Home > Volunteering > Special Projects > Fresh Drinking Water

Special Projects - Fresh Drinking Water

Periodically the parishioners of St Irene Parish embark on a very special project. Here are descriptions of some of their work.

Fresh Drinking Water

While completing his theological studies in Boston, Fr. Winiko served as a priest at St Irene's. His home village did not have a source of clean drinking water. St Irene's parishioners solved that problem.

Home is a village of about 500 people in Malawi. Chinyama Village, Thunga Area, Traditional Authority Bvumbwe, Malawi, Africa is about 20 miles east of Blantyre.This village of Chinyama obtained its water from two existing water sources.


One source, about half a mile away from the village, is a stream where people dug a pool to collect water. This is not protected and the pool normally dries up in the summer. It is also a source of contamination because people wash in the same stream, and put their feet in the water when collecting drinking water. Unfortunately, when the rainy season arrives, and this stream collects ground run-off water, the village sees an increase in water-related diseases.

The second source of drinking water is a borehole about 1 1/2 miles away from the village. This borehole supports three other villages. As a Thank You to Fr. Winiko for his contribution to our parish, St. Irene's parishioners provided his village with additional sources of clean drinking water.

Ms. Pat Barry's Status Report:

On August 21, I traveled to Malawi to represent the parish at a Mass of Thanksgiving — thanksgiving for the gift of water given to them by the people of St. Irene's and thanksgiving for the fact that Fr. Winiko was celebrating his twentieth anniversary as a priest. I had the most unbelievable experience of my entire life! The people of Chinyama are extraordinary. They have very little, but they are happy, faith-filled people. They were so welcoming to me and were so grateful to you. God was definitely present in our midst.

The Problem

After preparing a needs assessment. Freshwater Project (the NGO hired by Water for People to drill the wells) conducted a meeting attended by representatives from the Ministry of Water Development, the Ministry of Gender and Community Services, and the Director of Planning to gain government support. This was followed by a meeting with all village stakeholders—the chiefs, church leaders, and political leaders. Starting from the beginning of the project, the communities of Chinyama and Machininga have enthusiastically welcomed the program and contributed their work to the success of the project. It was determined by Freshwater that the villages had an acute problem of potable water and sanitation and were far behind comparable villages.

The Solution

Five boreholes (wells) have been drilled and became operational on August 13. Four boreholes were sited in Chinyama village near the household populations. The fifth one was sited in a nearby village called Machininga, which also had a critical water need. After the wells were drilled, and before they became operational, the aprons and washing slabs were constructed by people from the villages. Community based management trainings were conducted for the water point committees that have been established for each of the wells. The week I was there, the people were being trained in the repair and maintenance of the wells. During the past week, meetings have taken place to sensitize and equip members of the water point committees with the skills for the construction of 16 latrines. Construction will begin after the community has identified the best placement of the latrines throughout the village. Thereafter, the committees will encourage remaining households to construct the hygienic latrines.

The Outcome

+ Water for People projects that there will be an 80% reduction in the incidence of water borne diseases for the community within one year.

+ The distance traveled by women to fetch water has been reduced to a radius of 500 meters.

+ The goal is to promote the use of latrines by 80% of the community within one year.

The Ripple Effect

While we were in Malawi, we met with the newly elected Member of Parliament. She said that potable water is the number one problem in the country. She said that our presence in the communities will enable her to bring attention to the needs in these forgotten communities. In speaking with the representatives from Water for People and Freshwater, we learned that they were somewhat skeptical about the need for water in villages "so close to town" (Chinyama is about 15 miles from Blantyre). They were amazed that the villages were so underdeveloped. They have now added this region to their area of concern.

You will never know what good you have done! The impact has been direct and immediate.

You have save the lives of many!

"First Water" Flows - August 2004

We have achieved our first objective - clean drinking water is now flowing in Fr. Winiko's home village of Chinyama, Malawi. "First Water" occurred a few weeks ago.

According to the reports we have, the drilling began on Monday, July 12. Four wells were drilled in Chinyama Village, and one well in the neighboring Machilinga Village. The local people brought the materials needed for construction such as bricks, river sand, stones.

Fr. Winiko left for Malawi on August 13. Pat Barry left for Malawi on Saturday, August 21, arriving on Sunday, August 22. She and Fr. Winiko planned on visiting two schools in the area -- an elementary school and a high school. They presented the kids with soccer shirts (donated by Kate Burke, which Pat Barry carried on the flight), soccer balls (for the boys) and netball outfits for the girls (which they purchased over there because you can't buy netball uniforms here).

Pat Barry returned on Tuesday, September 7. She reported:

"I cannot convey to you how warm and welcoming and thankful the people of the village and the parish were. The two Masses (one on Saturday in the village with almost 1000 people in attendance, and the other on Sunday in the parish church) were the most moving and heartfelt (and full of dance and music) liturgies that I have ever participated in. God was present in our midst! And he was having a good time with his people!"

Following the Mass, they had a great celebration. (Jonathan and Beth Stone donated money to buy a cow for food.) Pat will provide details of the trip at the Masses on September 25/26.

The in-country Water for People representative has projected that because we put in 5 wells (instead of the 2 originally planned when we began the fund raising), the clean water concentration is going to mean that within the next 6 months there will be an 80% decline in the number of water borne diseases among the village people! Thank you for your generosity - you have made a difference in the lives of these people.

The wells and the hand pumps for the clean drinking water were installed first. Then, pit latrines will be dug. Pits will be dug initially for those people who cannot dig themselves - the elderly, and the widows. Next, the pits will be dug for the single moms with children. Following these, pits will be dug for the other families of the community.

As the work continues, we will provide you with updates.

Additional tax deducible contributions can still be mailed to the Rectory; checks should be made payable to "Water For People - Chinyama Village Project."

Thank you for your support and your generosity.

Check Presented to Fr. Winiko and Water For People - May 23, 2004

On Sunday, May 23, 2004, Mr. Bill Sullivan, Chair of the New England Water for People Committee, and Fr. Winiko accepted a "larger than life check" representing all the contributions made by the people of St. Irene Parish to the Chinyama Village Project. Water for the People sent a local representative to meet and thank us. The amount of money raised to date is $33,829.81.

Mr. Sullivan indicated:

"Coming to St. Irene's was the most remarkable experience I have had since I became a Water For People volunteer five years ago. The depth of compassion and generosity for the people of Fr. Winiko's village was as strong as if every member of the parish had been to Chimyama. I could see the emotion and great pride when everyone saw how successful their efforts had been. Parents of young children seemed particularly moved. They know that parents in Malawi love their children as much as they love their own, and the loss of a child is the greatest tragedy any parent can experience. The St. Irene's community has changed the world. I was honored to have been asked to share in this celebration."

Planning is continuing for the project. Fr. Winiko stated that priorities are being set for the work to be done. The wells and the hand pumps for the clean drinking water will be installed first. Then, pit latrines will be dug. Pits will be dug initially for those people who cannot dig themselves - the elderly, and the widows. Next, the pits will be dug for the single moms with children. Following these, pits will be dug for the other families of the community.

Removing Stagnent Water

Community members will design and build a cement channel near the well so that pools of stagnant water do not form. The drainage channel will end at a village vegetable or flower garden. The photo below shows they type of water drainage channel we want to build.

Drainage channel to garden


Fresh Drinking Water

Seminary Biogas

St Andrew's School

Thunga Primary School