For the past eight years, we’ve been working to build a different kind of organisation. One without big money, buildings and bureaucracy, One run on the energy of the volunteering spirit and one with faith in the ability of the poorest to have a solution to their own problems. It’s wonderful, now, to be able say that IT WORKS.
When we first went to Malawi at Easter 2005, we got a glimpse of what the water crisis really meant. We looked with great sadness, amazement and dismay, at broken pumps, pumps not fit for purpose, expensive pumps, beautiful pumps and then women and girls carrying filthy water, long distances on their heads. I suppose we scratched our heads and wondered where all the millions of aid was going, when this most crucial of steps in the development process seemed to have no solution.
We figured that solving this problem must be so difficult, since no one appeared to have cracked it. We had two options, go home, forget about and pray that some expert would solve it, or do something about it. Being stubborn and obstinate the second option looked like the way to go!!
I emailed hundreds of organizations (and there are thousands) who said give us your money, we do pumps, but since I had seen their puny, short lived solutions, I figured that back to the drawing board may be the way to go.
We knew that access to clean water changes things, but we had no idea just how much. The rewards now, after our eight year of struggles, are immeasurable. All we have done is voluntary, were we, M+J, pay all the organizations running expenses and are full time Malawi! We decided, from the start, to follow a path less travelled, the scenic, volunteering route, where people regularly advised us to leave it to the experts with the support of small donors and even a few bigger ones. We are so grateful to those people who have invested their money in a system less tried and tested, living with the poorest, listening to their stories, dreams and plans and always there to support with advice and training. Their country, their lives, their future, our inspiration, has been most rewarding: a wonderful period of common discovery, among equals.
So what have we learned…?
We were very happy arriving in Malawi with a most amazing and unique pumps. We installed them with and for the people. They dug wells, made bricks and did all the work, while we brought the pumps. BUT we soon found that they wanted to work with us on other issues. The accepted clean water as the beginning of a whole new life, but now that they knew us, they knew that we could work together and do more. They had, in fact, got dreams and plans, mainly short-term. Their plans included preschools, farming adult education, business. In locations, where they had not become disenfranchised by Aid and bureaucrats they were prepared to think, plan and dream dreams. Very soon it looked like pumps were forgotten and life could begin in earnest, and now, since the women can maintain their pumps with ease, the lives of village women and girls will never be the same. If you want to measure the cost of changing a life, just imagine that it costs just €1 to give a person clean water, in Northern Malawi, where we work.
Of course it’s a team effort, but our team is very small yet. We need more advocates, ambassadors and vocal volunteers, not principally for money but to change the way people look at development. Our message is simple, at a human scale and inexpensive. We don’ worry too much about numbers and statistics, we consider each individual as the most valuable We work with, and believe in Malawian people, mainly women, moving them to empower themselves. We don’t look at poverty or depravation; we look at situations and solutions. We look at connectivity, which is now so easy nowadays. We need to be neighbours and good friends, and then the tiniest of help can work wonders, but it has to be a bottom-up approach. Micro solutions really work.
We realize that partnership is important. Away from Malawi we are in awe of all the people in schools, churches, offices and homes who show they care and work tirelessly for the cause. We’re humbled by it all.
We never planned for growth and expansion, but it has come through the efforts of others, particularly in Malawi, where we have installed, repaired and replaced over 2000 pumps, thus bringing clean, safe drinking water to over a quarter of a million of the poorest
We hadn’t planned farming, training, research, seed and seedling production, but its all there to be seen and run by bright, intelligent and hard working Malawians, many of whom have little formal education but who are so eager to learn.
We never thought of preschools, yet we have 22, run by the most willing Malawian rural women, who care for the little ones under trees, in cowsheds, schools and deserted buildings. We work on training and they get on with it. Buildings will come later.
We never dreamed of Adult Education but our women have dreams. Dreams of beginning at Standard One and learning to read with their children, technicolour dreams of going to Secondary schools and even more do-able plans to be able to feed, educate and support their families. If I could write, there a hundreds of individual stories of bravery and courage persistence and prayers.
And we had no idea how fast anything would happen. In reality a few hundred people with clean water was what we wished for back in 2005. So if someone mentioned an education project impacting 16 schools and over 25,000 primary school students, I might have inquired about their state of mind, and a birthing centre in the bush, and a pump factory and Malawian employees who run the show on their own, and sending girls to Secondary school, and building and supporting primary schools and libraries. And I’m breathless
But this is where Wells for Zoë, You and us and them, the Universe has certainly colluded!
We have maybe 100 regular donors
Most donate less than €100
Our biggest supporter(s) is a Our Lady’s School, Terenure, Dublin 16, where everyone appears to be involved, and where the feeling of goodwill is electric.
Our investment in buildings in Malawi will soon pay all our wages
We work with 5 Government Ministries at local level, where all are committed to progress without hand-outs
Our water project is expanding in 3 countries, working with partner organizations who share a similar philosophy
We have no paid staff, except our Malawian employees.
Our future will hopefully see more Malawian staff employed and retained if they can fit-in:
More training and up-skilling for our current staff; more involvement in the project by all employees; more setting up and handing over of commercial co-operative women’s farms like the one in Doroba, enabling people to empower themselves.
But who knows?
We have learned a lot in 8 years. Our employees, volunteers, villagers and partners have made seismic and sustainable strides, with our approach of inspiration, education and challenge and they are not for turning back now.
On Sunday night two DIT students: Tommy Flavin and Claire Cunningham who volunteered with us at Easter 2012 and are finalizing a documentary, interviewed us for about two hours on video. Their final question was:
Why would anyone want to leave the comfort of Lucan and travel 8000 miles to poverty, hardship and hard work; we thought it over guys and our final answer is: We can’t imagine anything more exciting?
Thank You for Caring
$10 gives a family of 10 clean water and changes their lives forever
You may be thinking how can it cost so little? WELL!!
Wells for Zoë is a small, Irish, voluntary organisation, where the founders pay all expenses, so 100% of all donations is put to work.
Their simple, sustainable hand-pump is made by Malawians in their factory in Mzuzu, Northern Malawi, for less than $40.
The villagers dig the wells, make and build the bricks and supply all labour, while W4Z supply the pump, cement and pipes, so the total cost of a village well and pump is about $200.
The average number of villagers using a well is over 200, SO the cost per person is less than a buck.
The most exciting and important part of the story is that the women in the villages have learned to maintain the pumps, so that they continue to work day after day, year after year, pushing out the purest of water from up to 25 metres deep. In 2012 they enabled over 100,000 poor, remote, villagers to have clean, safe drinking water. We are planning to do the same in 2013.
By donating, you can be a vital part of this amazing achievement in 2013.
They see that when a well is installed in a village, girls return to school, women have time and begin small businesses, people are no longer too sick to work, gardens are watered and food supply becomes more reliable. This means that health is better and children grow up to achieve more The cycle of poverty is broken. Lives change forever.
Clean water just changes everything. But strangely having access to clean water isn’t an end, it’s a beginning, a whole new beginning.Women come together in small self-help groups to talk, discuss and learn. They learn to save some money and how to borrow from the group. Without any external financial input, they develop their small businesses, have money to pay school fees, buy uniforms and medicines and do impossible things as if they were normal.
For the past eight years Mary and John Coyne have lived half their time with these women, inspiring, educating and challenging them to empower themselves, where every story begins with clean water. They encourage them to dream their dreams and support their plans.
Every one dollar counts, so DONATE what you won’t miss, but what they will never forget.
Last year AOL held an International competition where employees got a chance to enter a Charity, of their choice, for a first prize of $10000.
Wells for Zoë didn’t win but the next best was exposure on the homepage of the main AOL website aol.com which gets up to 16 million hits per day
The slot is on the homepage and is called Cause of the day.
Even though the announcement was made at the end of 2012, we asked for February 1, the feast of St Bridget. This powerful woman of the 5th Century, links well with the extraordinary women we work with in remote, rural parts of Malawi, and also links our wells with St Bridget’s wells all over the country.
AOL (Aol.com) has selected Wells for Zoë, as its Cause of the Day, on February 1, 2013. AOL Impact features a daily cause or charity on AOL’s home page, which in their own words is “dedicated to everyday good.” AOL has created the cause of the day as “a way to connect people with charities, to make it easy to get involved, and share the missions of organizations simply doing amazing things.”
Doing everyday good in remote, rural areas of Malawi, ranked, close to the bottom, in the world’s rich list, is exactly what Wells for Zoë are doing, with their focus on clean, safe drinking water. They also have an education project impacting 25,000 primary school students and they run 21 rural preschools. Their other area of interest is on conservation farming producing fruit trees and seeds of native African trees, as well as training and research on their various farms.
Amazing things is exactly what Malawian women’s Self-Help groups are achieving with a little inspiration, education and challenge and without any external financial inputs.
Eight years on, Mary and John Coyne, a 50-years-together couple from Ireland, spend almost half their lives in Malawi, moving Malawians to empower themselves on the tiniest of a shoestring budget, donated often in micro donations by family and friends, some of whom they never met, from all over the globe.
They are a fully voluntary organization except for their Malawian workers, where the founders pay all organizational expenses and volunteers cover all their own costs. This allows 100% of all donations to get directly to the projects in Malawi.
This opportunity from AOL is very timely when they are trying to match last year’s amazing achievement of bringing clean, safe drinking water to another 100,000, of the World’s poorest, in 2013. They consider clean water as the first step on the development ladder. When a well and a pump come to a village everything changes. Illness is almost eliminated, girls get to go to school and women have time to grow more food and do little businesses. To W4Z clean water is not an end, it’s just a beginning. It becomes the start of a continuing relationship with communities. They help bring the water, and communities do the rest. They work with communities on their own plans, having learned that shutting-up and listening is regularly the only the way to go.
Wells for Zoë works with Government at a local level and only where no-strings-attached co-operation is forthcoming. They are a bottom-up organisation, who are careful with every cent. They don’t do hand-outs and help is given in areas where Malawians are lacking the education or skills to do it themselves and then only by means of mentoring and training.
We are really appreciative of the support that “AOL’s Cause of the Day is an affording us” says Mary Coyne of Wells for Zoë, it gives us exposure to a much wider audience and enables us to show what can be achieved with a lot of commitment and a little money.
You can change someone’s life forever by giving them a donation that you won’t miss, but one that they will remember forever.
We want to give 100000 people clean water in 2013 and we can with your help
In Malawi water had to be carried all day, every day.
Here, at least, it’s clean and not too far away.
No turkey or chicken here.
The best they can hope for is three meals and not to be hungry.
We are working on this and next year will be better.
No electricity or gas, no television or videos, no toys, no Santa, no roads, no toilets, no sadness, no complaints.
For as long as I can remember, the Salesian Sisters, in Bawnogue and elsewhere have been anything from close and very dear friends, to guardian angels, spiritual role models, guiding lights, mentors, supporters and generally an inspiration.
Occasionally I google Wells for Zoe, to see whet we are up-to and tonight I found this, and I’m humbled:
The newly-formed Cosmology group took a plunge into deep waters on Saturday, December 3rd last. . Our Provincial house welcomed a group of seventeen who took part in a day of reflection and sharing on one of nature’s great gifts – water.
The day included creative movement, acknowledging the creator of the cosmos and our position in it. Meditation and input followed linking in to the Christian Churches and how they proclaimed and preserved the scenes of Christ’s life dealing with water. In particular the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist was shown to be of great significance.
While sharing, one of the teachers from Bawnogue, Denise, mentioned Wells for Zoe,an Irish humanitarian organisation involved in creating wells for safe drinking water set up by John and Mary Coyne. Denise had given some time working with this organisation in Malawi. The Cosmology group and the Kilmacud community had already decided that they would make a contribution to this organisation and were delighted that Denise could share some of her experience of working with Wells for Zoe.
following lunch Brid facilitated a workshop using clay and all were invited to create a container for water.
A lovely closing ritual with water followed where each one blessed their neighbour and sent a blessing to the whole world.