In June 2013, a team of our volunteers landed in Malawi to meet with World Vision national staff, scout sites for the installation of our LifePump™ hand pump, and meet dear people in Kanyamula and Chikwina.
While in Chikwina, we were introduced to another WASH project (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene): a water distribution system connecting a natural spring to a water tank (about 9 km away), a source plentiful enough to provide for approximately 30,000 people.
Community members in the area worked hard to build this water system, routinely making the day-long trek to the water source and pouring significant resources into the project. They used the tools they had, and even resourcefully constructed some of their own. But due to gravity creating extreme amounts of water pressure, the pipes would often burst. Unable to sustain the system, the tank sat dry. Hope was almost lost on water reaching the storage tank.
Upon returning to the U.S., our team contacted Shook Construction in Dayton, Ohio, who helped develop an action plan to diagnose potential problem areas. We then reached out to friends at Engineering Ministries International. EMI is a non-profit organization of architects, engineers, and design professionals all donating their time and skills to help people around the world escape poverty. In March, EMI sent a team to Malawi to troubleshoot the water system problems with World Vision staff. Jason Chandler, EMI engineer, described his experience:
It was heartbreaking to see and hear that hope had been lost by so many. There are families with children who have literally lived their entire lives in the shadow of this desolate tank and have never been able to draw water from it. It was our hope that God would lead us to discover why water was not able to flow to this tank and then be able to see the system commissioned while we were there.
In the days following, World Vision and the EMI team determined that the available materials and tools were unsuitable to keep water sustainably flowing in the present system. The system was partially redesigned to reach a storage tank at a lower elevation thus reducing the pressure on the pipes and an alternative water source was found to bring water to people living at higher elevations. Local labor would not be wasted and additional villages along the way would have access to clean, reliable water.
We don’t have to know it all or do it all. Isn’t that great news? We get to partner with other organizations and individuals to find solutions. The community members in Malawi who worked hard constructing this water system with their own tools and knowledge of the area, World Vision with decades of experience, our own staff and volunteers to help identify potential problems and proposed solutions, and EMI, to bring their own area of expertise.
None of us are the whole. We all play a part. Each part is needed and interconnected to the others. And when the parts come together, we are closer to solving the world’s water problem and alleviating poverty.