Thank you for supporting The Big Dig

This summer, thanks to your amazing support, we have brought clean water and sanitation to Bokola and Kaniche.

It doesn’t stop here!  Over the next few years your Big Dig donations will bring sanitation and clean water to thousands of communities.  Follow the blog to see the difference your money is already making.

£ 2 , 2 4 9 , 7 3 8
Raised so far
This total is updated regularly and includes matched funding.


    The celebrations have died down, the drilling rigs have packed up and gone home, and our window into the lives of Bokola and Kaniche is starting to close. But there is still much to do and a huge amount of change to come. Our partners Nathan and Michael, along with WaterAid’s Boyce, will continue to be familiar faces in the communities, and we’ll continue to tell the story on this blog.

    This is the first in a series of posts to update you on what’s happening right now in the communities, and to share what we hope clean water and safe sanitation will mean in the longer term.

    In the last two weeks the main priority has been getting operational hand-pumps into both communities, especially Bokola where the scoop hole completely collapsed and the community had to borrow or buy water from neighbouring villages. My colleague Erik Harvey heads up WaterAid’s technical team, and he’s written a few words below:

    “The borehole has now been properly sealed around its lining to prevent contamination. The water quality will be tested, the drainage slab constructed, the pump installed, and the committee trained in its maintenance. They will also be helped to devise a tariff system and supported in the early stages to ensure they are able to undertake the day-to-day maintenance.

    “There is also work we need to do with the local authority to ensure they have the skills and resources to be able to provide extra support should anything go seriously wrong in the future.

    “These are all very important processes and steps aimed at ensuring that we do not just provide a pump, but a pump that provides water for a long time to come.”

    Both Boyce and Eric stress the importance of the role the community must play as owners of the waterpoint. In both communities we had vital technical supervision from the Government and WaterAid, but it was the local waterpoint committees who where the client of the project, they had to be happy and make the final decisions.

    Now that safe water is in both communities they can start to look towards a different future. It’s obvious to see from Michael’s photos the benefits people are already enjoying.

    There are other, less obvious benefits too. Firstly, the women and children are simply safer. In both communities the scoops were a little way out of the village and were in secluded areas. This left women prone to attack and they had to go to collect water in groups just to feel safe. The other immediate benefit is economic; by having water in the heart of the community many hours each day are saved in walking to collect water from the river beds. This time will be invested in setting up small businesses, or allow more time to be spent cultivating crops.

    One of the most striking yet least visible changes in both communities is a new found pride.

    Pride comes from many sources. This project has brought the whole community together in a way nobody ever imagined it could. In a previous post Mary mentioned how the project had given her strength, and Mr Khombe has clearly reveled in the challenge.

    Every household in both communities has constructed a latrine, bathing area, hand washing facility, and dish rack. They worked together to plan and build everything, making sure that even households run by children or with elderly people were included, nobody was excluded. In Bokola people are so proud of the work they have done that they have even made a sign to tell others.

    With the support of WaterAid and our partner Work for Rural Health, and under the steely gaze of Mrs Mwanza, the communities have flourished – taking a lead role in planning and delivering their sanitation projects and overseeing the well-building work.

    Safe water is the first step for both communities and in future posts we’ll explore the longer term changes both communities can look forward to.

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    Path to well

    After 7 days when the concrete is dry the pump will be installed in Bokola.

    Original photo on Instagram

    Sloped path to well under construction

    Even those with disabilities can use this water point because of the slope. Thanks for your donation on behalf of Kaniche and Bokola villages.

    Original photo on Instagram

    Bricks for Kaniche well

    Bricks arleady gathered at the second site in Kaniche village.

    Original photo on Instagram

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    Last week was a momentous turning point for the residents of Bokola and Kaniche. The drilling of new boreholes brought clean, safe water to the communities for the first time. The wells will have a profound impact on the health and quality of life of the people here, and ultimately, save many lives.

    Watch here how the drilling unfolded and the celebrations started, celebrations that will continue for a while to come!

    Generous donations to the Big Dig have made made this all possible. However, donations made before 18th September will be matched by the UK Government, so will have double the impact. All money raised will go on to help other communities around Malawi and save lives. The story of the Big Dig in Bokola and Kaniche has had a happy ending, and we want to make sure this story is retold all over the country.

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  • woman and baby in Kaniche village, Malawi

    Mary’s life has been tough. At 22 years old she’s a single mother to two young children and HIV positive. Yet she’s a truly inspirational character. A tough cookie – her face lights up the room and, despite her youth, she often speaks on behalf of all the Kaniche women.

    Many WaterAid supporters wrote to her personally to tell her how much her story had inspired them, so we spent an hour with her chatting and reading your messages together. She was amazed by the warmth that comes across from the messages you have sent to her community.

    The process which has lead up to today has had a big impact on Mary. “Before I was on the water committee, we didn’t know who we were or what we could do” she said. She also talked about the lack of shared values and unity in the community, which made it hard to improve life.

    Things are different now. Mary has found her voice.

    For Mary, clean water also means a stronger sense of self and a new determination to improve her own life, her children’s lives, and her community.

    Already, she’s played a role on the village Hygiene Committee, dug her own latrine, nursed her cholera-ridden children and overcome her own fears.

    The future

    Having disease-free water nearby and a safe place to go to the toilet is particularly important for women, and Mary is determined it’s going to change her life. She’s a strong, feisty character and it’s clear that when Mary sets her mind to something, it happens.

    No longer having to trek four hours each day to fetch water means Mary can follow her dream of independence. She’s going start a business brewing and selling sweet-beer, which is a local non-alcoholic delicacy. “I feel I can do it” she shouts, beaming and clapping her hands!

    She also wants a brighter future for her two daughters. Her eldest, Noria, will no longer be late for school because of Mary’s walk for water, and she won’t be sick from diarrhea, and less at risk of cholera. Her baby Faith (pictured) simply won’t know the sickness, fear and misery dirty water has brought to Mary’s young life.

    Mary’s life may have been tough, but so is she.

    Collecting water from Kaniche’s first borehole:

    Mary collects water from the new borehole in Kaniche
    Original photo on Instagram


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  • Mr. Khombe in Kaniche

    At 52 years old, Mr Khombe is an elderly gentleman in Malawian terms, but while certainly a gentleman, the Mr Khombe we saw today is still as strong as an ox and full of life as a man ten years his junior.

    Mr Khombe is a village chief who has been a leading light throughout the The Big Dig.  Taking an active role in everything from hygiene education and latrine building to community mobilisation; he’s also one of the top men on the Waterpoint Committee.  As a carpenter and builder there are seemingly no end to this man’s talents. His energy, determination yet sense of fun are striking which makes him a great person to be around.

    As the a local leader, he was one of the first people in Kaniche to adopt a composting latrine which turns human waste into a compost which can be used for agriculture.  The Kaniche approach to sanitation was for Mr Khombe to invite his neighbours to try out his ecosan toilet so they could see for themselves how easy it was to use, and how much nicer it was than walking to the bush.  A handy side effect of this was the amount of manure it generated, and Mr Khombe boasts of his two grain stores full of manure.

    Making the most of waste, a pile of manure is ready to fertilise crops

    large pile of manure

    Once the community had decided to adopt Ecosan toilets Mr Khombe lead from the front, building over 50 of Kaniche’s 120 latrines himself.  Your donations provided the cement and materials he needed to cast the slabs, line the holes and build the protective structure.

    Overseeing pit construction

    As a technically minded man, Mr Khombe loved the drilling process.  He was one of the first people to meet the drilling team and lead the discussions with the engineers as work progressed.  He has also made sure that the well maintenance fund is a healthy 40,000 Kwacha.  He seemed to be there mainly for civic reasons, but there was an obvious sense of intrigue and joy as the brutish trucks rolled into the village.

    The drilling process in Kaniche

    A drilling rig in Kaniche

    Talking about the arrival of the boreholes he said;  ”In those days it was a story that one day we will have a borehole, but having seen with my own eyes, this something bringing happiness in me.”

    When asked about the future Mr Khombe is optimistic, he hopes the location of borehole number one will help promote local business and that more eating places and tea shops will open in the market area.  He’s also confident more children will attend school more often that they won’t be struck down with diarrhea anywhere near as often.
    Mr Khombe wanted to give you a message.  Here it is….

    ‘We are thanking them, thank you so much, we are their friends, we are only different in complexion, you are good people, you are mothers of Malawi, I thank Britain’

    With Mr Khombe as a leader, it’s clear Kaniche is going to be okay.

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UKaid Secure payments

Every pound you donate before 18 September will be doubled by the UK Government – so we can give twice as much help. If you are a UK taxpayer you can also add Gift Aid to your donation at no cost to you. £10 + Government matching = £20. Plus Gift Aid = £22.50 = more lives transformed.

Every penny we raise through The Big Dig Appeal will help to transform lives forever in Malawi.

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