Well I am now officially finished my work with the District Water Office. It’s weird to have finished everything up and to be in a position where I actually feel comfortable walking away from the District. I feel really good about the way everything has clued up; if you’d asked me three weeks ago about how I felt my placement was going, I might have told you the whole thing was going up in flames….
We spent September and October in contact with the Environmental Health Officer for Water and Sanitation from the Health Office. However when the Water Office finally got all their forms for data collection copied and brought them over to the Hospital, the DEHO (Head Health Guy) completely shut us down saying that we shouldn’t use a separate form for Water and that we should combine all the data on the one form Health was already using.
Now this is a much better way of collecting data; because the Water Office is so small, it is really good to have our program embedded in Health’s. My problem was that I didn’t put a whole lot of faith in the Health workers actually modifying their form to suit us and all I could see ahead of us was a long battle between Health and Water, both trying to collect and share data from the same forms. However, it would appear that I didn’t give the District enough credit and things came together really well.
I met several times with the two guys from Health who are responsible for managing the data. These guys were awesome. We had a quick excel training and they were whipping together pivot tables and graphs in no time! They had been trying to create a database for Health in MS Access and were having a lot of trouble. They were really excited to try modifying EWB’s database. So we sat down for a few hours and set up a database for them, modified the current Health form, and now all Water has to do is copy and paste their data into the Water database! We even managed to get our hands on data that was collected this quarter and so the Water Office is diligently working away on data entry.
So in the end it all worked out better then I imagined it could. Because the whole thing is embedded in Health it should be a lot more sustainable because now Water (who is significantly less funded) won’t have to be copying forms and tracking down the forms from Health. I was also quite happy to see communication finally happening between the Water, Health, and Planning Offices. They all agreed on a WPM protocol and on roles and responsibilities. They actually go back and forth to each others offices now to talk about stuff. Might not sound like a lot, but believe me, it’s progress for Thyolo.
The Water Office will still continue to need some support every now and then from a long term volunteer and I’m not sure how long they will remember their training about using data to make decisions, but I’m pleased with their progress. So that is the conclusion of my work in a nutshell. Thyolo District finally has a Water Point Monitoring System up and running and they have hopefully gained some useful skills.
I guess some of you are probably wondering now what I’m going to do in Malawi for the next little while if I’m finished work. I just returned from Senga Bay (the Lake!) where there was a retreat/team meeting with the Malawi Watsan Team and the Zambia AVC team. It was my last time at the lake and I quite enjoyed it. I’m back in Thyolo now and tomorrow I am going down south to stay in a rural village for a few days. I want to stay in the village so that I can really understand what it’s like to live in a remote village in Africa/Malawi. I’m pretty excited for it. I’m a little bit ashamed of how little chichewa I’ve learned, so this will be a good time to learn a little bit more seeing that no one in the village speaks english.
After that I’m dropping back to the Boma for a day to say goodbye to my family and my co-workers. Then it’s back to Lilongwe to catch a flight back to Canada! I’m staying in Toronto for three days when I get back to debrief and I arrive in St. John’s at Midnight on December 18th. So yeah, that’s my schedule for the next two weeks. I’ll make a post after my village stay and then I’ll see you all in a few weeks!