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The Big Dig Update: Optimism of Improved Wellbeing for Malawian Women and their Families

Wow, the Big Dig Appeal fund raising target of £1.2 million has been smashed ahead of the 18th September, 2012 time limit! The appeal which was launched on June 18th, 2012 in United Kingdom is being championed by WaterAid, an international NGO dedicated exclusively to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people. The lives of an estimated population of 134,000 Malawians living in Kaniche and Bokola who more often than not rely on polluted water sourced from scoop holes, will be changed forever through the Big Dig Appeal. The change has already begun and the appeal is still on with a new fund raising mark of £2 million by 18th September, 2012. Of course, that means more lives can be transformed.
So much has happened since the first featured piece which I titled “Big Dig Appeal, a Big Deal for Women!” The many stories of the positive changes that have begun to take place in Kaniche and Bokola are sensational. Out of the many stories, I could not help but pick out that of Baby Winard, Mary’s family, Mrs. Nwanza and Mr. Khombe’s.

Eight (8) month old baby Winard, from Bokola village became very ill with vomiting and diarrhea and was rushed to the local health center in Thavite by his traumatized parents. After being examined, he was referred to Salima Central Hospital and put on an intravenous re-hydration drip. Thankfully, his parents’ quick actions in rushing him to hospital meant that Winard was able to get treatment quickly and responded well. Five days after being admitted to hospital, he had recovered enough to be discharged and go home with his family. Winard became so ill because his family has no choice but to collect water from a dirty, unprotected scoop hole. His parents told WaterAid’s project staff that when Winard was breastfeeding (up until he was 6 months old) he never got diarrhea. Since then, he has suffered from diarrhea on and off. Winard’s parents still have to collect water from the scoop hole that made him ill, but on the advice of project staff they are now boiling drinking water for him, and the whole family. This is a temporary solution – what Winard’s family really needs is the clean, safe water that will come with the drilling of the borehole in Bokola.

Mary Mbena, 22 has HIV and is meant to drink safe, clean water to stay healthy. But she has no access to a borehole. She is worried for her two young daughters. Her youngest child Faith also has HIV and is ill regularly. “They told me that water is very important, especially when we take our medicine. We take it with water so we need that water to be clean… Every morning I have to cook porridge and then I need water and the water should be clean.”
Like any good mother, Mary does all she can to protect her family. But the only water they have to drink is from a nearby river. “I am always worried because I know what I am giving my child Faith is not right. It’s like I am not doing the right thing. But because we don’t have clean water around us, because we don’t have bore holes around us, I have to give what we have. But really it makes me worried.” Mary is determined to bring safe water to Kaniche, for the sake of her health and that of her children. “I feel I will be a spark because I am one of the people that are very much hoping for clean water. As soon as we get the water I know I will be one of the first people to get much better.”

Mrs Mwanza, a Traditional Authority heading 460 villages in her area is committed towards the planned Water, Sanitation and Intervention and holds meetings with community members on issues of participation in any development work taking place in her area. During such meetings, she encourages women to be at the fore front when funds are available; because they have been victims of this water problem for a long time.

Mr Khombe is taking the lead in improving sanitation in Kaniche and has already used his skills as a carpenter and mason to build thirty Ecosan latrines for his neighbours in the village. As well as improving health and hygiene, Ecosan latrines also have a positive impact on livelihoods, turning human waste into valuable fertilizer that families can use to grow crops to eat or sell. The people of Kaniche and Bokola have been busy planning out the changes that will be taking place in their community over the coming months and the key milestones they’ll be aiming for along the way. Kaniche’s action plan plots out how all 120 households will have toilets, bathrooms, kitchens and clean surroundings. In Bokola, they’re planning to have all this, plus water outside every toilet to encourage hand washing.

A Water, Sanitation and Hygiene transformation is ongoing in Kaniche and Bokola and women like baby Winard’s mother, Mary Mbena and Mrs. Mwanza are leading the way. Women in the target communities also have Mr. Khombe and WaterAid to thank! By the day, improved and increased access to Water and sanitary facilities is fast becoming a reality. Who else will be better off and happiest for it than the very hardworking and resilient women of these communities who are tasked with the responsibility of walking long distances to collect water confronted by the indignity of having nowhere safe to go to the toilet, and at the same time tasked with caring for sick family members.

With the success of the Big Dig Appeal, the women can smile wider in anticipation of embracing a future graced with easy access to safe water and sanitation, better hygiene practices as well as lesser walks and exertion. The implication of the Big Dig project for women, especially in developing and underdeveloped countries of the world cannot be ignored especially in terms of its potential for replication and or scaling up. As I continue to follow unfolding events and stories associated with the Big Dig project, I cannot help but smile and share in Mary’s spark, Mrs. Nwanza’s dedication and purposeful leadership, the joy of Baby Winard’s recovery and the infectious enthusiasm of the entire members of the benefiting communities. I am elated that the likes of Baby Winard and Mary Mbena and her children and many others like them will be given a lifelong opportunity of enjoying a healthy existence.

Like Winard’s parents, Mary, Mrs. Mwanza, Mr. Khombe and the generally eager people of Kaniche and Bokola, there is an opportunity for everyone, irrespective of race, nationality, creed, location, class and profession to be a part of the Big Dig Appeal. You can get involved by joining The Big Dig Appeal and help transform lives in Malawi with water and sanitation! Be part of the journey at



This is an amazing endeavor and happening. It shows how much can be done when people come together for the common good of humanity. Keep up the good work. I will follow you.


Wendy Stebbins

Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

Dear Wendy Stebbins

I am particularly thrilled by your subject statement "I am who I am because of who we are together". Much energy and great results certainly always come to bare when people join forces for the common good of humanity. Everyone definitely has something to offer that can bring about positive change!

One may never appreciate the importance of having water and sanitation facilities until one comes in contact with those who lack access. In my country Nigeria, I have been privileged to work in communities where access to water and sanitation facilities is a mirage. It is forever heartwarming to share in the passion and joy that people exhume when they are offered opportunities that will bring about positive change in those sector.

Thank you for sharing in the joy of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene transformation that is happening in Malawi. Many thanks too for your interest in following subsequent updates. I am committed to ensuring that you're informed as events unfold.

High regards,

Founder/Program Coordinator
Women Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE)

Wendyiscalm's picture


Yes, Olanike,

PLEASE keep me updated. You are doing remarkable, important, sustainable work one small step by one small step at a time with no ego involved. God will bless you as he already does.

Are you like me in that you get complete fulfillment in seeing these poorest of the poor find joy in the smallest things. It is a reminder of what matters in life really and they could be good role models for those impressed by greed, power and money. I love it!

Yes, Please keep me updated.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Ubuntu(I am who I am because of who we are tgether.


Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Greengirl's picture

Thank you Wendy

It is really sad to know that many have become enslaved by poverty because of the greed and corruption that has overtaken a privileged few. Such high handedness by corrupt leaders have no doubt continued to reinforce injustices and inequalities.

The seemingly little contributions we make by the day will, hopefully, bring about the positive transformation we all long to see across board. So, we cannot afford to stop!

Your interest in the updates are very motivating and makes me even more committed to keeping up! Thank you so, so much.

I would love to learn more about your work, and may be we could arrive at ways of supporting each other's work.

Lots of love,


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