Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Mr. Lusekelo Simwela
“Who would be in charge of the project if you were to leave it, or not be available,” asked Dr. Deborah Hall at the steering committee meeting I had before my shallow well project was approved. I hadn’t expected the question but I answered immediately. My answer was a Mr. Simon Denivala. The reason I had chosen him was because he was many months back one of the few people who told me about my community’s water problems, he was also one of the most dedicated members of the village’s village development committee(VDC). Fast forward four months later, I sat down with him after performing the very last task on the well. He has a plate of Kalongonda (velvet beans) a delicacy that is famous for killing people if it has not been properly cooked. I reluctantly picked a couple threw two in my mouth and had this conversation with him.
Me: We finally finished the project, how do you feel?
Simon: I am happy, that finally we have enough clean water.
Me: We initially planned the project for 1 month, but it has taken almost 3 months, what can you say about this?
Simon: People did not always show up in expected numbers.
Me: Why do you think this was the case?
Simon: People in leadership positions did not do enough to mobilize the people.
Me: How can we fix the problem of low turn out?
Simon: People are now more receptive to development projects because many just talk but most don’t do anything, but this well is a sign that you are here to help the people.
Me: What other problems did you meet?
Simon: Some people haven’t paid the money they were supposed to pay, including the leader of this part of the village.
Me: Why is this the case?
Simon: Some people are always out to disturb what others are doing, always want to cause trouble.
Me: What is your advice on future projects concerning this money issue?
Simon: Do not start projects till the people pay the money, when it starts they think the project funding will cover the cost.
Me: One of the things that you did was to finish the wells cover when I was at mid service training. How did you accomplish this even though the money was not enough?
Simon: I realized that if we wait for the few people who are not on the side of development the work will not finish even though we have worked so hard to finish it. So I took that little money and found a person who had the materials we needed for a cheaper price than we budgeted for.
Me: What more can you tell me about the project?
Simon: It was not easy to finish the project but it was worth it, now we don’t have to go far to get clean water. The village now knows that if we work together we can accomplish anything.