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


Carrying water


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.



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


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.

women of malawi

Women of Malawi

The title maybe indicates the main focus of my life at the moment, but it is the name of a wonderful organisation working in Malawi as well , http://www.womenofmalawi.org. The driving force is Dr Valerie Donnelly and I have taken the following from the website.

My name is Valerie Donnelly. I am a practicing Obstetrician in Mount Carmel Hospital, Churchtown, Dublin 14 since 2000 and am presently the Lead Clinician. I qualified in 1985 from the Royal College of Surgeons and trained in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Ireland and Australia.
I first went to Malawi in November 2007 to help give a course in Emergency Obstetrics with the Irish College of Anaesthetists to Clinical Officers. I visited a local hospital and was so overwhelmed by the poor facilities, lack of supplies and of trained staff, the workload of the doctors and condition of the mother. Even in the hospital many of the babies died and the maternal mortality was totally unacceptable. The mothers are sick with anaemia, malaria, HIV/AIDS and general malnutrition.
Infant mortality, within the hospital, is 10%. Maternal mortality, within the hospital, is 1 in 2000. This compares to a ratio of 1 in 100,000 in Ireland. UNICEF publishes a figure of Lifetime risk of Maternal Death of 1:18. The principle cause of maternal death is haemorrhage. Many of the women have severe anaemia due to a lack of iron in the diet. The provision of iron to pregnant women would have significant impact on the maternal mortality rate.
I returned in July 2008 to work at the hospital for a month as a volunteer. I brought supplies of sutures and drugs which I knew to be lacking. I transported these by DHL while I was there so that I could ensure they got to the right place.
In November 2008 I went back to the hospital and brought 27 boxes of supplies, theatre gowns, ventouse cups, sutures, drugs, drapes etc., Many of these items were donated to me and I organised pick up and distribution through the hospital agent, including an Ultrasound scanning machine. While working at the hospital I interviewed and gathered information on more than 500 women. I began to identify some of the most important issues were knowledge about pregnancy and the general wellbeing of the pregnant women. Most of the women were poorly educated and unaware when they should come to the hospital and many left their visit too late. Also many of the women were severely anaemic which was the major contributor to their problems and, I believe, to the deaths of some of them. In addition a lack of simple medical supplies lead to poor outcomes of routine medical procedures.

In January 2009 I returned to give another teaching programme with the Irish College of Anaesthetists.

In March 2009 I will visit again to set up a project to get information to the women in the villages. I am also looking to coordinate the delivery of an operating theatre to a district hospital. The operating theatre is the gift of an Irish entrepreneur.

On behalf of the Women of Malawi I thank you for your support.

The death of a mother in childbirth is a tragedy in any society. Women and children are our life for the future. In Ireland, when a woman dies in childbirth, this event can make headline news. 1 in 100,000 women die in labour in Ireland. In Malawi the maternal mortality rate is 1 in 1,800. In a single government hospital in Malawi, where I work, two or three women die each month. 85% of Malawian society lives in a rural agricultural setting, and this is where the majority of mothers deliver their babies. There is little data on the rural populations in Malawi, which means that the above-mentioned maternal death rate is likely higher – we actually have no accurate idea how many women die in childbirth in rural areas though this is being addressed by government bodies at present.
While there are many ways to help reduce maternal mortality The Women of Malawi Charity has decided to focus on three core issues.Proven ways to reduce the carnage in childbirth are:
Improving the mother’s health during pregnancy.
Having a skilled attendant at birth;
Educating the women about childbirth and;Preventing anaemia.
The main cause of death in childbirth is from haemorrhage. Mothers die because of lack of blood for transfusions, but they would not be so prone to blood loss if their iron level were higher in the first place. (Iron is a major mineral in blood that contributes to coagulation.) The average iron levels, at Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin where I work, during pregnancy is 11-12. At Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe where I volunteer on a regular basis, the average iron level is 6-7 in expectant mothers. This leaves the women susceptible to infections and death due to haemorrhage, and complicates delivery with preterm birth and small babies.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about this cause.
Takulandilani indepo, Zicomo
(Welcome and Thank You in Chichewa, the language widely spoken in Malawi.)

Meeting at Luvuwu

Meeting at Luvuwu

The man in the suit is the school principal and until recently, when we replaced the roofing material, he had a thatched roof which leaked!!
The man in the foreground contacted HIV 20 years ago from a blood transfusion his wife got. As a couple they are open about their condition which is a great help to others in the community as they are in very good health using ARV drugs.
The community support group idea is simple. The community support each other and we support the group.

Liam writes:

We had a meeting with the Women and the HIV Support group in Luvovo today. Over 50 women and about 10 men were in attendance.

The meeting was to discuss the possibility of starting a micro-credit scheme for small-scale business in the village. The village chief had met the idea with an enthusiastic reception when we approached him and called his people to attend today.

The people eagerly welcomed the idea of assistance with business, and immediately went to work discussing options among each other, facilitated by community leaders and the school teachers.

After the meeting a lady came forward with a bag of oranges. She was wanting to give a gift as she wanted to get involved with the HIV support group. Another man came up to inform me that his brother, Venji, had died. Venji had been one of the two people who were suffering heavily from HIV when we first visited, to the extent that it severely hampered his ability to leave the house and his mood. He died on 10th December, but since then his brother has become even more involved in the support group and is eager to get more men to come forward and join.

Griffith College volunteers

From the Griffiti Magazine

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

Ciara Healy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to know more about the Charity they are online at http://www.wellsforzoe.org

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