Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First time Malawi

Tentatively I stepped off the plane and onto Blantyre Airport’s melting hot tarmac. It was a very surreal experience, if I closed my eyes I could just as well be back at home, and maybe if I opened them again that’s exactly where I would be, in Australia, in my bed dreaming. However, this was not a dream, it was very real. I paused, briefly reflecting on the possible adventures to come, even though I had no concept of what they would be.

My placement in Mulanje district turned out to be just that- an unimagined adventure, and the next thing I knew I was speeding along the motor way to spend a month in beautiful Mulanje; the home of lusciously green tea plantations and the majestic Mulanje Mountain that towers over the district like a Chief on his high Chief’s chair.

The purpose of my placement in Mulanje was to experience the day-to-day functions of an ADRA project, in particular the Women Empowerment Project, phase 2 (WEP2), funded by SIDA through ADRA Sweden. It was on this project that I saw first hand the vital need for water and the joyful excitement that comes with the installation of a water pump.

Upon arrival at my first African village, I was greeted by the loud humming of a big yellow drill twisting its way into the earth and the gushing of water as it burst out triumphantly from its freshly drilled hole. A crowd of excited women and children formed around the site smiling and chattering happily with each other. While others just stood in silent awe as the coolness of run away water droplets landed on their faces. It would still take some time for the water to come out clean but even now, in its brown muddy state, it represented a life changing

hope for each villager.

Before the borehole, women and young girls would awaken to the darkness of early morning at around three or four am and walk for 30 minutes of more to their nearest source of water, which in many cases is unclean- the culprit of water-borne diseases. This ritual of collecting water is performed more than five times a day. Imagine taking four hours or more just to have enough water to drink, bathe in, cook with and perform other household duties like washing up.

Having close access to clean drinking water is vital for the development of a community. It prevents sickness that takes people away from work or school and it gives women for example, more time to be involved in Income Generating Activities (IGAs) or Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) classes.

One of the women I spoke to exclaimed excitedly that this new borehole would make such an improvement to her life by reducing the amount of time spent fetching water, so much so that she wished I could arrange for a borehole to be built right near her home. If only it was that easy.

My time in these villages taught me to see with different eyes the true value of water and the key role it plays in improving the lives of communities.

Author: Krystle Praestiin

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