Teacher mentoring

Malawi: Progress on a Shoe String, November 25, 2012

Anything is possible if you have clean, safe drinking water

Anything is possible if you have clean, safe drinking water

A new variety apple budded on to a local rootstock

A new variety apple budded on to a local rootstock

Duncan going on his bike to fit a new pump

Duncan going on his bike to fit a new pump

A happy woman

Mary: Creating an interest in books, everywhere she goes

Picture2

Carrying water

IMG_0418

Pumping is so easy with the Canzee pump. Ask any 4 year old!

Ecaiweni Conference on Micro Credit

Language barrier: What’s that.
Mary working with a women’s Self Help group, in their village on their plans

 

I had two contrasting contacts that made an impact on me last week. The first was an email wondering whether we had finished with Malawi, or were we still in business and the other was a contact regarding our gathering for volunteers from the past seven years in Malawi.

I suppose it’s not surprising that someone may think of our early demise, because many small organisations like us do what they can, and leave. We now spend a little less than half our lives in Mzuzu, we make no great fuss about what we do when we are at home, and our fundraising is low key and almost underground.

Early this year we revamped our board with a more formal structure and now we have Dr Ann Burnell, Professor Emeritus in Biology NUIM, as Chair, Pierce Maher, Dr Maria Corrigan, Ciarán O’Leary, acting head of the School of Computing, DIT, Kevin St, Liam Stuart, Caitriona Coyne, John Waters, Irish Times, Elaine Bolger, Roseanne Curtin, Mary and myself. Since we are a 100% voluntary organisation we have found that this arrangement lightens the load on us a bit. Voluntary, in W4Z always means no remuneration; everyone pays for travel, accommodation and all the costs of their involvement. There are no expenses of any kind or allowances paid by the charity, to anyone except the wages of our Malawi employees. We, as the founders, also pay all other expenses so that 100% of all public donations get all the way to our projects in Malawi and Zambia.

You could say that the gathering last Friday night last was our seventh Birthday, since it is seven years since we headed into the unknown, to a dot in the hills of Northern Malawi to meet a unique and amazing man: Br Aidan Clohessy, Head of St John of God Services in Mzuzu, to stay with him for two weeks and now 25 visits later we have the hospitality, wisdom, experience, advice and sound solid good sense of a Tipperary man who started from scratch, about 19 years ago, and has built up a first World Service, including a Health Science University. In typical fashion, he attributes it all to the Grace of God. In his interview with John Waters, on the night, he related; that success in Malawi began by his piggybacking on the Diocese of Mzuzu and St John’s Hospital and that W4Z have succeeded as a result of doing the same with SJOG. “It’s a good way to ensure success” he said. When asked to elaborate, he said that you must have determination and heart and W4Z is built on those virtues.

We are so happy that he came, with Provincial Br Lawrence, to cut the birthday cake (Donated by our local Superquinn). Of course he got a great welcome from all our volunteers who know him and all he has achieved in Malawi.

The various displays showed some of what we are now doing in Malawi and generated much surprise and delight, particularly for those who came to volunteer in the earlier years.

News for 2012 to date:

 

WATER: Our factory has manufactured over 450 pumps, this year and between Malawi and Zambia, we estimate that well over 100,000 villagers will have clean, safe drinking water, by year’s end. We also have a more formal training programme, in pump maintenance, for village women, who are burdened with the task of locating and hauling water on their heads, often from long distances. We are also doing trials on a new pump, a modifies version of our current one, for pumping up-hill and for filling tanks

 

PRIMARY EDUCATION: In our fourth year of teacher mentoring. Our programme now impacts over 25,000 students in two zones in the Northern region, working with the District Education Manager (DEM) and the inspectorate. It is designed and implemented by excellent practitioners from Ireland using the Malawi Curriculum and is set for rapid expansion as some top Malawian teachers have been trained to be trainers. They’ve got a little lift and they are ON-IT. For the future, the DEM and some excellent school heads are of retirement age and coming to work for us.

 

PRESCHOOLS We now support 21 rural schools, mainly by training caregivers, and showing them how to make and use locally-made teaching aids. In terms of building schools, the community must make and build bricks and do all the labour, and when the reach roof level, W4Z supply only the roofing material and 3 bags of cement for the floor. This arrangement ensures community ownership.

 

FARMING

We now have four farms.

Farm 1: Here we do research and demonstration with about 100 plants, using OP seeds, No artificial fertilizer or chemical pesticides. We save seeds and have greenhouses to produce over 10,000 fruit tree seedlings each year, and a multitude of other trees.

Farm 2: This we use to produce seeds of four tree types, all nitrogen fixing, one for nutrient extraction (Musango), one used for pest control (Tephrosia), and two fast growing for forage (Sespania and Glicidia).

This will enable us to supply these seeds to about 250 local farmers and also to a Seed Company in Lilongwe

Farm 3: This is a 3 hectare, citrus grove but it is also used for herb growing and researching forgotten African plants.

Farm 4: This is a depleted wilderness for research. A 20 year old man, Kondwani, with his wife and child will live here, improve the soil with agro-forestry, green manure, pigs, a cow, long crop rotation and conservation tillage in a planned eight year ad(venture) to see what can be achieved without  Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and the rest. We hope that this will be a model for the future

OTHER

We also have a rural birthing centre, which doubles as a health centre and a location for many and varied meetings

We support clubs for grandparents rearing grandchildren and home based care for HIV/AIDS sufferers, in the areas where we work

We have a fund for hospital medicines and baby clothes for maternity wards, in Mzuzu Central Hospital and Mzuzu Clinic. We also supply transport for the medics for their monthly clinics.

We work with secondary schools and the two third level institutions.

We have a project enabling girls to go to Secondary Schools, a few school libraries and even one on the farm.

We have Adult education programmes and one for school gardens.

We work with women’s Self Help clusters and also have a 23 acre

co-operative, commercial, model farm for women, where we work with the Ministry for Agriculture, Agroforestry and the Traditional Authorities. Here Wells for Zoë bought the land and will resell it to the women over a four year period. We bought it in April, 2012 and already 25% has been repaid ahead of schedule. This is a very new concept (shares and women’s ownership) to rural Malawi and has created much interest from many sectors.

We have a bee keeping project with almost 100 hives and a market for honey

We supported a young nursing student, who will graduate in December and come to work with us.

We have a charity shop in Smithfield run by volunteers

All this happens without taxpayers’ money or any assistance from Irish Aid, but with great help from family, friends, supporters and volunteers, always with passion and a second hand shoestring budget.

Millions wasted on water in Africa

From the Guardian

Got this from our friends at http://www.thelongwellwalk.com/. where Liam Garcia is taking a three year walk for water. On the 30th of June 2013 Liam will leave Sheffield on his way to Cape Town. On foot. Walking 8,000 miles to raise awareness and funds for ten communities in Africa – The Long Well Walk will help to provide clean water. we are planning to work with and support him.

Even though I posted the article on our facebook page I hadn’t really read it until now. A pity because I find it weak and having little of the real shockers that exist in the water business. Maybe the writer should spend a day with our guys in the villages in Northern Malawi.

The next few lines is from our new website and shows why we have been in Malawi since 2005 working on clean water:

WHY?
Mary and myself went to Malawi for the first time at Easter 2005 and were disturbed by a few things in particular:
        the sight of women and little girls carrying dirty water, long distances, on their heads;
         how shallow the wells only needed to be;
         the huge number of broken pumps and how few were maintained by their original installers.

NOW we know that a pump in Northern Malawi needs to work all day every day so the women in a village need to be able to fix it. 

SO Our pumps are made, in our factory in Mzuzu, from materials available in Malawi. Spare parts can be anywhere in Malawi in one day, by bus. Women can maintain using two six inch nails. They can deliver 20 litres per minute from 25 metres deep wells. Worst case scenario: The whole pump can be replaced in 5 minutes and is fully recyleable. The cost of the pump is less than €40. 

Two weeks ago I spent a day up and down goat tracks in our 22 year old ex-Irish army jeep, following old gogos across barren fields in dust storms and down steep ravines knowing that I would have to climb out again. I explained that God didn’t love me or He wouldn’t send me to such a remote, Godforsaken place; they just laughed. Oh! forgot to mention the failed, broken and useless pumps and the litany of dried up wells. Some lasted just a few weeks, some a few months and only the rare one, a year or two. They would all be considered VLM village level maintainable and sustainable and all the life giving words that donors like to hear and proposal writers try out on their potential victims, before settling on what might separate them from their money. Sometime, in the future, I will write the complete story giving GPS locations with the names of the water gurus that installed them or often got others to install. It seems that everyone wants to install a well, sing the songs, pray the prayers and give glory to some God or other. When another box is ticked these people move on, claim a few more souls or donors, keep their well paid jobs and leave God with a dilema. We regularly pick up the pieces and would do more if we get permission!! If we’re the best solution he gets, its not much of a solution, but our women in villages are the real deal.

One of my friends gave me what she thought was a brilliant idea, on pump maintenance, over the weekend. It was some electronic gadget, thingy to attach to a pump handle which would emit a signal if the pump was not in use. This signal would pop to satellite, then to a base, where maybe a fleet of helicopters would take to the air, descend on the location, and fix the pump.

Great I said but we have women in villages with mobile phones, and the just give us a call, we do the triage questioning bit and they fix the pump, or we may decide to unscrew it and screw in another, if that drastic a solution is necessary.

Oh, its that simple? Yes its that simple!!

Report criticises donors, governments and NGOs for installing boreholes and wells in rural Africa without ensuring their long-term sustainability

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted on clean water projects in rural Africa, according to a new report.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) says up to US$360m has been spent on building boreholes and wells that then become useless because they are not maintained or fixed when they break down. As a result, 50,000 water supply points are not functioning across rural Africa.

According to the report only one third of water points built by NGOs in Senegal’s Kaolack region are working and 58% of water points in northern Ghana are in disrepair.

The report’s author, Jamie Skinner, says that water points are often built by donors, governments and NGOs without fully consulting local people and finding out just how much it will cost to keep the boreholes clean and functioning over a sustained period of time.

He said drilling a borehole in a rural community was akin to asking people to run a cooperative private water supply.

“There is no point an external agency coming in, putting in a drill-hole and then passing it over to the local community if they can’t afford to maintain it over the next 10 or 20 years,” he says. “There needs to be a proper assessment of just how much local people are able to finance these water points. It’s not enough to just drill and walk away.”

This problem has arisen in Katine sub-county in north-east Uganda. In 2007, before the African Medical and Research Foundation and Farm-Africa began their development work in Katine, worms were found in the polluted water supply at the village of Abia, next to the Emuru swamp. A badly constructed and poorly maintained shallow well, dug by a charity, was full of soil and animal faeces and was making local people sick.

Amref’s strategy in Katine is to train local communities to operate and maintain the new safe water points that have been established in the sub-county since the project began.

Water and sanitation committees have been set up to monitor the new boreholes that have been dug and contact newly trained hand-pump mechanics if one breaks down. The committees meet regularly with village health teams to discuss needs and the idea is that everyone who uses the boreholes and wells will contribute financially to their long-term upkeep.

But last year water engineer Bob Reed argued on this website that rural water sources cannot be sustained without continuing external support and that boreholes were simply unsustainable.

Does this new report prove him right?

An email from Ratheniska Primary School, Co.Laois, Ireland

Brendan Fingleton is an engineer, I first met him a number of years ago, on a night when I had just returned from hole from Malawi, 30 hours travel and all that when I gave a talk to the Young Engineers Society!!. To make the story very short, he has just finished a stint volunteering with us in Malawi and is currently working in Australia, like many other young bright stars, of our potential future here. Liam will do well anywhere he goes, as he certainly did in Mzuzu.

His email goes as follows 

John and Mary how are things?

 I am sitting in Cairns about to head to bed. I hope all is good at home in Dublin. I assume all your Wells for Zoe projects are going good or in the right direction. I am sorry I have never got back to you with a summary of the bits and bobs that I did and learnt in Malawi. I have been looking at all the pictures on the site and they are all great. Makes me realize the amount I got to see and do when I was out there. I would like to say thanks again. It looks like this is your all-action time of year and have plenty of projects keeping you busy. 

I hope the shop is going good.

Anyway, I emailing you to show you some of your work is getting around and down to some kids in Laois. My sister is a teacher in our old primary school. She sent me a questions from the kids in her class. I tried to answer them as best I could and I thought you might be interested. I assume you have seen stuff like this before.

Anyway that you might be interested. And there is some pictures I sent them in the next email.

Brendan

I have tried to answer the questions as best I could below. Let me know if you have any more.

On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, Karen Fingleton wrote:

Hi Brendan,

This is the senior infants here. We are e-mailing you from Ratheniska school.

We are learning about where water comes from. We learned all about a boy called Daniel. He lives in Uganda. He and his family get water from a well.

Miss Fingleton told us that you used to make wells in Malawi. We would like to know how do you make wells?

We know that there is water under the ground everywhere in the world. We know that beside rivers it is only a couple of meters below ground! But up on mountains it can be 100m below ground!

Aoibheann wants to know where did the water come from?

The water is below the ground. The soil is very wet if you go deep enough. So when you dig a hole the water will flow from the soil into the hole.

Luke wants to know how did you make cement for the well?

We go to the cement and buy it in bags like in Ireland. The cement comes from grinding stones in a quarry into dust. We then add sand and water and that makes cement. And when you let it dry it becomes really strong.

Pádraig wants to know where did you get the bricks?

The bricks come from the ground. In Malawi the ground is really strong but also wet. So they put the wet clay into a mould, like pouring water into an ice cube holder. They then stack all the wet bricks in a pile and let them dry out! Then they put the dried bricks in a heap with big poles underneath, cover the bricks with soil and burn the timber. This is called firing. This makes them strong.

Joanne wants to know how did you travel to Malawi?

I got the bus from Portlaoise to Dublin airport. Then I got the plane to London, England. This took 1 hour. Then I got a plane from London England to Addis Abba in Ethiopia. This in Africa. This took 8 hours. I then got a plane from Addis Abba, Ethiopia to Lilongwe, Malawi. This is the biggest city in Malawi. I stayed there one night and then I got a bus to Mzuzu. This is the same distance as Dublin to Cork. The trip took 8 hours as the buses are very old and slow and they stop in every little town and let everyone they see onto the bus.

Orla wants to know if the well used buckets or a pump?

We use a pump. We put a lid on the well and slot a pump down the middle of the lid. This stops dirt getting in to the well. Every time you lift up the pump and push it back down you get about 1/2 a liter of water. This is easier than lifting a bucket up an down, which would be very heavy. But the Malawi women, boys and girls fill buckets. These can contain 25 liters of water. They then carry them on there heads. They might walk for 30 mins then.

Mateusz and Eimear want to know how long it took to build a well?

First you have to dig the well. This can be the hardest and longest part. Some times this can be done in a day. The well might only be 3 meters deep. But it can also take nearly 3 weeks, if the well is 20 meters deep. You then build the bricks. Then you have to make the pump which is very easy and cheap if you know exactly how to make it and have all the materials. Then you have to make the lid from cement. Then you put the lid in place. So sometimes it can take a couple of days but more times it can take weeks and weeks.

Finn and Katie want to know how did you make the pump at the top?

You make the lid from concrete (sand, stones and cement) with a small hole in the middle for the pump. Then you lift the pump up really high and then slot it down the hole until it is in the bottom of the well in the water. Then you screw the pump to the concrete to make sure it stays there for a long time.

Grace wants to know how did you get the water in the well?

When you dig the well you put bricks inside in circle for as far down as you dig. Then all the water in the soil flows in between some bricks at the bottom into the well.

Pádraig says ‘Safe journey home‘ ( but Miss Fingleton knows that you won’t be coming home for a while and that’s OK too, so safe journey whenever then is)

Slán,

Love Senior Infants and Miss Fingleton.

Go raibh maith agat.

We thank Miss Fingleton and her Senior Infant class for all the excellent questions

The Promise

In the shower this morning, with sparkling water falling on my head I reflected on all the people in the World who lack this essential for life and also on the huge effort that women have to make to locate and carry, often dirty water for their family needs. Suddenly the following memory flashed back to light

It was late evening in a remote village in Doroba, about 35km from home, but every one of them over tracks with backbreaking craters and not for the fainthearted. We were on a preschool-day where we were meeting whole communities and Mary was outlining the benefits of preschools and what we were requiring them to contribute to the process. She was doing all the work while Nicole, Kate and Aoife and myself were just making up the numbers!! This was the last of four preschool groups, so we were all ready for home. We were just taking the final group photograph of the day when this old lady approached me. She was probably sixty but looked ninety. She said “can you come to look at our pumps now”? I was hot, tired, hungry, my poor bones ached and I was all set to do the scary drive back home. Now I needed a quick lie!!. In a flash I replied that the women were tired and they had to rush. But she interjected, “you promised”. “You promised last week that the next time you came you would look at where we get our water, and we’re all here” (about 20 of them, all women). Well if I promised, I promised. I looked closely at this, probably sick, half starved bundle of bones, thought of my 85 year old mother and said hop in, as I made place in the front seat for her.

I asked “where do we go”, knowing that we were at the end of the line, the end of what had any resemblance to a road. They pointed, “just, over there”, along a goat track where a few already wrecked, ancient brick lorries, had flattened the small trees and grass. Now this was the real wilderness, I had no Harisen, so I’m on my own with a group of possessed women. Four kilometres later we arrived at over there. I thought: With a quick turnaround all would be well, but no such luck.

I know if Harisen was there he would probably drive all the way to the pump location, but he wasn’t and probably having his dinner by now. So off we go led by this rejuvenated auld one, running and jumping over gorges like a kid goat. Where is it: “Just over these trees”, but when we arrive there was another landmark and then another up hills and down, following these crazy women.

After about 1km, I sat and thought, should I continue or go back. I was dead, but they came, pulled me to my feet, and said quietly, “It’s not too far now”. Well it wasn’t, not for them: just another kilometre. We saw where she wanted her well. We planned what was to be done. She had no problem with things like the size, the digging, carrying bricks sand and stones, as long as we would bring the pump and cement They all prayed and danced and sang while telling me that there would be ten pumps in all, which was great for us, when all could be done together.

As we hiked back they told me that God would reward me. “What God”? I replied, “there’s no God”, I said, because if there was, He wouldn’t have me out here, in this godforsaken place, with you crowd of mad people. The just fell apart laughing and took turns pulling me up the hills, making the path and minding me.

They are wonderful people, I love then, They’re God’s own people, and that’s how much they want clean water.

I haven’t been back but I’m told that they all have clean, safe drinking water now, all two thousand or so. Of course they’ll thank God, not me, but that’s not a bad deal.

When I returned, Mary and the gang were really tired, thought I had been kidnapped, or led astray. They slept on the journey back despite the undulations.

I will think before I promise in the future Well, No I won’t.

Who said that Malawians need AID?

Getting the best return

Mary often asks me who I’m writing for, but I never really know, who reads or who cares, but being just off the plane after 32 hours travel, maybe it’s therapeutic!!.

Six weeks in Malawi was again exciting, enlightening and generally crazy. We had the sudden death of the President, his body sent to South Africa to allow time for an attempted coup, the grand tour in the golden trailer RIP 1, the millions of dollars, allegedly, found in bags in his bedroom and in his gold plated mausoleum, the vice president sworn-in, a palpable sense of relief and hope among our village friends, and the certain possibility of a better future. We’re told,  by our Malawian friends, that Ireland, almost alone, supported him to the bitter end, something they always question.

In Malawi, this was the hungry season when most villagers are down to one meal a day, still in the cold, rainy season. The maize has grown if you have fertilizer and the wet, red soil sticks to everything.

We had hardly drawn a breath of the rarefied air, before we were reminded of our commitment to a 200 strong women’s cluster in Doroba. Four of their representatives had trudged 30 km, in the downpour, to our pump factory, in the city to say thanks for the fifty pumps, but what about our preschools? In only one year of self help success, these shy, helpless and hopeless women had become eloquent, forceful and focused. Yippee!! They knew their community needs and our requirements and had a list of five areas where preschools had already begun operations, with carers, the use of a building, a school committee and the chiefs on board. Mary decided that we should meet each community separately and make sure that they all understood that they needed WORKING committees and school gardens for a feeding programme. By the end of six weeks we now have 11 new preschools (17 in all), where all the carers have had one day’s hands-on training, with Mary and her crew, just to get them started. I have’nt mentioned the cratered tracks, the desperate journeys, the nightmares for the bony-assed!, the magical scenery and the dire poverty. All that matters now is that these communities have a common mission, to get their little ones to school and keep them there. In these remote rural areas education is prized.

Meanwhile we opened our second adult education class in another deprived area of Mzuzu. Both will be models in a new push for adult literacy. While working closely with the District Education Manager we will continue to move the process forward in the villages with preschools.

Continuing with education, our volunteers from DIT, continued work on an English language project, for secondary school begun last year, while Mary gave the keynote address, and a workshop, at an In-service day on School Management. Plans are well under way, with the Education Ministry, for a two week training programme, by experienced, Irish teachers, to enable Malawian teachers to deliver training to their peers.

Despite the fuel, forex and sugar shortages, we managed to deliver 160 pumps to our partners in Zambia which will enable them to bring clean drinking to over 70,000 remote villagers. Considering the population of Roscommon is 63,896, I figure this is a bit of an achievement!

Oh, Our beehives are going great and we bought 2 piglets for breeding on the farm.

Land ownership in Malawi is very low especially for women, but in the last ten days we managed to buy 23 acres of land, in trust, for a group of 21 women and three men to enable them to set up a model, commercial, co-operative farm

It has the backing of all nine chiefs in the area, as well as support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro forestry, all of whom attended the hand-over meeting, at one day’s notice, under their own steam and without allowances. (maybe a first)

All this was achieved by a unique farmer, Dupu Mshanga, who will facilitate the project.

The Wells for Zoë  funding will be repaid by the end of four years and then passed on to a similar project elsewhere.

They have plans for cows and pigs, (with the help of the Ministry) paprika (for which we have a market) and pidgeon pea, Bananas and bees (we have a market for the honey), sunn hemp and velvet bean, no organic fertilizer or chemical pesticides.

These self help women will achieve all this because they are women, and because they are inspired. They will empower themselves, because they are the only ones who can do that. The final remark by Dupu was that they were never the recipients of Aid, they can do it by themselves and while they appreciate our help, he agreed that, in five years, W4Z would have convinced them that they had done it all by themselves.

John (and Mary Coyne): http://www.wellsforzoe.org

Ian Sutton

Hydrogeogogist Ian Sutton volunteers with Wells for Zoe in Malawi

We grabbed this from  info@recruitireland.com, about out man Ian Sutton

We’ve been lucky enough to feature a wide variety of careers and different sectors in the Career Paths series and this time we have something very different for you. In this installment, we’re delighted to feature Ian Sutton, a Project Hydrogeologist who works in Water and Sanitation services and who’s work takes him all over the world.

Hello! Ian and girlfriend Tara head for Malawi tomorrow May 29, 2012, to volunteer with us on water and education related projects in Mzuzu.

Ian worked with us in 2007 while doing his thesis and  now he’s turning to check up on us to see if we’re doing things correctly!!

Harisen and Charity will meet them at the airport and renew the friendships.
This is Ian.
Name: Ian Sutton
Age: 29
Birthplace: London
Marital Status: Single
Children: None
Highest Education: MSc
Institutions attended: Trinity College Dublin, Cranfield University, UK.
Academic achievements: BSc hons, MSc

About You

1) What is your current role?
I’m a project hydrogeologist in the water sector of a multinational company mostly working on consultancy jobs. The work is varied with new interesting projects coming in all the time. We do a lot of work on operational, environmental and water resource solutions for mining companies, government ministries/agencies and water utilities. Work gives me the opportunity to see a lot of interesting places throughout the UK, West Africa and South America.

2) How did you get into your current role/ industry?
I applied for my current job after having spent about 2 years studying for and working in the water and sanitation overseas development sector. I had been a mineral exploration geologist before that. Language skills were a big help in getting my current job, as well as having experience working overseas. I am currently getting technical hydro-experience in the private industry something that I hope to be able to apply to certain aspects of the overseas development sector in years to come.

3) How many years have you been in your current role/ industry?
3 years.

4) What other roles did you do before finding your current role?
From the most recent to the oldest:
• Managed a water supply project in northern Haiti, it involved rehabilitating an old water supply network about 18km long piping water from mountain springs to several villages, a collective of farmers and a large coastal town. In total about 10,000 beneficiaries. It was a real eye opener to overseas development work, although the work required a fair bit of technical problem solving, working and communicating with local communities was by far the most important aspect.
• Gold and coal exploration and drilling supervising geologist based in Mongolia for two years. It was great fun mapping in the wilderness, logging core, and interpreting geophysics among other things. It is a great place.
• Volunteered on the Suas programme providing teaching ideas to NGO schools in Calcutta. Wonderful experience and a great way to get into development type work. Being part of the programme definitely set the tone for wanting to continue along the lines of overseas development.

5) What was the worst job you ever had?
Night shift core logging at a drill rig in minus 20 degrees with no heater and a dodgy stomach. Only lasted two nights thankfully.

6) Did you always want to work in your role/ industry or did you get into it late?
I don’t think it is ever too late to get into a certain role or industry. I have changed industry three times; from mineral exploration, to overseas development, to technical hydro-consulting. It’s good to mix thing up and not to get stuck in one position.
It can be tough to change industries and can often mean taking a pay cut, but at the end of the day the more experience you have over a wide range of environments the more useful you will be either to your own company or someone else’s. Many skills can be applied over a range of industries.

7) What advice would you give to other people looking to get a career in your industry?
For hydrogeological consulting and hydrological consulting, and probably engineering in general, get a good technical base so that you are confident in your work. It’s good to start off working in a team where you can learn from your peers.
For overseas work a good way of getting experience is through volunteering initially. People you meet along the way can also lead to work further down the line. Hold onto contact numbers and email addresses.

8) What do you like most about your job?
The variety, meeting new people all over the world and having a balance between travelling to new places and having a base to come back to.

9) Anything you don’t like?
Work can take over your life sometimes, its really important to keep a balance and to relax, when you have a lot of client deadlines it can be hard to do this sometimes.

10) What time do you get up for work?
It varies a lot, when I’m working in the field anywhere from 5am to 7am. For an office day I’d usually get up at 8:00am.

11) Where would you like to retire to?
Ireland with sunshine, a reggae bar in Jamaica, or a Spanish villa! Anywhere with good food, good company and good weather!

12) Favourite website(s)?
Don’t have a favourite, probably BBC if I had to choose

13) What would be your dream job?
Successful musician

14) What are your goals or plans for the future?
Practise more guitar!
To continue to find work that I enjoy and that motivates me.

15) And finally, the three luxury items you want if you were trapped on a desert island?

Guitar
Surf board
Good company
(and maybe a luxury yacht)…. (or a trip to Malawi)