Posted by SKG on May 08, 2018
For a decade, Sylvia and Ken Gentili volunteered in Malawi, Africa. In a special insert in the Usisya Herald, called "A Decade of Growth in Malawi" they describe the many changes to the community of Livingstonia. One of the stories they highlight is the Rotary International project that brought water to over 13,000 people.
For a decade, Sylvia and Ken Gentili, have volunteered in Malawi, Africa. In that time they have witnessed significant changes in the areas of public health programs, the creation of the University of Livingstonia, and construction of a water system. A special issue of the Usisya Herald, January 31, 2018, called “A Decade of Growth in Malawi”, captures the changes the significant changes this couple experienced.
In 1894, a Scottish/English Mission was built in a malaria free area, 3,000 ft above Lake Malawi. The original station included a hospital, housing, a church with stained glass windows and eventually, the Livingstonia Secondary School with  the motto: “I Will Try.”
Ken Gentili in his story on the changes in Livingstonia, outlined the impact of a Rotary International project to replace the aging piped water system. The old system was designed for the 2,000 people living in Livingstonia, to an expanded system that provided water for 13,000 people who lived in the valley surrounding Livingstonia.
Rotary provided the funding, the villagers provided in-kind help by digging the trenches for the water pipes. The strategy was to build intakes from the confluence of two streams, add sedimentation tanks, a transmission line to water tanks in Livingstonia and then ten branch lines to supply water to the villagers.
During the initial phase of construction, the villagers formed a water board to deal with distribution issues, tariffs, a governing board, area representative, and maintenance and operation of the water system. What was amazing was that the Malawians specifically wanted the board of directors to have gender equality, with three women and three men.
The completed project includes ten branch lines, each with an area representative. Elected area representative would always be a man in this male-dominated society. The Malawians understood that this was a short-coming, so they created a women’s senate, with a woman per area, so their voices could be heard.
Rotary recognized that providing clean, drinkable water wasn’t enough. So, Rotary funded a project to improve health in the villages by teaching villagers how to improve hygiene practices. Hygiene project leaders included the leaders of the Rotary water project, Water for People sanitation project and the Hospital’s Public Health Department
The team developed strategies and plans, which engaged villages in field days that included skits, training sessions and dancing and singing. Results included a 78% change in villagers’ behavior, a significant reduction in dysentery and Rotary developing a program identified as Community Transformation Centers (CTC).