Before having access to clean water Doreen would regularly carry a 40 litre bucket full of water from the nearest well, located half an hour from the village; “I could only manage to visit the well twice in one day to get water for the entire family”
We visit Doreen in Kwanji village to learn how her voluntary experience at Gumba hospital was the beginning of a life change. At Gumba hospital Doreen was responsible for visiting rural villages to ensure that families had medication for diarrhoea, one of the main diseases caused by using dirty water. During her distribution visits, Doreen learnt health advice from the medical personnel she would accompany. She learnt how to clean homes, cook nutritious meals, clean plates & pots etc, tips that would be vital later in her life.
Doreen recalls the time fondly despite its hardships, saying that she was proud to have been able to help people. Her experience meant that she has been able to work alongside Pump Aid’s Health Leaders, and has since then continued to promote good hygiene and sanitation behaviour within her own village, Kwanjii.
Doreen and her husband now live in Kwanji village and have raised four children. Life in Kwanjii is pleasant for the family; three of Doreen’s children attend the local primary school and the family has year round access to clean water as a result of replacing the old village well with an elephant pump. But life wasn’t always like this.
Doreen recalled how things were before the pump was installed: “We used to get water at dusk in a company of many women because it was not safe for one person to travel to the water source at sun set and it was not possible to come very early in the morning, unaccompanied. We spent a lot of time ‘kukapa madzi’ , meaning ‘dewatering the well’ because animals like goats, dogs and cattle used to drink from the same source.” The burden of collecting water often falls on women and girls in Malawi, which affects their health, puts them in vulnerable situations and also limits their future.
Doreen’s work with Pump Aid’s health leaders has proved vital for the future of her family and the rest of Kwanji village. Through Doreen’s voluntary experience at Gumba hospital and time spent with Pump Aid’s Health Leaders she learnt that it is not enough to just give communities access to water but to make lasting change people need to know how to improve their personal hygiene behaviour. Doreen teaches her own children the importance of washing their hands after visiting the toilet or before having a meal and has introduced the practice of using ash, if the soap runs out, something now practiced throughout the entire village.
Doreen and her family are looking forward to what could be a promising year for them. They expect a big harvest and have planted maize, groundnuts and soya beans to sell at the local market. Their dream is to be able to build a protected structure for their toilet and ultimately a bathroom so their family can continue to stay healthy.
For more information on Pump Aid’s work in promoting hygiene and sanitation behaviour click here.
This blog is part of a series for World Water Day. To read stories from other families visit our page here.