplomatic inferno, O’Shea stood back and shrugged: the truth hurts sometimes.

The time-servers mutter that this kind of behaviour is ‘inappropriate’, that O’Shea’s attitude ‘fails to appreciate the nuances of a complex issue’. (Some mutter that the reason O’Shea is so good at spotting tyrants is that he’s a bit of a despot himself.  A cheap shot, but with a grain of truth.) I can only dimly imagine what kind of ‘corporate governance issues’ have led to the present crisis in GOAL. The world, essentially, divides between those who are good at ‘corporate governance’ and those who get things done. John O’Shea is not the kind of man I’d expect to be good at filling out forms and sitting through interminable meetings to discuss GOAL’s risk management strategy or gender quota policies. One of the issues underlying the present dispute appears to be O’Shea’s continued insistence on retaining a family-business approach to the administration of GOAL, which started as his kitchen table in 1977. It is suggested that the organisation needs to develop a ‘more corporate style’, with  GOAL’s below-average expenditure on overheads mentioned as a symptom of the redundancy of O’Shea’s approach. But this may well be the crux of the matter. The basis of charitable work depends on the potential donor being convinced that the dosh will go to those in need. There have been far too many examples of charities eating up most of their collection proceeds in administration, too many suspicions that certain initiatives are simply ways for collectors to get other people to pay for your holidays, and too many stories of aid-officials driving around Africa in new jeeps, drawing European salaries and staying in Holiday Inns.

Yes, the administration of charities requires provision for transparency and accountability. But if, for example, your neighbour’s child requires an urgent and expensive operation in the US, should you be obliged to put in place state-of-the-art corporate governance provision before you start rattling tins? And there is a further complication, giving rise to a real dilemma. Experience indicates that increased investments in advertising and PR can yield big dividends for charities, which need to spend money to make it. But the question is: where to draw a line?


In Spain this week, I‘ve been inundated with emails from all over the world on behalf of a dog called Lennox, said to be under ‘sentence of death’ by Belfast City Council because, apparently, his breed-description runs foul of the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act. The courts have decided, I’m told, that Lennox represents a danger to the public and ‘sentenced’ him to die. In more than 30 years as a journalist, I have written about many issues of injustice and unfairness. I have issued pleas on behalf of people wrongly incarcerated and children snatched by social workers and placed for adoption against their parents’ wishes. But in all that time I have never seen anything remotely like the level of agitation summoned up on behalf of Lennox and his plight. People sent me emails from as far away as Canada and Australia assuring me that Lennox had ‘done nothing wrong’, attacking the Irish Government (they seemed somewhat vague about issues of jurisdiction), and, in some cases making comparisons with the Nazi death camps. ‘Kill someone (dogs or people) because of its appearance, reminds me of Hittler (sic)’, wrote one correspondent.’

For several years I have been arguing that the Internet is a place where the most asinine of human sentiments are given force and significance.  But I could not have imagined such stupidity as I encountered in these emails for the past week. My only remaining hope for humanity involves some combination of the following possibilities:

that Lennox does not exist, that it is all a wind-up spam-storm, that April Fools Day has been moved to July. Please tell me the explanation is any or all of the above.

Village Meeting

Village Meeting
Originally uploaded by wellsforzoe

It may look like a visit to a village in the touristic sense. Go there, meet the village and leave, never to be seen again.
But we just don’t go about our business like this.
Here we see part of a Self Help Group before their weekly meeting started. They began their savings scheme in January 2011, saving small amounts. They began lending to each other in March 2011 charging an interest rate of 20%, which goes back in to the kitty. They are involved in small business and at the end of November had a loan book of 1246 Euro. Now these are some of the poorest women in the area, some are widows and few can read and write. Brian, with the purple shirt, an employee of our friends at St John of God Services, is their mentor, educator and advisor, but they do everything else themselves. All this has been achieved by these 18 women with no financial input from outside. They have achieved all by themselves, a lesson to the rest of the World!!. After working successfully in these small groups, the progress to Community needs, forming a cluster representing 10 small groups
At this stage they presented us with proposals for clean water, preschools and adult education. We are now working with the first cluster on the building of 10 preschools which will double for Adult Education. Training has began is some and we are ahead of schedule.
When I say we, I mean that we support the community, but they do all the work and. In the preschools we supply some cement, and the metal for the roof, they do all the work. We also supply training and for caregivers in the preschools and work with the Ministry of Education for training adult education trainers.
This group have 34 wells/pumps and when we came along only one worked.
Later we will bring training in conservation farming and horticulture.
These now successful business women are ready to drive this agenda, having been empowered by their own success. They are not for turning and they will go upwards and onwards.
An amazing success story against all the odds.

Wells for Zoe takes water pumps to Mzimba

Wells for Zoe takes water pumps to Mzimba
from The Nation Newspaper, Malawi’s National Daily.
Thursday, 26 May 2011 10:49 Albert Sharra – Correspondent

John Coyne demonstrates how to assemble the pump

December 26 2002 is a day that will never go out of the memories of 32-year-old Mary Msimuko of Msira Village, Traditional Authority Mtwalo in Mzimba. This is the day she buried her husband and two children who succumbed to cholera in two consecutive days, turning her into a childless widow.

According to Msimuko, the three got cholera after drinking contaminated water from a nearby river which is the main source of water for people in the village, who do not have access to tap water and boreholes.

“Doctors told me that the three died of dehydration caused by cholera. The water we were drinking was contaminated by running rainwater because the streams were not protected and when doctors came to taste the foods and water at our house, they found out that the water was contaminated,” she said.

But Msimuko is not the only one who has lost her family members to waterborne diseases. In 2005 and 2006, when the country received heavy rainfall, many people lost their lives to such diseases in the district.

Statistics kept at Mzuzu Central Hospital indicates that about 10 people in Mzimba lose life to waterborne diseases every rainy season due to lack of clean water.

Mzimba is the largest district in Malawi. With a population of over 850 000, only less than 200 boreholes have been constructed since 2000.

According to an environmental officer at Mzimba District Hospital Chimwemwe Jella, the fight against disease outbreaks and sanitation has been poor because most people rely on river or stream water.

But people in the district have every reason to smile with the coming of an Irish organisation called Wells of Zoe which is running a project aimed at supplying communities with clean drinking water in the district and the surrounding areas.

The organisation is installing shallow well pumps in the communities and already, over 4 000 pumps have been planted in Mzimba and part of Nkhata Bay and Karonga since 2006, benefiting over 100 000 people.

Speaking during a media tour, one of the project co-founders Mary Coyne said her organisation came up with the project after noting that most people in the district were drinking unsafe water.

“Water tops in any health issue and we were shocked when we first visited the country in 2005 to see women walking long distances carrying dirty water. As a charitable organisation, we decided to assist by providing water pumps. So, we decided to come up with a simple pump which can be repaired by anyone cheaply and we are happy today that the pump is efficient,” Coyne said.

The simple water pumps are made using two plastic pipes, a nail and a rubber disk cut from the inner tube of an old tyre, but it pumps water from as deep as 18 metres.

The Wells of Zoe is also training the communities on how to repair the pumps.

According to Coyne, the pumps are durable and each has a capacity to support over 500 people in a day.

To ensure that every community has access to these taps, the organisation opened a factory that manufactures the pumps in Mzuzu and community leaders can go and ask for one for their communities free of charge.

They are only asked to provide a place, sand and bricks for the construction.

One of the beneficiaries, Group Village Headman Kadambo, said the project is a relief to his community which had no access to clean water.

“We believe cholera and diarrhoea cases will be eliminated because we now have clean water,” he said.

Director of Water and Sanitation at Water for Life, a non-governmental organisation based in Lilongwe, Masautso Ng’ube, says the simple pump is a relief to Malawi because the boreholes have a shorter lifespan.

“Government has been drilling many boreholes countrywide, but very few are still working. I feel if we can embrace this simple pump, our communities will never go short of clean water,” he said, asking Wells of Zoe to open other factories in the Southern and Central regions.

Is it back to bartering

A small rant.

Just back from a trip to Clonmel, on some fascinating Celtic Tiger roads, where I met with a group of grounded Rotarians for an excellently presented, simple lunch, where everyone arrived from work at 1pm and were back by 2.
I met real, positive people who work for the betterment of our world. The whole adventure was a feel good story.
Three years ago they put on a music function in the town, with music from Micheál Ó Suileabhán and family, with the help of others and managed to raise €20,000, which they presented to us today. In the intervening period they have tried everything possible to get matching funds, but such is the amount of Aid arriving in Malawi, Rotary Mzuzu couldn’t find time or place to fit us in. All they had to do was inspect the pump factory, tick a few boxes, and Rotary International would match the amount. However I’ll stick to the positive and say, thank you Rotary Clonmel for the pump factory and now this money will now enable us to give clean drinking water to maybe 25000 people in North Western Mozambique.
I got myself in to rant mode on the drive back while Mary wondered what I was thinking about!!.
More questions than answers!!
Are we on the verge of going back to bartering goods and services, have we lost total confidence in banking , has the idea of big failed, have we lost touch with the real and put faith in derivatives, other obtuse financial instruments, (financial weapons of mass destruction), designed to be as obtuse as possible. Are accountants and bean counters, bankers and three card trick merchants, ruling and ruining our world? Are we to see the end of globalisation? When will we again get to appreciate real business people as distinct from hailing opportunistic chancers?
We have lost all our road signs: the parish priest, the teacher and the bank manager have all lost their place in society, all consigned to the same irrelevant end, but were replaced by so called, self promoted experts, journalists, TV merry go rounds and reality shows all with dubious motives and agendas. Local bank managers were moved into centralised warehouses and credit was controlled by grey, faceless men and women maybe, who obviously counted their bonuses before they were even hatched. Systems replaced real thinking and analysis, and real people got screwed.
There is now, no one to trust. People will present themselves, as economists or even political analysts (two fairly shaky sciences, in themselves, but then are they sciences?) and then they evaporate almost as soon as they appear: when they are found out to be one trick ponies. For years now these people, famous for being famous are experts on all matters, know the price of everything and the value of nothing, are filling the void between the amount of airspace available and the scarcity of bad news. Oh yes, news must be bad news.
Where will our new leaders come from? The churches will have to descend to even lower standing before there is any possibility of a real change. The political class will have to disappear and be replaced by real people of substance, on much lower wages, bankers will have to be terminated and the financial system totally overhauled.
Have the systems within our world just got too big, out of scale with real people, too big for people to understand. Is big the problem and will small have to become the new big.
Why did those who told us they knew better, that size matters, the bigger the better, greed is good, the economies of scale. If something becomes too big to fail, has it just become too big and therefore too big to regulate and control, for the benefit of the many.
How can people with these ideologies ever hope to contend with the poverty of the millions of subsistence people who live from day to day and from one meal to the next? Those who claim to help, collectively the Aid business, are full of these big people running the aid business like other big business organisations. They come from these backgrounds; have plans for big ventures, which they plan with the bean counters far away from the people they are supposed to serve, hardly serve, maybe dominate and their issues. Africa has had 50 years of big solutions at a big cost and most of which have become big white elephants.

Is it now time for small solutions everywhere? Small banks, small car companies, small, small, small. Will tiny is tremendous ever become a catchphrase or even small is beautiful. Will we ever hear of trickle up or that greed is shite ?.

Enron was big, it had Arthur Anderson, very big, counting its beans and it failed mega big.
Chrysler and GM have had a serious weight reduction and Ford and now in love with small cars!.
Lehman, WorldCom and Bank of Scotland have disappeared like the great Roman Empire, and now the sun regularly sets on much of the once magnificent British Empire.

Who knows how the future will go, but for us, heading off to Malawi for another two months will take us away from the masses of whinging, media malcontents where our spirits will be lifted by some of the most amazing and yet poorest women in the world, living from hand to mouth, who we will enable to access pure, clean drinking water for life, for 1 euro each.
Finally a thought for our young people:
There is a wonderful other world out there somewhere.
Emigration may not be as bad as it first appears.

Jennifer Aniston feels cranky without water!!

I’m sure Happy would be delighted to share her water

Something frivolous for a change.

Jennifer Aniston feels “cranky” if she does not drink enough water, talking to Female First magazine

The 41-year-old actress believes the secret to good skin is staying hydrated and she feels an instant impact if she fails to consume enough liquid.

She said: “I don’t really have any beauty tips but drink a s**tload of water. I say, if anything, that’s the one thing I’ve noticed with my skin. If I stop drinking water, I dehydrate badly, and I get cranky. Water really works.”

Downing water isn’t her only obsession, the ‘Break-Up’ star is also fascinated with jeans and amidst she owns hundreds of pairs.

I know the world revolves around her, and similar people, I hope she knows that over a billion people in the worls don’t have access to clean water

Our co operation with St John of God Services in Mzuzu

Irish Times, Dec 14 2010:
Eithne Donnelan


It is customary among certain tribes in Malawi for men to pay a lobola to the family of a woman they plan to marry. Sometimes, the lobola or dowry equivalent, usually a few cows, is paid upfront before the wedding, but more often than not part of it is paid later when the newly married couple have built up sufficient resources to discharge the debt.

When in 2001 Bina Msiska’s sister-in-law and mother of three died of pneumonia, aged just 23 years, his brother Vincent had only paid her family part of the lobola they were due. They demanded one more cow before they would give permission for her burial.

A stand-off between the families ensued for three days, bringing shame on the Msiska family as everyone then knew they couldn’t afford the extra cow. Eventually before nightfall on the third day, neighbours clubbed together sufficient monies to pay off Vincent’s in-laws.

It all became too much for Msiska who suffered a nervous breakdown. His father took him from their home in the Rumphi district to the acute mental health service run by St John of God in Mzuzu, where he spent two months as an inpatient.

“I don’t remember going into the hospital. I was very sick at the time,” he recalls.

“When the problem started, some people said I had HIV or was smoking marijuana or something, and that it was this which was disturbing my brain. In our culture, they think it must be something like that.”

After he recovered, he continued to attend St John of God services where he studied horticulture, and now works full-time as a “plant propagator”, sowing apple, mandarin and many other plants on a farm near Mzuzu funded by the Wells for Zoë organisation run by Irish couple John and Mary Coyne.

They have overseen the construction of cheap but effective water pumps in many surrounding villages and also recently funded a two-bed birthing clinic for one rural community to replace a straw-roofed shed with a stone slab, the only facility local women previously had when going into labour, unless they undertook the journey to a city hospital.

Thirty-five-year-old Msiska, now married with five children, has managed to make a living out of his horticultural skills, which earn him around 13,000 kwacha (€65) a month.

This and his earlier work for St John of God has been sufficient to enable him buy a little plot of land on which he has built a temporary home with clay bricks and a thatch roof for his family.

Using his entrepreneurial skills he has also built a second temporary home on the site which he rents out for 1,000 kwacha or €5 a month.

He attributes his current health and lifestyle to the services run by St John of God. “They have done great for me,” he enthuses.

At first when he was discharged from hospital, people would run the other way when they saw him coming. “They would say you are a mad one. But in the hospital they taught us to educate them and point out mental illness is like any disease and it can happen to anybody. Then they will not do that again.”