We are excited to share that a safe, reliable water point at SLMB Primary School in Sierra Leone is now providing clean water to students and neighboring community members! We also conducted hygiene and sanitation training, which focused on healthy practices such as handwashing and using latrines.
“I will now have access to clean and safe water for drinking, unlike in the past when I [went] to the swamp to fetch water for drinking. I used to experience stomachaches and frequent stooling. I believe this was because of the contaminated water I drank from that source. Now I will no longer suffer from these things,” said 14-year-old Isatu K.
“I will no longer go to other places to fetch water. Therefore, I will not miss any lessons in school. This will help me to pay great attention to my studies.”
“The new water point is really a blessing to the school. I will never forget the difficulty we faced in school simply because there was no water. Even to use the toilet was a challenge. Now, all the past constraints we used to face will now become a thing of the past,” said 32-year-old teacher Subah Mohamed Kamara, who we spoke to when we first visited the school. “In time past, some of the students [would] skip classes, and others deliberately leave the school ground before time. All their excuses [were] that they are going to fetch water. Today, things will be different. No more flimsy excuses, because water is now available at the school premises.”
We held a dedication ceremony to officially hand over the well to the community members. Several local dignitaries attended the ceremony, including representatives from the Ministry of Water Resources and the District Health Management Team. Each official gave a short speech thanking everyone who contributed to the rehabilitation of the water project and reminding everyone to take good care of it. Then, Subah and Isatu made statements on their community’s behalf. The ceremony concluded with celebration, singing, and dancing.
Clean Water Restored
The drill team arrived the day before beginning work. They set up camp and unpacked all their tools and supplies to prepare for drilling the next day. The community provided space for the team to store their belongings and meals for the duration of their stay. The following day, the work began.
First, we raised the tripod, the structure we use to hold and maneuver each drilling tool. Next, we measured the well’s original depth. We then socketed the pipes and installed a casing.
Finally, we lined up the drill rods and started to drill! We reached a final depth of 15 meters with water at 6.5 meters. The hand-drill method allowed the team to install the cylinder far below the aquifer so that the community has excellent water access throughout the year.
With drilling complete, we installed screening and a filter pack to keep out debris when the water is pumped. We then cemented an iron rod to the well lining and fixed it with an iron collar at the top.
Next, we bailed the well by hand for three days and flushed it, clearing any debris generated by the drilling process. Finally, we tested the yield to ensure the well would provide clean water with minimal effort at the pump.
As the project neared completion, we built a new cement platform, walls, and drainage system around the well to seal it off from surface-level contaminants. The drainage system helps to redirect runoff and spilled water to help avoid standing water at the well, which can be uncomfortable and unhygienic and a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes.
At last, we installed the pump and conducted a water quality test. The test results showed that this was clean water fit for drinking!
Before conducting any hygiene training, we called and visited the local water user committee to understand the community’s challenges and lack of sanitation facilities. We shared the findings from our discussions with the committee members to help them make the necessary adjustments before the training began. For example, we identified households without handwashing stations or ones that may need to repair their latrines. With this information, community members worked together to improve hygiene and sanitation at home.
After this preparatory period, we scheduled a time when members from each household using the water point could attend a three-day hygiene and sanitation training. We then dispatched our teams to the agreed-upon location to hold the meeting.
First, our hygiene team trained the teachers, who then shared the new lessons with the student body with our help.
Training topics covered included handwashing and tippy taps, good and bad hygiene habits, disease transmission and prevention, COVID-19, worms and parasites, dental hygiene, proper care of the well’s pump, keeping the water clean, the cost recovery system, dish racks, and clotheslines, the importance of toilets, keeping latrines clean, balanced diets, the diarrhea doll, and HIV and AIDS.
The session about worms was interesting for students. They were asked to name ways they are prone to worm attacks. Students were quiet at first, but then one of the pupils responded and mentioned that when students play, they remove their shoes and have bare feet. The rest of the pupils clapped for her contribution, and a teacher listed other risk factors and the preventive ways to avoid worm and parasite infestation.
“This training was valuable to me because it has helped me to gain more knowledge about hygiene and sanitation activities, especially in worms. I never knew that not wearing slippers can make one get worms into the system. And failing to wash our hands after using the toilet will also create room for worm infestation and other illnesses as well. Therefore, I will ensure I put into practice all that I have learned during the training,” said Isatu, who was quoted earlier.
This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members themselves. When an issue arises concerning the well, community members are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact their local field officers to assist them.
Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our monitoring and maintenance program. We walk with each community, problem-solving together when they face challenges with functionality, seasonality, or water quality. Together, all these components help us strive for enduring access to reliable, clean, and safe water for this community.
Thank you to Westridge School For Girls in Pasadena, CA, for helping make all of this possible!