Sunday, 22 June 2014

Things are moving :)

Wells for Zoe, Malawi

A lot has happened in the last two weeks. First of all I’m much more flexible again :) I have rented a motorbike! Yippee! But let’s start from the beginning.

Research approval 

I was so fortunate to get the contact no. of a local Professor here at the University in Mzuzu. Rochelle was so nice, she invited me over for dinner and we had a proper chat about my research project. She is the Manager of the Centre of Excellence for Water & Sanitation here in Mzuzu. That was also the time when I discovered that an official application had to made to the National Commission for Science and Technology in Lilongwe to get approval for my research. This is necessary if I would like to publish anything later on. Rochelle was so kind to send me some examples what they were looking for and the mandatory documents. I would like to spare you all from the details they were looking for. This was a massive application and not done in one day – better said it took one week!!! Anyway, I started to develop my questionnaire. I had lots of ideas, but phrasing the questions in the correct way was challenging. I decided to create some headings and then see where the questions would fit.  I put some plain paper up on the walls and stuck the different questions on there with blue tack. I loved structuring the questionnaire that way. I reminded me about teaching in Vietnam! 
Creating my Questionnaire
Later on that week I did meet up with Rochelle again to run by my questionnaire and made some changes. I was grateful for any tips and ideas I got! The rest of the time was spent to prepare all the other forms. There was no shortage of work. On Monday I managed to go to the bank to pay in the money for the research proposal. Have you ever seen over 100 people in a bank? You need to get a ticket first of all. I got number 609 and guess what number was served at the moment? 478! OMG, yes, I had to wait 1.5 hours for a 3 minute visit at the counter! That was an experience!!!!
Payment receipt - Research proposal
Finally on Tuesday last week it was ready to go. I was at Mzuzu University trying to get the papers printed.
Mzuzu University Grounds

What didn’t seem to be a challenge first did turn into one! The first printing shop was closed; the second who was a green container was only able to copy, as the guy had gone out who was responsible for printing; in the third place the printer was broken. 
Green Printing container - Mzuzu University
BUT I found a place to print after 1.5hours. It was a private student who had a laptop and a private printer and he printed everything off for me :) I was delighted to have found him and that he made such an effort to get things printed. Thank you! I send the application by courier to Lilongwe! That felt good! 
Courier G4S to Lilongwe
However, so far I didn’t get any acknowledgement from them, but I will chase them the coming week. Fingers crossed I will receive my approval in the next 4 weeks. Before that I cannot start surveying at all.

Pre-School teacher training

Pre-School kids in front of the school during the training

One morning last week was set-aside for Pre-School Teacher training. We drove out to a rural Pre-school with staff from Wells for Zoe and the kids welcomed us with applaud and songs. It was a very lovely atmosphere. 

Warm welcome!

Have a look at the video:

After singing and dancing with the pre-school children the Teacher training began. 

We had some speeches in the beginning and the chief of the village had joined as well. He was interested to discuss some wells and therefore some of us including myself left the training and set with the chief to see what challenges they were facing or what help was needed. 

Talk with the chief (2nd from the left)

Florence was there as well, she is local woman from Doroba area and she will be my translator for the questionnaire. I had a good chat with her and we agreed to meet the following week to discuss my questionnaire and the implementation of surveys, what village to choose and so on!

Miriam - The Teacher Trainer

Local Pre-School Teachers

Happy with his toy!
The local women cooked porridge for the children and the new spoons and plates we had brought were used instantly. 

I was interested how the women were cleaning the pots and so I helped them a little bit. 

Cleaning pots
 It takes me a way longer to clean the pots than the locals, but it taught me how to use the nature to get them cleaned. Some strong blade of grass was used instead of a sponge and it did work. 

Cleaning the outside with sand
To get rid of the black smut, they scrub the pots on the outside with sand so the pots are shiny again.

Look how shiny my pot is!?

How bricks are made

The chief invited all of us to come and visit the place just 5min from the pre-school where bricks are made. It was interesting to watch how these bricks were made locally.

Clay is chopped loose 

Clay is needed

Clay is filled into the wooden form

Clay is smoothed

Brick brought to dry

Bricks are covered with straw to protect them from cracking

More water pumps installed

Last week we went off and the Wells for Zoe Team installed 3 new water pumps as well as built one slab. 

Water pump 9 - Village: Kavumba 

donated by Ruth, Sophia, Annika,  Sheela & Jane-Ann!

Village - water pump 9
Brick supply

Bricks being wet 

Explanation to the locals

Women learn now to maintain the pump

bricks build around the pump

Women celebrate having a water pump

Water is flowing - Thanks to the donors Ruth, Sophia, Annika,  Sheela & Jane-Ann!

Water pump 10 – Doroba Area – Mzomere Ngwira village

donated by Julie and Eugenie

Mzomere Ngwira village

Kids are helping with the pipes

Getting the pump ready


Women learn how to maintain the pump

Almost ready!

William explains that the pump still has to dry and they can fix it in half a day!

Water pump 11 – Khamba Region – Donegonanmazo

donated by Helga!

Installation work

Pigeon house


Village pig

On the way to the installation - William leading the way!

A local stove - inspection by Steve and John!

Storage area for maize and tobacco!

Maintenance instructions by Steve!

Everybody is interested!

Almost ready!

Water is flowing!


Watch the video!

Motorbike rental

As you might remember from the last blog entry I was looking for a motorbike for rent. This didn’t seem to be as easy as I thought as most of the people tried to ask for a fortune to rent a bike. It seems like if they see your white skin the price is 5 to 10 times as high as for locals. I decided to not pay these ridiculous prices and kept looking. I met Jim, an American who is also involved in pump installations and borehole drilling. When we were talking about my research project he somehow mentioned that he had a motorbike, which he gave to a Malawian friend. He said he would ring him and see if I could rent it from him. That was last week Thursday and I found an agreement with Chimaliro to rent the bike to me for 2.5 months. I was very excited. 

My bike for the next 2.5 months!

So now I’m driving since one week with my ‘new’ bike and guess I often I had to see the mechanic. Yes, three times already. 

But well, I had known it is not a new bike and the repairs didn’t cost must at all. I hope after some maintenance is done that the bike will run smoothly after all ;) Fingers crossed!

Getting approval from the chiefs 

As I was finally mobile and able to drive to some villages myself I had agreed to meet up with Florence in Doroba Area to visit some villages which I would like to survey. So I headed off, after a quick stop at the pump factory where the guys gave me some directions how to find the village Florence is living in. I was a bit afraid if I can find it myself, as there are no signs or anything if you leave Mzuzu and get out on the dirt red roads. So I drove on my new motorbike ready for the next adventure and it was one indeed. I managed after asking twice some locals on the way to reach Florence house! 

Florence House + my bike
Dirt roads - however that was a flat one!
First milestone reached :) The roads were unreal I have to say. I never drove between such craters before, really bumpy and lots of sand. Yeah, you could ask yourself if you wanted to train for a cross-country motor race! I was wondering how I would manage to drive with a passenger on these roads. Well I soon found out. After chatting to Florence about the questionnaire and that we would need translation into Tumbuka the local language, we decided to hit the road. Florence had planned to drive to 4 different villages. We arrived at the first one where we were nicely greeted and asked to walk to the local church. Some people from the village would come and talk to us. So they did and soon we were in the middle of an official meeting with the chief’s attendance. Women and men were seated totally separate. They were all very friendly and asked lots of questions; most of them were related to how I or ‘Wells for Zoe’ could help them. We explained the nature of my study and my survey and they were very pleased to participate in my studies. I was chuffed! 

Maize storage

Local house with sponges on the roof

The sponges are used for bathing to rub the skin.

1st meeting in Ngoti Ngwira

The roads we drove on to visit the next few villages was more than adventurous!  There was not even a road sometimes and others were just accessible by foot or a bike. No car would be able to drive there to be honest! We had massive ascending and descending slopes with massive craters in it. Sometimes Florence had to get off the bike as it was impossible to drive with two people. But we did manage and we had a very successful day. All four villages were pleased with my survey coming up and they all welcomed me back! Thanks so much Florence for your help! You are an amazing help!

2nd village - Mlokota Tupa

3rd meeting - Bandawe

Local women with a 2 weeks old baby girl!

4th village - Kachasu

5th village - Yesata Moyo

Chief with his wife in Yesaya Moyo

Umosa “Street Children” 


Last Thursday we were invited to the local Street Children program in St. John on God in Mzuzu. They have a programme every Thursday afternoon where they do story telling, play games, dance, learn something about Culture, Music and History and they get a meal as well. It was just a joyful event. Our housekeeper Phil invited us to come along and I’m so grateful she did. The funniest part was a local dance! Some of the kids dressed up in Uniforms and performed the dance. They asked Emer and myself to participate as well! So we did :) It was so much fun to dance with them!

Mary Coyne handing over a cheque
Kids dancing!

Special dance in the uniforms!

Add caption

Emer and Kerstin trying their best :)

So much fun!

Food for the children!

School opening in Rumphi – My first bigger motorbike trip

I had an eventful morning yesterday. I got up early as the school opening where I was invited to was 70km away from Mzuzu und it did start already at 9am. So I left my house a quarter past 7. However I didn’t get very far. Shortly after Mzuzu University my motorbike decided to not accelerate anymore. I was only able to use the first or second gear. So I turned around and tried to reach the mechanic place, where I was beforehand, around 2km away. I did, but nobody was there. After a call and an hour spend waiting from the mechanic he checked the bike and said it is the exhaust pipe. He cleaned it and then I finally started my trip to Rumphi. It was a nice drive, even if the M1 is the main road. Just some Minivans have no idea how to overtake a bike. They drive so close past you that you almost fall of your bike. So I decided to leave more space between myself and the left side of the road, so I can actually move to the left if that happens again. It took me 1.5 hours to reach Rumphi. 
Chandamale Primary School
The opening ceremony had just started! It was brilliant – a big Primary school and so many kids everywhere. 
Chiefs wife dancing away!

They were so excited to see some white people, so I had a lot of chats and dances with the kids. The building works were not completely finished but the roof was done and most of the classrooms were usable. It was a lovely experience and thanks to Laura who invited me in the first place!

So many watching and celebrating!

Local play from students!

Impressive Hula Hoop!

Excited kids!


  1. So inspiring! Kerstin thank you so much!

    1. Thanks a million Luigi! Hope all is well back in Dublin :)

  2. All very exciting!! Those bike trips must be amazing even if challenging .... Looking forward to seeing our name towards a well ..... Stay safe

    1. Yes, riding on a bike is always an adventure. No better way to explore a region ;) Your donation came through. Thank you so much! We will be out in the next week or so. Pics will follow :)

  3. Sorry for my ignorance but I couldn't get your research topic ,could you throw some light on Wells for Zoe .
    I love your what you blog and special the nepal travelogue that you wrote ,It has inspired me to go once i graduate =) .You write with so much detail and precision seems like I will not be requiring a guide
    keep blogging ,you dont do it often ,plz do its amazing :)