Karibu! Welcome!

Since 2004, EWB@ MSU's professional and student volunteers have worked with community members in Khwisero, Kenya to provide water and sanitation infrastructure at the district's 58 primary schools, making it easier for Khwisero's children to avoid waterborne disease and get an education.

In that time, the group has grown from a small club to one of MSU's premier student organizations, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund seven borehole wells, six composting latrines and a biogas latrine that serve thousands of community members.

Thank you for joining us as we continue to work hand-in-hand with local partners to make a difference in one small part of our world. As Western Kenya's limited internet access allows, we will update this blog while in-country with the successes, stories and lessons provided by our work.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Updates from Adam, Griffin and Jon


Things are going great! I have been doing a lot of mapping including points for 45 of the 58 schools. I'm slated to finish the other 13 primary schools on Sunday given good weather. We built an incubator using a bimetallic thermostat and a cartail light inside a sawdust/cardboard chamber to run the bacteria samples. I ran a few samples but have had some trouble maintaining temp, so we are going to try a new chamber out of bed mattress padding..... To be continued on that one.....Annie and I have come up with what seems like a pretty good method for laying out the survey. We collected random student names from Shirali test sheets then got info from the deputy head + teachers on home locations. Yesterday I GPSed 37 homes and many water sources. Annie collected more random names from two additional schools. It is coming together and seems to be a good balance between random/western, and Kenyan methods.

The people here are great and the kids are super cute. The culture is so different in many ways and the mix of simple life with the use of technology is very interesting. We are learning so much!Excited to see the next team next week!



Since arriving in Kwhisero, John, Chris, and I have been working on a new composting latrine design that incorporates the producion of biogas for cooking fuel. A final design was established on the 21st and drawings were made. The final drawings were given to Maurice, one of our contacts in Kenya, who is currently working to produce a 3D model using a CAD program. On the 23rd we proposed the design to the Shirali School Management Comittee. They seemed to like the idea. We are meeting with them again tomorrow in hopes that they will be able to do most of the materials procurement and be willing to help with some of the costs. Currently John and I are working to establish a materials list, cost estimates, and to find contacts in and around Kwhisero that sell the materials that will be required to build the latrine. Finally, we have also made several tippy taps and have shown them to the Shirali School Management Comittee.


Well we have been here a little over 2 weeks and things have become very interesting. Our team has been doing a lot with the survey work and getting a random list of names that will work for us and for the teachers that will be administering the survey. Griffin, Chris, and I have modified an in use bio-gas latrine system that we will be installing at Shirali. This design is complex compared to what we have done in the past, but I know that with the builders we have on teams 2 and 3 we can successfully complete this project.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Updates From Chris Allen and Annie Hansen

Chris Allen:
Friday July 25, 2008.

I just signed the largest contract of my life; 2,581,425 Ksh, approximately $40 grand. Though my pen felt heavier than normal, the completion of the two signatures was anti-climatic. The equatorial air inside the office of Muhammad Ali, head of Haikal Investments in Kakamega was thick with the body oder of his country clients, myself included. The large number of shillings made the transaction seem surreal.

I am excited to be working with this company and Muhammad Ali. He has been drilling in this area for as long as I have been alive. The available rig is reaching the end of it's operational life however, if it fails, he has two other newer rigs at other localities. Ali worked for many years with the KeFinCo project, a partnership between the Kenyan and Finnish Governments to provide water to some of the areas surrounding Khwisero. He is open about the fact that the project failed, is very willing to help us not make the same mistakes, and likes our current action plan very much.

With the contract signed I am focusing my efforts on preparing the team to transfer over the information that they have acquired to the incoming team. I will leave this Sunday to pick up team two. While in Nairobi, Quinn and I will be meeting with a Professor from Nairobi University, touring the slums with Team 2, and will personally be enjoying the showers at the hostel.

It is interesting, all of the new schools we have been working are very excited, very willing to give and buy into the project. At one of the meetings one of the community members stood and said that if it would help us believe that they would own the project, they would collect 1000 Ksh ($13) from each member of the community. A large sum considering many families subside on incomes less than $500 per year. Instead we settled on the community providing meals, helping with the survey, and their word that they will expand upon the start EWB is helping to provide. It seems ridiculous now, but for the first time we have insisted that most meetings be run in Kiluya instead of English. In years past meetings were long, arduous, painful, events were three
people spoke and the rest appeared bored, and complacent. Once we stated using Kiluya people pay better attention, they interact, understand what is being said, ask good questions, and state strong opinions. I may miss the nuances of the conversation but for the most part understand the overall flow of the conversation and trust our local teammates to convey everything I could hope for, using far better style. The meetings now sound like the inside of a Southern Baptist church on a cold day where people are looking for any excuse to get up and clap their hands.

The new communities have been very vocal in the process, and it has been a very powerful tool to tell them how much money will go into the project at their school, approximately 1,100,000 Ksh. We have told them this before the drilling has begun, and requested that their proposals for maintenance and expansion be turned in before the rigs are on-site. Their ideas and action plans seem so far to be exceptional. The willingness and ability of the new schools and surrounding communities to invest into the project has surprised me greatly.

When we explain to the schools why we are here, how people in their own community invited us to come, and how we got here through the donations of a generous community smaller than theirs, their eyes lighten up. It is a change of pace to ask a group of people that are used to earning the meal they will eat that day, to invest. Because of our project and the cumulative work of many other projects in the area the concept of investing is slowly catching on. I believe now more than ever that this project will succeed. We can whole heartedly say that we are acting with communities input and support. We have chosen a local driller, we are modifying plans according to the communities needs. They are telling us how they will manage their systems, and we are stepping back. We no longer drive the projects at these schools, we have become consultants, information gatherers, tourists, and I could not be happier.

Annie Hansen:
I am currently working on the survey and determining the radii and sample size for the water use survey that is to be administered in August by team two/three. EWB travel team one has visited 4 of the 5 schools that we are drilling/ drilled wells at (Shirali, Ikomerro, Emwnaito, and Ebuhonga). Adam and I have created random lists of students attending these primary schools. These lists were generated by using the test score results for each student in standards: 5,6,
and 7. Each school has a total of 50-75 students that have been selected to be surveyed in August.

Yesterday, we visited Ikomerro and Emwanito primary schools. The teachers assisted me in accessing the test scores while I entered them in a small field lap top. Adam and I are meeting with 2 teachers at Emwanito Primary school tomorrow to discuss where these randomly selected
students reside and directions to their houses. This information will be added into the computer and then organized into village/zone format. Surveyors will then be assigned to a village/zone to survey a group of randomly selected students.

Team one has about one week left in Khwisero before team two arrives. We hope to have the survey methodology well established so team two can conduct it. I look forward to meeting team two to pass on information and tell some great stories.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

So Far So Good

Team 1 has been making progress on a daily basis.

The meeting with all head masters was conducted as scheduled, and for the first time EWB at MSU was introduced to the head masters of the entire Khwisero division all at once. The application process was outlined and a selection committee based in the school board was proposed. The purpose of the committee would be to assist schools in the completion of the application and select a short list of schools for most immediate future work. This committee would allow for a transparent local process to recommend schools based on the school's applications and written proposals.

The schools outline what they want related to water and sanitation from EWB at MSU. For example: a bore hole, a water dist system, toilets ect. Most importantly, they propose how they will manage and what they will do with the water to bring funds into the school. The application allows several schools to team up and apply for systems where one school gets water and pipes it to the others. The proposal will include how they will route the water, how the water will be metered, and at what cost they will distribute, ect. Another section of the application includes how the community hope to assist.

Teams 2 and 3 will be continuing the process by meeting with the committees that the schools set up to fill out the applications. This will happen at two meetings. One for East Khwisero and one for West Khwisero.

Good progress has been made with the survey preparations. The schools will have no problem providing labor; it is sounding like many will do it for free. Adam and Annie have been finalizing a simple way to find the effective radii of schools.

The design of the latrine has taken a turn for the complicated as Team 1 attempts to introduce a bio-gas component per the request of Ronald. Chris, Griffin, Jon, and Maurice are modifying a German design that Ronald helped to implement in the slums of Nairobi. They have been communicating regularly with Teams 2 and 3 and professors and professionals at MSU to discuss the proposed design. It should be good and the school is stoked.

The contracting and permitting process for the bore holes is essentially complete. We will post expected arrival times for the drill rig soon.

Khwisero now has a movie house that shows DVDs. The Water Carriers coming soon!

Team 2 arrives in Kenya next week. Check back soon for more updates.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Team one has made it to Khwisero!

Chris and Adam arrived on the 4th and met with the Kenya Team (Ronald, Francis, and Maurice, among others) to finish preparations for the arrival of the rest of the teams, and the remainder of Team 1 (Annie, Jon, Griffin) arrived in Khwisero on the 15th.

On the 17th, the group will be meeting with the headmasters of the 57 primary schools in Khwisero to discuss many important things, including the details of the work we are doing this summer, the application process and expectations for work at future schools, and the maintenance of the work done so far.

They have started conversations with community members about translators and focus group leaders for the surveys. Many teachers have expressed an interest in participating.
Adam and Annie are currently determining the appropriate sample numbers and sample areas for the household surveys.
Jon and Griffin are working on designs for the handwashing apparatus (the tippy-tap) and making contacts for procurement of materials for the composting latrines.
Chris has been working with Francis and Ronald to finalize the contracts with the drillers.
Maurice has been doing drafting work for the composting latrine design modifications.

Things are going great so far!
Check back again soon for more updates.