June 25, 2014 10:58:31 AM
Bill Manduca, executive director of Clean Water for Malawi, has just returned from a month-long supervisory trip to Africa, where 16 new wells were drilled for $65,000.
These wells were drilled within 50 kilometers of Mzuzu in northern Malawi, about as deepest, darkest Africa as it gets these days.
The project was in cooperation with the Rotary clubs of Jackson, North Jackson, Greenwood, McComb, Greenville and several others in Rotary District 6820. Rotary International, a foundation that single-handedly eradicated polio, supplied matching funds.
In a presentation this week to the Rotary Club of Jackson, Manduca said, "This is the first project I've ever been involved with as a business manager or an engineer where we can literally change people's lives overnight. One night they're drinking bad water that kills them. The next night, they're drinking clean water that keeps them healthy. And all we have to do is drill a hole. That's as easy as it gets.
"So I just want to encourage you. This is a difference maker. This is a game changer in places like Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa."
It's been three years or so since Victor Smith approached me about helping Clean Water for Malawi. My newspapers have run countless ads supporting the project. I have traveled to Malawi and seen first-hand the results of bringing clean water to remote villages. It has been challenging and difficult, but we are truly making a difference, saving, literally, thousands of lives.
Just like the Chinchens of Jackson, who sowed the seeds of this African missionary effort decades ago, when it looked like there was no hope, we prayed and the prayers were magically, instantly answered. You have to see it to believe it. It's a God thing, as the expression goes.
So many Mississippians have given. Hundreds upon hundreds. How appropriate for the most generous state in the nation. For people who say racism still lingers in Mississippi, I'd like to show them how many white Mississippians have opened up their pocketbooks for destitute black Africans. These are people they have never even met.
I have met them. These villagers are real people. They call Malawi the "warm heart of Africa" because the people are so gracious and friendly, just like Mississippi is known as the Hospitality State. The Christian faith of the poor Malawi villagers should be a lesson for us all.
These people are joyful, polite, kind, hard working, loyal, friendly and very faithful. They are blessed with an abundance of spiritual gifts but their material life is atrocious.
The other day, I was walking my dog. It was hot and my dog stopped to lap a puddle of water in a crack in the road. I yanked the chain. "No Sally. Don't drink that," I commanded. At home, she has a nice water bowl filled with fresh water. Who knows what germs lurked in the water on the side of the street.
That water I wasn't letting my dog drink was probably much cleaner than the polluted water eight million Malawi villagers must survive on every day. It's not as though they have a choice. Without water, a human dies of thirst in a matter of days.
These are English-speaking Christians. They are so much more like us than you could imagine. Yet they are dying in droves from water-borne diseases. The life expectancy in Malawi is half that of Mississippi.
I always felt bad about the poor in Africa, but it seemed I never trusted the money or aid to ever get there. Theft and bureaucracy would prevent me from making a difference.
Miraculously, we have cut through all this. We operate completely under the radar, using Skype, the Internet, cell phones, digital cameras, GPS and texting to do things that were impossible 10 years ago. I'm not saying it's perfect or easy, but we are drilling wells. All our staff are Malawians.
Bill Manduca was a big-company engineer when he felt the call to do something more. Deeply faithful, he is bringing his engineering and management skills to take us to a new level. Bill met with a dozen Rotary clubs in Africa to coordinate our efforts.
We are also fortunate to have Mississippian Jeremy Kyser, a former Ergon engineer, living in Malawi with his large family and helping us manage our operation there.
We coordinate with Here's Life Africa, another Southern organization, to bring the message of Christ to villagers by showing a two-hour film on the life of Christ. The film is shown in the remotest villages from the back of a pickup truck using a gas generator and loudspeakers. Thousands gather to watch the movie, which has been translated into the local village language for optimum communication. It's something to see.
When Victor first approached me, my two greatest pet peeves were long airline flights and asking people for money. My greatest fear was catching some weird tropical disease. How ironic that God made me face all three. Now I don't care.
Africa is developing rapidly. That continent's time has finally come. In a couple of decades, the ability to donate a hundred dollars and save a life will be gone forever from this world. I can't wait.
But we don't live in the future. We live in the present. And presently there are people dying because they lack clean water. For the cost of one night of fine dining, you could save a life. Not trying to guilt trip anybody, but that's the plain, hard truth.