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.

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.

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