DO Diaries: Day Three

Design OutreachBlog

We arrived successfully in Zambia with no issues passing through the border and arrived at the Living Water International (LWI) office in Chipata. The office just opened up as of last December. We were greeted by Victor, the office director, and other LWI staff members along with DO’s Moonga. Our plan was to start the theoretical portion of the Training of Trainers program at the office and then start off early the next morning to install our first LifePumpTM together as part of the practical training. However, there was no electricity at the office, even though it’s in town—a good reminder of the many challenges facing people in Zambia. Our plans shifted to completing the training the next day, which worked out well, and then we proceeded to the community called “Lrngwe.”

We have been praised many times by the Ministry of Water in Zambia for our capacity-building programs. It’s so important that we empower our brothers and sisters to help solve issues facing their country by passing along the knowledge we have learned. The Training of Trainers is designed to equip Zambian pump technicians to install and maintain LifePumps without DO being present. In the short term, it would be easier and cheaper to do it ourselves, but in the long term this is unsustainable and doesn’t empower people. Training in a different culture is also a challenge because of different learning styles. I feel like God used my time teaching at Ohio State to understand learning styles and adapt my teaching style in places like Zambia. For instance, here we find that visual and hands-on learning are best. Last summer we had an amazing group of interns working with our R&D team in Ohio to create short how-to videos to supplement the training manuals. The manual design was inspired by IKEA and LEGO instruction manuals—it was a lot of work but very useful. With the manuals and videos, the pump technicians (called pump minders here in Zambia) picked up the skills very quickly. And then we practice the skills in the field. The Zambian pump minders are hard-working men who came from several districts around Zambia to learn and refresh their LifePump skills.

In conversation, we talked about how politics are a tricky balance even with our work as DO. Something that we have to consider is where donated LifePumps go and how that is communicated. Right now, Zambia is undergoing campaigning for summer elections, and the parties sometimes use water as a campaigning topic. We don’t want to appear to be aligning with one party or another, and if we install a LifePump in one party’s stronghold area without proper justification, that may appear as supporting that party. I’m so thankful for expert guidance from our own experts in DO who understand local laws and politics and keep us from unexpected challenges.

On our way to Lrngwe community, I was reminded of how doing things right the first time is so important. The main road was paved some years ago, and from my inspection, the asphalt was about one inch thick. I’m not a highway engineer, and our civil engineering friends would know for sure, but I’m fairly certain that this is far too thin. Because of this, the road had craters (AKA giant potholes) throughout, and it was very dusty. This meant very difficult driving for over two hours, constantly swerving and off roading to get around the craters. It looked like a bombed runway from WWII or something. With the pavement on the surface, it’s not possible to regrade the dirt, which would have resulted in a much better road. It would have been better to just not pave it or pave it correctly in the first place. Such a parallel to water pumps and appropriate technology—we can get a quick win with cheap pumps that work for a short while, but then it ends up creating bigger problems down the road, and much more costly to fix.

In Lrngwe community, we were met with a warm reception and split up in two teams. Beatrice and I started talking with community leaders about their community, families, hopes/aspirations, and water situation. They were praising God that we came to install the LifePump. The other team started working on the install right away. This community had been using river water about three kilometers away until a few years ago, when they dug an open well in the community. The open well is contaminated, but at least closer the water is closer. It is a very remote community, and the women said they had never even seen or used a hand pump in their entire lives. Beatrice is so great at relating to the women and sharing about how safe water can change so much. We interviewed a couple men and a couple women. The men could speak English, but not the women—a stark reminder that families often only send the boys to school and the “victims” (Beatrice’s words) are the girls. Families are economically poor and have to pay for education (we take free education for granted in the US), and so they prioritize boys. This is the reality for millions of girls around the world. But empowering women with safe and reliable water can change this reality by helping families to earn more income and send their girls to school.

It took about three hours to install the LifePump, and the Zambian pump minders were working hard in the hot sun. The entire community looked on with much anticipation. As water started flowing, there were many cheers. We all celebrated with candy for the kids and bottled soda for the adults—a big treat for the community. The kids in this community will be forever affected now because of the generosity of so many people. A community member offered Ray a chicken as a sign of appreciation. Ray didn’t know what to do with a chicken, and so Moonga grabbed it and put in the back of the truck. I had to laugh, because this has happened to me in the past. 😊 Something so simple as safe and reliable water can make such a major, life-long, and eternal impact on entire communities. We returned to our hotel tired, exhausted, and hungry. We are getting reset for a new day heading out for LifePump installation number two with LWI in our training session. Please pray for continued safety, a successful border crossing back into Malawi on Saturday, health, families back home tending the home fires, and the continued advocacy to reach more communities.

Please see attached pictures from the classroom training, community, and other interesting things…including pig transportation and community before/after photos.

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