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, August 30, 2008

Team 3 Wrapping Up A Job Well Done

Hi friends!

I'm in Kakamega today to pick up supplies for the final push. Earlier today we had a second premier of The Water Carriers in Khwisero for the general public (Set up by Lawrence, who is a new prospective member of the Kenya team). Tomorrow we will be having a party to thank the Kenya team and others for all their dedication and sacrifices, as well as say goodbye to Team 3, who leaves Khwisero on Tuesday after a job very well done.

Here's a quick summary of some of the things that the teams have accomplished this summer:

Expanded Capacity of Kenya Team and Other Community Members
- Maurice has learned how to use a GPS (via Adam's excellent teaching) and is in the process of mapping the water sources of all 58 primary schools for us;
- Lawrence set up and advertised a film premier in the Khwisero market;
- 28 Surveyors were trained;
- 7 Focus Group Facilitators were trained;
- The 14 member selection board was voted in to provide a more transparent and accountable selection process for future work;
- Jackson was voted unanimously by the other members to be a part of the selection board (which will help us decide which schools to work at next);
- Technical and management training for Shirali and Munyanza Water User Committees will be in final negotiations early next week, and training for the other three WUC's is planned for later this fall.

Collected Mountains of Information Crucial to Our Future Success
- 750+ Homestead surveys completed;
- 7+ Focus Groups starting next week;
- Extensive people mapping of the formal sector;
- Collection of well logs, spring location maps, water quality, household maps, contact information for dozens of helpful people, reports from other organizations working in the area, and loads of other vital technical information;
- Thousands of hours of experiences and personal connections being brought back to Bozeman by the 14 travel team members (not the least being the important things we learned as a result of revisiting our past work).

Radio Documentary and History of Khwisero Information Collected
- Hundreds of hours of interviews and other material have been collected.

Drilled 2 Wells, With One More On The Way
- Providing 1900+ primary students with clean water, improved sanitation, and an opportunity to spend more time in school instead of fetching water;
- Huge savings for schools on future construction projects, which require a lot of water (money which can be used for other projects);
- A platform for communities around the three schools to begin and enhance existing income generating activities.

Pen-Pal and Water Education Programs are Currently Underway
- Over 100 students in Khwisero have written letters to new friends which will be delivered soon

Thousands of Smiles
- In the last 8 weeks, we have been witness to an overwhelming number of smiles. Everything from little kids and grandmothers laughing at the way we sound when we say hello to them in Luhya and the way we look riding on boda bodas, to trainees grinning and shaking our arms off when we handed them the certificates at the end of their training, and everything in between.

A Healthy Dose of Mistakes
- We were also fortunate to make lots of mistakes while having people around us who weren't shy about pointing them out to us. We have learned more on this trip than on all our previous trips combined - as much about what not to do as about what to do. We'll tell you all about all those things later. ; )

14 Travel Team Members Lives Changed Forever
- 14 travel team members from Bozeman who traveled here this summer had an experience that they will never forget. Personally, I am honored to have been able to work with so many good people (Kenyan and American alike), and it has been a pleasure trying to keep up with them.

Chris and I will be staying behind as long as necessary to finish up anything that can be finished before embarking on our research, but most of what we all came here to do has been done with flying colors, thanks to a lot of hard work by dozens of people here and in Bozeman. Thank you to all!

Thanks for checking up on us, and we're hoping to see you in Bozeman or otherwise soon!
Thanks for your support, and don't forget to keep checking up on us, because this is only the beginning....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

One Week Left

Team 3 (Katie, JJ, Rebecca, Aubrie) has one week remaining until they leave Khwisero to begin the journey back to Bozeman, and they are working hard to finish up the work we came here to do and tie up as many loose ends as possible in the time remaining.

Chris and I will remain in eastern Africa until November doing research and finishing up anything that the three teams were unable to finish while they were here.

The household survey is complete and we have approximately 750 questionnaires to bring back to Bozeman for analysis. The focus group training went very well, (thanks to Katie and Francis) and we now have 7 very bright and motivated facilitators waiting to conduct their first focus groups starting next week.

There has been a slight delay in the start of drilling at the final school, but we are expecting things to be underway at Ebuhonga Primary in the next 7 to 10 days. When that is complete, we will sign a contract for installation of the handpumps at all three schools and each school will host a celebration for the community where we formally hand over the projects to the respective water user committees.

Early next week we will be traveling to Kakamega with representatives of the Munyanza and Shirali Water Management Committees to negotiate pricing for their technical and management training sessions.

We premiered The Water Carriers in Khwisero yesterday to a small crowd of school management committee members from the 5 schools. We'll open it up to the general public on Saturday.

Things are getting a bit hectic as we approach the end of our trip this summer, but overall things are still going very well, and everyone who traveled this summer has performed admirably. Make sure you thank them for all their good work and dedication when you see them!

Check back next week for an update, and thanks for checking up on us.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Yo friends! Team 3 here in Kenya bringing you an update of our work and the progress thus far. We had a great couple days with Team 2 and a sweet party for Katy's Bday. She killed a goat with her bare hands. Ask her about it. Plus some sweet pineapple drinks. But the more important stuff.

Aubrie is working to set up a new and improved penpal program with the local students in Khwisero and Bozeman. She is also working to plan more parties (something we like to focus on) for the handover of the wells. And since our knowledge of the workings of the area has exponentially increased Aubs is going to be working with the Ministry of health to see how we can work with them on improving water and sanitation education in the community.

Katie is following Katy's lead and asking lots of people lots of questions. But our Katie is putting together the history of the area and in a couple days has learned some great info. It should be an interesting read. She and Rebecca are working to put the focus groups together to further expand upon our ever increasing knowledge. Katie is also fully addicted to grilled corn. FYI.

Rebecca and Jj are working to set up some training sessions for the schools on management and technical stuffs. Hopefully this can be very helpful and work to improve the successfulness of our work in the area. We are hoping to pilot it with Shirali and Munyanza this trip and see our effective it is. Rebecca is also looking to work with the drillers and bring home the well logs so we can study the ground water in the area. Should be good.

Jj is working with Shirali and Munyanza to ensure their problems have been addressed and we can be successful moving forward. Shirali will be worked with to determine the needs of the composting latrine and address their maintenance costs. Munyanza will be worked with to ensure their water user commitee is fully operational and we have a good relationship with them. He would also like to address their water color issue and see if it can be resolved without major repairs. Jj and Rebecca will also look into potentially updating existing rain collection stations for future trips.

Team 3 is enjoying life on the homestead and we like showering in the banana trees. Keeps life interesting. Lots more stories to share when we return. See you soon.

Aubrie, JJ, Katie, Rebecca

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Drilling Begins at Emwaniro Primary School

On Friday the drillers finished flushing and capping the borehole at Ikomero Primary School after reaching a final depth of 91.5 meters. They have transferred all their equipment and are now drilling at Emwaniro Primary. After the drilling is complete at all three schools, we will install handpumps and train the community and management committees on maintenance and management of the wells.

The Surveyor training went very well. We trained 28 teachers, school aids, and community members from around the 5 schools to conduct the water use and sanitation survey, and finalized the survey. We printed 900 copies of it on Friday. The actual surveying is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Francis, Maurice, Jackson, Jaime, and I spent most of last week preparing for and conducting the training.

Jordan and Laura have been compiling a list of design projects for the fall and researching sand filter designs.

On Thursday, we met with the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board in Kakamega to begin the process of setting up managerial and technical repair training for the 5 water management committees and maintenance personnel at the schools.

Team 3 arrived on Friday and is preparing to take over as Team 2 leaves on Monday. Team 3 (Katie, Aubrie, JJ, and Rebecca) will be concentrating on training facilitators for the focus groups, writing a history of Khwisero, facilitating water and sanitation education programs at the schools with materials from Project Wet, and continuing to work with the schools and water management committees to ensure that the well handovers go smoothly, among a lot of other things.

Today we are celebrating Katy Hansen's 21st birthday and a job well done by all the members of Team 2. There is a rumor that a goat and several pineapples will be involved. And if Jordan and I can make it back from Kakamega to Khwisero (a 1.5hr matatu ride) without the ice cream melting, there will be some of that too.

Check back soon for more details as things progress.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Drilling Begins at Ikomero Primary School

On Monday, the drillers started drilling at the first school, Ikomero Primary. Progress with the drilling is slow but steady. After that, they will be drilling at Emwaniro Primary, then moving on to Ebuhonga Primary.
In the mean time, we have all been traveling and working frantically - visiting peoples homes, talking with local leaders, facilitating community meetings, revising designs, and learning, learning, learning. I think I learn more in a week in Khwisero than I do in a month back at school. ; )

Laura, Katy, Jaime, Jackson, and I have been finishing the preliminary mapping for the household surveys, and organizing a training session for local teachers and community members to teach them how to conduct the upcoming survey. The surveying will hopefully begin sometime in the next two weeks, and afterwards we hope to be able to survey a total of 750-800 households around the 5 schools where we are working this summer. The purpose of this survey will be to collect information to allow us to scientifically assess the impact of our work here, and also to pinpoint ways to improve our project's effectiveness. In the last two days alone, we have visited around 150 households, and almost everyone we talk to is very excited about and appreciative of the work we are doing. Maurice has been doing an excellent job finishing the Kiluhya translation of the survey (It will be conducted in Kiluhya because that is the first language of the people of Khwisero). We're hoping to pilot it during the training session, and have a final version ready a few days later.
Jordan and Laura have also been working on the revised design for the possible biogas latrine. Negotiations are underway with the school board and community at Shirali to determine whether we will build a latrine this summer or wait until the next trip. Our primary concern, and the major point of discussion with them is of course the long term maintenance of the latrine, and whether they are prepared to sustain it.
Jaime has also been conducting interviews and collecting hours of great material for her radio documentary.
Katy has also been working closely with Maurice, Jackson, and Francis on the people mapping - seeking out leaders in the community and local government to try to get them more involved in our project. There have been some great finds so far, and a lot of good advice and support.

All in all, things are going very well, and we are very busy and right on schedule... which is just how we like it. In one week, I'll be travelling to Kisumu to meet Team 3 and return with them to Khwisero.

Check back again soon!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Team 2 Arrives in Khwisero!

Team 2 arrived in Khwisero late last night, after a very long bus and matatu journey from Nairobi. The two teams will be spending the next two days transferring information and discussing where we are and where we'd like to be in relation to our objectives, as well as congratulating Team 1 on a job very well done. So far, we are right on schedule, and Team 2 has hit the ground running.

Chris and Quinn are meeting in Kakamega with the drillers today, who are preparing to mobilize and move the drill equipment to the first school as early as this afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed!

More details to come soon....