Over the past year that I’ve worked at The One Foundation, I’ve worked closely with our local partners to support our projects on the ground and measure the impact we’re having in communities without access to water. At the end of November, I set off to Malawi to see it for myself – to watch our local teams in action and hear directly from the beneficiaries about the difference it’s made to their lives.

I knew what I wanted to hear: that our projects were working, that they made a difference and, most importantly, that they were sustainable. Achieving change that would last and move communities away from a dependency on aid. But I didn’t know if that was what I would find.

On a dark and rainy day visiting the tea plantations in Thyolo, I met Lucy and her story is the one that has stuck with me since the trip. Lucy is the same age as me, 37, and she is the chief in her village – a title she inherited as it is passed down through families regardless of gender.

Our team had installed a new borehole (water pump) in Lucy’s village in 2014, bringing a source of clean, safe water to 150 people. But installing hardware alone is never enough. Pumps need to be maintained and serviced and communities need to know how to fix them when they are faulty.

As well as being the chief, Lucy was the Chair of her village’s Water Committee: responsible for collecting contributions from community members to keep a stock of spare parts for the pump. Our team had trained her in the maintenance of the pump (which was still looking pristine 2 years later!) and how to repair basic faults to keep water flowing in her community.

Lucy and the committee had taken responsibility for managing their water supply and the results were inspiring.

But the need for our work to reach other villages was clear. Lucy took us to the water source they had been using before we installed their borehole. It was in a secluded, wooded area where women were vulnerable to attack and felt unsafe collecting water for their families. And it was filthy – a small stream which animals also used for drinking and defecation.

Lucy said that another village further away still travelled to collect water from this source as they didn’t have their own pump. She wanted them to have the same opportunity as her – a safe water supply and the skills and training to manage it independently.

I left Malawi knowing that our programme in Thyolo was achieving incredible, sustainable change and that there is more to be done. The One Foundation will continue work in Thyolo in 2017 – to support our projects please visit https://www.onedifference.org/the-one-foundation/ and click on “Donate”. Thank you!