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Gift of Water

This holiday season, consider giving the Gift of Water. With your donation to CAWST, you and your gift recipient help empower Mary and thousands of other people worldwide to be champions of safe drinking water and basic sanitation in their communities.

In addition to a card featuring Mary Banda, your gift recipient will receive a link to a story and video about Mary. We at CAWST are inspired by Mary. You and your gift recipient will be too!

Gift of Water: A Gift That Keeps on Giving

Tal Woolsey By Tal Woolsey
International Technical Advisor (Africa)

I'd like to tell you about a woman I've come to know in Zambia. Her name is Mary Banda and she has improved the lives of thousands of people.

My work for CAWST has me spending much of each year in in Africa, where I teach people how to address their water and sanitation needs, and then support them as they spread that knowledge in their communities. This way, every person who learns about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) from CAWST can replicate that impact by going out and teaching countless others. And that is what Mary has done.

When I first met Mary in Zambia in 2006, she had lost her husband and was the single mother of six children living in a poor area on the outskirts of a town called Ndola. She supported her kids by selling dried fish in the market. She was also trying to figure out why she and her children kept getting sick. She eventually learned from a doctor that the cause of the illnesses was dirty water the family was drinking.

Mary Banda

She was determined to do something about it.

And that is where CAWST came into Mary's life. CAWST has for many years taught trainers in Zambia how to improve local WASH conditions, especially the trainers who work for our local partner in Zambia, Seeds of Hope International Partnerships (SHIP). Mary attended one of their workshops and the knowledge and skills she gained allowed her to understand why the water was unsafe for her family and community. She also learned what she could do to educate her community on proper WASH practices.

One of the most valuable things Mary learned was about the biosand filter, and the role it plays in allowing families to filter their drinking water at home using the effective, affordable and easy-to-maintain biosand filter. 

"They taught me about the biosand filter and the problems became less,€" Mary says. "The children go to school and we started living well again."

Mary saw that households using the filters were noticeably healthier. She was so fascinated by the filter's impact that she became determined to get filters into more homes. Mary volunteered at the local biosand filter factory full-time for three years, eventually becoming the first female in Africa to be certified by CAWST as a biosand filter technician.

Today, Mary is employed full-time at the SHIP biosand filter factory, and has helped build more than 5,700 biosand filters. Mary's impact shows the strength of CAWST's focus on local knowledge and skills.

I feel so lucky to have come to know Mary over the years. She is an inspiration to me, and to so many others.

Learn more about Mary and watch the video about her impact at

Happy holidays, from all of us at CAWST!

Gift of Water

Tal Woolsey has been involved with CAWST since its founding in 2001, and joined CAWST as a staff member in 2004. He provides WASH training and consulting support to CAWST's clients across Africa, with a focus on CAWST's WET Centres in Zambia and Ethiopia.