Thursday, November 12, 2009

Water First film

WATER FIRST: Reaching the Millennium Development Goals
Screening of documentary film by Amy Hart
Q&A with special guest, Charles Banda, founder Freshwater Project Malawi
Sunday, November 15 at 4:00 pm
Madison Theatre, 1040 Madison Avenue, Albany, NY
Contact: Jean Quattrocchi 518-424-7980

4,000 children died today because they couldn’t get a clean drink of water.
One man is determined to do something about it.

Through the inspiring story of Charles Banda, Amy Hart’s award-winning film, Water First: Reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), conveys the critical importance of clean water and sanitation in achieving all of the United Nations’ MDGs and relieving global poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and other impoverished regions of the world.

• "Water First gets to the heart of the global water and sanitation crisis.”
- David Douglas, President, Water Advocates
• “Water First is a powerful look at the problem of failing to meet basic human needs for water, and the fantastic efforts underway by dedicated heroes trying to solve that problem.”
– Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute, Author, The World’s Water

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker and special guest, Charles Banda, the founding director of Freshwater Project Malawi, a small, grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to providing clean water and sanitation to the people of Malawi, one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Since its founding, Freshwater Project has constructed more than 2,000 wells and 5,0000 pit latrines – serving more than 1 million people. In 2008 Freshwater Project was acknowledged by UNICEF as an exemplary water NGO.

In Malawi, Africa, more than half of the population struggles to survive without access to clean water. Women and young girls get up at 4:00 in the morning and walk long distances to haul water from murky rivers or mud holes in the ground. The result is high incidences of waterborne diseases, and the unnecessary death of 1 in 7 children under the age of five.

Banda advocates using a ‘social work’ approach to water interventions that promotes community empowerment and sustainability of the projects. Audiences will delight in his good humor and accessible manner as he answers questions about how he came to be one of East Africa’s leading watermen from his very humble beginnings as an orphan growing up in a village without any water.

Admission: free and open to the public

Malawi Freshwater Project:
Film homepage and trailer:
Film distribution, reviews and awards:


Charles Banda is the founder and executive director of Freshwater Project Malawi, a local, grassroots NGO dedicated to providing water and basic sanitation to the people of Malawi, one of the ten poorest nations in the world. Since 1995, Freshwater Project has installed more than 2,000 and 5,000 pit latrines through comprehensive community-based initiatives that aim to empower the people and provide a sense of ownership that promotes sustainability of the projects. In 2008 Freshwater Project was acknowledged by UNICEF as an exemplary water NGO in Malawi. “Freshwater Project is an accountable, transparent and accountable organization,” stated Kiwe Sebunya, Chief of UNICEF Malawi Water and Environmental Sanitation.

Orphaned at the age of 7, Charles Banda grew up with various relatives in the rural villages of Malawi. He walked 14 kilometers to school, without shoes, and hid a bottle of murky water in the bushes for his long walk home. Despite these challenges, he excelled in school and went on to become a professional aviation fireman at the Chileka International Airport in Blantyre, Malawi. To earn a little extra money so he could buy a loaf of bread for his family, he also drove a taxi after hours. On weekends he served as a preacher in the rural villages. It was on a Sunday morning when he arrived at a village and was informed that the morning services had to be cancelled due to an outbreak of cholera that he decided to change his path in life.

After seeing people dying awful deaths from drinking dirty water from a stream, Charles decided that it wasn’t enough to preach the word of God – he had to take action and give the people what they truly needed – clean water. In 1995, he started saving his money from his taxi fares so he could build his first well. When his wife, Evalyn, questioned why he no longer brought a nice loaf of bread home to the family he explained he was saving up for a well – and she got behind him 100%. Banda gives a lot of credit to Evalyn for staying by his side through years of struggling to survive on miniscule budgets after he retired as a fireman and devoted his life to providing water to the poorest people of his country.

Early in his water career, as people in the communities commended him for the great work he was doing, a local politician felt threatened by his popularity and took out a contract on his life. Apparently, the hitman came to Charles and explained that he was supposed to kill him, but because he had provided clean water for his community, as well as others, he wasn’t going to carry out the orders. Word of this got back to then President Muluzi, who offered Charles a political position. But he turned it down saying that the only way he wanted to serve the people was by giving them clean water.

Fourteen years later, Freshwater Project is widely recognized as a model local organization that uses a community based approach to water interventions, which results in community empowerment and project sustainability.

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