Guest blogger Tom Barter, Head of Retail and Foodservice at ISS, is currently in Malawi with Bidvest Foodservice to see the water projects they help to fund by selling One drinks. Here’s the write-up from his first day visiting the warm heart of Africa:
‘Arriving in Malawi at Chilaka Airport felt like stepping back in time, a lack of security and an easy going pace is a traveller’s nirvana. No taking off your shoes here. We get straight into our transport that can only be described as a mobile library, come school, come repair truck. Sitting on some old aeroplane seats on the top deck we set straight off to our first pump repair.
Vic, our host whose energy, passion and work ethic is unrivalled is the kind of person who makes even the most charitable person seem selfish, talks us through the plan for the day and what they do at The Fisherman’s Rest. He also tells us the plan for the rest of the day. Going out and fixing 5 pumps. It’s hot but not oppressive and exciting to see Malawi. The children wave and smile as you go by shouting out “Bobo” or “Moni” meaning hi, a genuine smile and warmth that makes your heart skip a beat. The journey quickly turns bumpy as we head off up the tarmac road onto the rough roads that must be a struggle in the upcoming rainy season.
Our first village. Nothing really prepares you for arriving somewhere like this. The whole village has turned out to sing to you, they know how much of a difference this is going to make to their lives. They have not had running water from the pumps for 18 months and 3 years respectively.
Vic and his team leap into action, with a couple of the team entertaining the children, while the others engage with the chief and the borehole “committee” (who are elected to look after the bore hole and build up the fund with contributions from the village) to understand what has happened and what they have tried to do to fix it. The team set to work, teaching as they go, and they get the pump working and the village is jubilant. Looking around, you can see that they have nothing. In Malawi farming, for the majority, is not an occupation, it is a necessity. Getting a good harvest means having food for the year, if the rains fail or there is too much rain at the wrong time, means an extremely tough year ahead. The kids are so happy, and a gift of a football from Ric from One is received by the chief like the finest gift they’d ever had.
We repair 3 more pumps, one which sadly hasn’t been drilled deep enough (although the private contractor who drilled it had said it had gone down 55 metres – it was only 25) so whilst we did get water, it will run out soon. Unless the rains hurry up.
So back to the Fisherman’s Rest and a talk through the day, exhausted but amazed at the work that is going on through the contributions from the sales of One Water. My last thought as I go to sleep is, there’s so much more than can be done.’