My husband Tom and I just returned from 3 weeks in Malawi. We had the wonderful privilege of helping to install wells in villages who never had protected drinking water before. Every day, we worked with THE GLUE GUYS. That’s what I call the Malawians who make the whole project hold together. (Of course, all of this applies to the Zambians and Tanzanians as well.) Each Field Officer is responsible for over 100 new wells every year. The Installation Supervisors are their assistants. The Builders construct the wells and the Maintenance Men and Women fix them when needed.
As a volunteer for MMM, you get to know the Field Officer and some Installation Supervisors as special friends. You see them in moments of laughter and singing, as well as moments of stress and problem-solving. You spend hours crammed together with them in the front seat of the Landcruiser as you bounce along to the villages. Their translations connect you to the villagers. What do the words of that song mean? What is the Village Headman saying in his thank you speech? Their planning determines how efficient your driving will be. Can you finish all the wells in this area before sunset today? It often depends on how well the route is organized – a route planned without maps through the bush on roads that are more like paths. “Turn left at that rock!”
The Field Officer and Installation Supervisors began their work long before we showed up. They have met with the Village Committee, chosen a site for the well, checked on the progress, and arranged for the cement (ten 100 pound bags brought by Malawians on bicycles!) They know when the well is ready for the pump and pipes we will bring. The Glue Guys know the who, where, when, and how of our project. They know the villagers and the culture, because it is The Glue Guys’ culture too. When we arrived to install a well and found a funeral in progress, the Field Officer knew what to do. The Glue Guys are the connection between America and Africa. Their English skills are a true blessing to us! I admire their patience, persistence, and powers of persuasion – as well as their sense of humor. Best of all, once all of us volunteers fly back to our homes in the US, we rest assured that The Glue Guys will continue to be available, ready to assist any village whose well has a problem. They will help, whether the well is 20 years old or brand new. They have the spare parts, the know-how, and the hearts to help their fellow Malawians. With these Glue Guys, the whole program holds together.