How one question changed a whole community
The WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) crisis currently impacts 2 billion people according to the World Health Organization. Liana Tyrrell, Malawi Field Manager, shared, “Illnesses caused by contaminated drinking water aren’t just an inconvenience for people in Malawi, they’re actually one of the leading causes of death for children under 5.” But it’s not just contaminated drinking water that is a problem, people also deal with lack of access to proper toilet facilities and handwashing stations.
Kingsley Matope, Malawi Field Assistant, shared why that is, “Most Malawians don’t have the knowledge to identify sources of diseases. Of course some do, but they don’t have the capacity to help reduce problems in their community.” This is where Kingdom Workers has been able to help.
Kingsley, in the orange shirt, showing how to use the pit latrine covers that were made by community members in Khanyepa.
With each of our programs, our goal is to collaboratively create sustainable solutions to address the problems that a community faces. This means that the communities we serve can continue to support the changes we’ve made together for generations to come. We know that alone, our ability to fix things is limited, but together we can lean on each other's strengths and create lasting change.
And that’s exactly what has happened in Khanyepa, a village in central Malawi. Last summer, church elders from Khanyepa reached out and asked if Kingdom Workers could help improve sanitation in their village.
Liana explained how we approached this WASH project, “We didn’t want to simply survey the community, use the information to inform our programming, and then leave. We involved the community throughout the process. This allowed us to share important information for them to use once our portion of the work was done.” Accomplishing this meant holding several meetings with the local church and the community, carrying out an extensive survey, and then sharing the results.
The Kingdom Workers Malawi team learned that there were two main needs. First, many homes had open pit latrine toilets. This allowed flies to carry disease from people’s bathrooms to the food left out in the open. And second, there was no public bathroom available in the community. This meant visitors either had to use someone’s private home bathroom or go out in the bush.
Kingsley talks with community members about WASH programming and how to improve sanitation practices in their village.
To help, the Malawi team prepared a training for volunteers and community members to learn how to build simple pit latrine covers to keep flies from entering. Next, we taught people why they need to cover their food. Tawina Gunda, Africa Health and Development Coordinator, shared, “Just telling people to cover their food so that flies don’t land on it can help. It’s so simple but it can help prevent disease.”
After this training the community members themselves decided to address the second issue. Kingsley told me that, “After we gave the training, they decided to build a toilet in a place where everyone could use it. So we supported them with a few resources. It was interesting because we knew we imparted our knowledge to them and they actually used it! That’s how we knew we were really communicating.”
"It was interesting because we knew we imparted our knowledge to them and they actually used it! That's how we knew we were really communicating."
Since the work in Khanyepa, several other church communities have reached out asking for similar assistance. “We are gathering applications from different churches,” Kingsley told me, “And we have identified some new areas where we can start working.”
It’s exciting to see so much happening for this WASH programming in Malawi. While it is still new, it’s clear that our unique approach to collaborating with people is creating meaningful change. By listening to the needs of the people living in Khanyepa and utilizing our strengths as a team, the Kingdom Workers Malawi team were able to develop simple yet effective solutions to address what was truly needed. And it empowered the community to create a solution for a shared problem—together.
Learn more about our WASH Education and Health Promotion program in Malawi today.
Program participants from Khanyepa village standing with their newly handmade pit latrine covers.
Kimberly Joerres is the Content Specialist for Kingdom Workers. She believes that everyone has a story worth sharing. For the past few years she has been listening to stories from all over the world and she enjoys getting to share those stories with you.