Water Blogged

Project Complete at Womulalu

Posted by Steve Hall on September 25

Womulalu Special School in Kenya now has access to a new source of safe, clean water thanks to the completion of their rain catchment tank, which has the ability to collect 50,000 liters of water. New latrines and handwashing stations for students were installed and staff and students were trained on improved sanitation and hygiene practices. All of these components work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.

Here is an update from our implementing partner, The Water Project.

Rain Tank:
Parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. The first day the lorry carrying the hardware materials made its way into the school compound, the joy upon everyone’s faces could not be hidden as they knew this marked the end of their struggles in searching for water. The pupils too were not left out and they gathered around this huge truck to see for themselves what it had for them. They quickly started assisting the turn boy to offload the materials and in no time everything was safely kept in the store. Then, the artisans arrived and work commenced.

All the while, the school cooks prepared meals for the artisans, including tea breaks and lunches that energized the artisans to keep working each day. The school provided accommodations for the artisans during their work by temporarily giving up one of their classrooms. Local women and men helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.

The process officially began with our staff and school administration looking around the school compound to try and determine the best location for a new rain tank. This needed to be the best site with good, clean roofing to catch the rainwater.

Then, we cleared the site: excavating the soil within the required measurements to make level ground for the tank foundation. The foundation was cast by laying hardcore on level ground and then reinforcing it using steel, concrete and waterproof cement.

Both the drawing pipe as well as the washout pipe were affixed as the foundation was laid. The wall was built with ferro-cement techniques through 6 layers. The inner wall was plastered while rough casting was done on the outer part. Finally, the catchment area was dug, plastered, and a staircase installed.

Dome construction could begin after the superstructure had been given enough time to settle. The manhole cover was fitted, inlet pipes were connected to the roof gutters, inlet screens, ventilation pipes (breathers) and overflow pipes were all done to standard. Once finished, the tank was given 3 to 4 weeks to undergo complete curing before it was cleaned and handed over to Womulalu Special School, though we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our monitoring and maintenance program. During the school days, the water will also be rationed during the day and only opened at scheduled times so as to prevent waste.

This was a great chance for us to acknowledge the school administration and students as the primary parties entrusted with the tools we’ve given, as well as remind them of our continued support as they develop. Words of thanks were shared among our staff, teachers, and students.

“I am very grateful to you for the wonderful gesture that you have demonstrated by providing our school with safe and clean water,” said Head Teacher Madam Lilian Lusanji.

“Due to my pupils being intellectually and sometimes physically challenged, they need a lot of water for cleaning and washing and you cannot send them as other able-bodied pupils to go and fetch water outside the compound. They will either get lost or are put at risk of being knocked down by the fast-running motorbikes outside the school gate. On behalf of the whole school, I really want to render our appreciation to you for considering us. God bless you all.”

VIP Latrines:
This project funded the installation of 6 new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, half for girls and half for boys. All of these new latrines have cement floors that are designed to be easy to use and clean. And with a rain tank right on school property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.

Handwashing Stations:
The 2 handwashing stations were delivered to the school and handed over to the student health club. These were placed outside of the girls’ and boys’ latrines to encourage handwashing after latrine use. With the support of school staff, health club members will teach other students how to properly wash their hands at the stations, make sure the stations are filled with water, and work to ensure that there is always soap or ash available.

New Knowledge:
Mobilization for the hygiene and sanitation training at Womulalu Special School was a great experience. This is because all of the pupils were interested in being part of this unique event in their school, but for purposes of coordination, only about half of them could be selected for the training. Head Teacher Madam Lilian Lusanji was extremely helpful in coordinating the other teachers and students during this process. In the end, 26 students attended the training.

On the day of the training, the weather was cloudy and cool in the morning hours. This was very conducive for training as the participants sat under a tree and enjoyed the cool breeze. Each student participated well and all were very interested in the training. We covered a number of topics, including personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, and handwashing with soap as a barrier from germs; and operation and maintenance of the new facilities, with each person understanding their role for long-lasting clean water and good health. The new student health club will be greatly involved in project management and will be responsible for encouraging good health and hygiene practices amongst their peers, teachers, and the larger community.

Before we dove into any of these topics, however, we first did an introduction exercise among the students and facilitators. This was the first memorable moment of the day. Each pupil was asked to introduce themselves while stating something they liked and disliked so as to break the ice before the training commenced. One of the pupils made everyone burst out laughing when he mentioned that he loved chicken and ugali (corn porridge) and could not wait to be home the next day and eat chicken!

The other most memorable moment was during the dental hygiene lesson. After brainstorming dental diseases, we discussed the proper ways of brushing one’s teeth and why it is important to observe dental hygiene. One of the pupils, 12-year-old Cynthia, volunteered to demonstrate to others how to brush her teeth. It was her first time in life to ever hold a toothbrush and brush her teeth. At first, some pupils laughed at her but she pressed on, oblivious of their jeers. After some time she grasped the concept and could not stop as this new hygiene practice was such an amazing thing that she had never experienced in her life. The best moment was when she was rewarded the very same toothbrush to take home and she was all smiles.

“Since I was born I have never brushed my teeth with a toothbrush and paste and today is a very memorable day for me. I am happy that I have learned to brush my teeth and now I won’t have [a] smell in my mouth ever again,” shared Cynthia while smiling.

The training seemed to have had an immediate positive impact on the pupils as they were seen trying several times to wash their hands the proper way immediately after the training. This was a positive indicator of their progress toward better hygiene and health.

Special thank you to:
Merrick Family Foundation, MN and Rogers High School, WA for supporting this project!

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