Tawonana Shaba, North Malawi


Rollercoaster of emotions

In Tawonana Shaba people had to drink water from a river which flows – 15 kilometres away – through a town that has no sewage plant. Thanks to a group of students at the Free Evangelical School in Zurich they have at long last access to clean water.


It was a shocking sight. Women were standing in the river, skimmed off the worst dirt and mud, and then filled their buckets with water for their families. Then they made their way back to the village: often barefoot on stony paths they carried the dirty water home. They knew that not only their children might fall ill, but that there was no alternative. Years ago some trucks had arrived, but shortly before the building of a well was started, they disappeared again. The well the people of Tawonana Shaba had been promised was built somewhere else.

The students at the Free Evangelical School (FES) could not forget the photographs they had been shown. When they were allowed to choose a project they wanted to support in their project work lessons they quickly decided to help this scattered village north-west of Mzuzu. But working on the project was hard for the youngsters. The challenges of a planning phase for secondary school students should not be underestimated. "Is one well big enough to provide water for so many people?" a girl asked, she was right, she had seen the risk of overuse. That was no reason to give up. They simply planned to build two wells in two different places in the village and hoped to be supported by a foundation.

Tears and cries of joy


Their plan worked. One of the two wells could be financed through private contacts, small fundraising events and thanks to the help of their school. For the other well, they were supported by the foundation Snow Dreams for Africa.

When IPA representatives spread the good news in the village, people clapped their hands with enthusiasm. But then, when work on the first well was started, a difficult time began. At first they were full of hope, later deeply disappointed, but in the end unspeakably relieved. On both sites, which are about twenty minutes on foot away from each other, the specialists had to overcome serious difficulties and setbacks. A drilling hole collapsed and another remained dry. When the trucks could not get to the second site, the villagers had a sense of déjà-vu. Weeping women and shouting men could not prevent them from turning around. But the people of Tawonana Shaba were desperate to have these two wells. Therefore a solution had to be found and they were willing to invest a lot of work to find it. As the trucks could not get to the building site, the whole village helped to make the street wider!

And so, the trucks returned. The specialists started drilling again, water suddenly shot up and the joy of the villagers knew no limits. At that moment they forgot all their fears, doubts and sorrows. Today there are two wells in the village which provide water for 2,800 people. Each of them is supervised by a carefully trained committee. Cases of serious diarrhoea are now very rare. Part of the work load has been taken off the women and the children arrive at school on time and with a bottle of clean water. The students at FES have freed a whole village from its most painful misery.

Drinking water – a basic need