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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Photo Update: Eric

Eric, the fearless leader/project manager-extraordinaire, hard at work:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Management and Mutatus: Joe

A mutatu ride can be a harrowing experience.

The team caught a Mutatu (passenger van) to Kisumu this morning. In the US, 12 passenger vans aren't exactly comfortable, but Kenyans have made the long, uncomfortable car trip an art. Mutatu drivers must have some engineering training to so efficiently cram such a mass of humanity into such a small space. As for comfort...let's just say the guys hanging out the door had it made.

Still, you can't complain when you take the time to look out the window. Kenya is gorgeous. Looking out over Lake Victoria, watching banana trees zip by, and seeing locals go about ther daily lives is the experience of a lifetime.

Today we are in Kisumu to price out materials for the pipeline we are constructing in Khwisero. Tomorrow we have our first meeting with the local Distribution Pipeline Committee, a group of leaders in the are of the pipeline that will be vital to the success of our project.Talking with Jackson (our incredibly talented, incredibly smart Kenyan Team coordinator) we affirmed to ourselves how much work we have left to do. By the end of this trip we need this committee to be able to organize community support and create a managment structure for the most complicated project EWB has ever attempted. We want the community to take ownership of the project, and we had hoped that they would demonstrate their support by trenching for the pipeline before we return next summer. According to Jackson, that might be optimistic.

One issue with foriegn development is that the Kenyans know we want to do the project. They expect, from past experience, that foriegn aid is free, with few strings attached, and though we might talk tough, in the end we will complete the project regardless of whether the community has contributed. Our goal is to guide the community to truly care about the pipeline. We want a system that will be maintained and is capable of operating for years to come, so we have to put in the time on the social end of this complicated endeavor to make sure it lasts.

In tomorrows meeting we are going to try to guide our Kenyan counterparts to create a committee that can get the community excited, and we are going to ask them to come up with some way that the community can prove to us before next summer that they are ready to build and maintain the pipeline. It might be trenching, it might be another sort of community contribution, but we are sure it is necessary for this project to succed long term.

If I've learned anything so far this trip, I've found that it is easy to underestimate Kenyans. There is so much talent here, there is so much hope, and with a sliver of luck, conditions in Khwisero are going to keep improving at a faster and faster pace. Personally, I think its an incredible thing to be a part of, and I can't wait for tomorrow.

Before writing this I always regretted not getting the macbook pro as it had the backlit keyboard feature that would be ideal for Kenyan nights, a kerosene lantern though is quite a bit cheaper and works equally as well. After a few slow days in Khwisero due to holidays, weddings and rain I was finally able to get more than a few kilometers away. I went to visit an acquaintance from last trip named Jill Inyundo. Jill is an odd sort, who we first met while I was walking down the dirt road from Emwaniro Primary, one of the schools that had received a borehole. After being in rural Western Kenya for two weeks you become pretty accustomed to being gawked at as you’re the only white person that some people have seen before, and if they have seen a white person that person was rarely seen walking. As I was nearing my turn off I notice a grey-haired seventy-year-old white British woman driving a small SUV my way. This was Jill. We were forewarned of her before we left, but none of us had met her. She invited us to her house, lectured us for hours on everything from international aid to local politics to religion. We learned a lot and I kept stopping back to visit her and her Kenyan husband, Weboko, who sports trousers nearly up to his armpits and a salt & pepper beard. The couple had met as students at London University and then married and moved to Nairobi where Boko was an economist and Jill was an English teacher. They had two boys, with whom I have been corresponding via email over the past months. They both live in the UK and are deeply involved with African aid projects directed out of Britain. I met one of them, Boko, the youngest, his wife Sarah and his two children, Abbey and Moses, for the first time. Sarah is Ethiopian and moved to the UK, I believe, at a young age and attended Birmingham University where she met Boko. Abbey, age four, was cruising around the house in a pink tutu and Moses, at 14 months, was toddling and drooling about. Boko and I were able to chat for several hours about the nature of foreign aid, local issues, and some of the projects that we have planned, one of which is a fellowship program. We are looking to get more young Kenyans involved with our project as we recognize that, despite our lack of fiscal resources, we have vast technical and social networking resources that would be incredibly valuable to any youth who is willing to work as hard as our current Project Coordinator Jackson. During our listening sessions last summer Jackson and I were faced with questions about the discouraging community issue of unemployment and it’s subsequent effects on the youth of the area who turned to crime or drugs without anything better to do. We promoted the idea of apprenticeships as something of an immaterial value that could be given to the youth when finances were scarce, essentially providing an advantage to leverage in ascertaining that rare “good job,” while at the same time catalyzing local involvement. Boko, a marketing executive had some helpful recommendations and we plan to have a process in place by our departure. A rather busy day, I’m sun burnt for the first time in a long-time and am going to finish my tea then retire under a bed-net. Qwahara Mano.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Wet Christmas: Eric

We woke up this morning, Christmas Eve, to a thunderstorm and pouring rain (see the poor quality photos). At one point, someone joked that we've ended up with a wet christmas instead of a white one.

Since Maurice assured us yesterday that December is a dry season in Khwisero, it came as a bit of a surprise (when we teased him about his prediction this afternoon, he explained that one of the local tribes is able to control the rain).

In any case, it sounds like the change in weather is an early Christmas present for the local farmers, who've been hard hit by a drought for the past several months.

It was less fortunate for us, since it coated the local roads in two inches of mud. Jackson had set up a meeting with our local management board this morning, but the roads' condition forced us to push it back a couple hours to give all the board members a chance to navigate them.
The meeting itself, however, turned out to be more than worth the wait. I was absolutely amazed at how willing the board members were to sacrifice several hours of their Christmas Eve to discuss our project's status and our plans for the next several weeks.

I'd like to elaborate a bit more, but I'm once again in the process of nodding off at the keyboard--the Kenyan tea Nellie (Jackson's wife) served with dinner tends to put me to sleep, I think. Either that or it was the ugali (a cornmeal-mash dish that's the staple dish here).

Regardless--Feliz Navidad,


Team Member Check-In: Hilary

As we’ve officially arrived in Khwisero, I feel as though it’s probably time for me to check in. My three other teammates have already written a blurb, so I decided, true to “Kenyan time,” it is probably my turn. I am Hilary Fabich, originally from Livingston, MT and I currently reside in Bozeman. I am working on my degree in Chemical Engineering. As much as I love Bozeman winters, I chose to spend my Christmas in Khwisero to help prepare for the EWB summer 2010 implementation trip.

After our four days of travel, we have officially arrived in Khwisero. I am sitting with the team at our hut on Jackson’s compound, which is complete with mud walls, a grass roof, multiple chickens, and several cows.

This morning, at 5:30AM, we went down to the lobby of our hotel, the Buruburu Wab Hotel, to meet the bus. It arrived at 6:30. Maurice (part of the EWB-Kenya team) and his two year old son accompanied us on the journey to Khwisero. I sat next to him and he kept explaining that our bus was the nicest in Nairobi. It was definitely far more comfortable than the other options, by which I mean almost everyone had a seat, some of the seats reclined (some wouldn’t stay upright), the bus sounded as though it was missing a muffler, and every time we hit a speed bump the bus swayed as though there was not much keeping it upright. After eight hours we stopped in Luanda and boarded a Matatu (see picture). There were 14 seats, and our group of five (not including Maurice’s son as he spend the whole time in Maurice’s lap) filled the last of the designated seats. We remained stationary as five more people boarded the Matatu. It was a bit crowded but oddly comfortable. We drove for about 30 minutes before stopping to pick up another group of four and the chicken they had just bought at the market. This totaled to 23 people and one chicken (which Matt was lucky enough to hold). Two men were standing half way out the door of the van as we drove along the streets of Khwisero. After another 30 minutes, the van stopped and the EWB group climbed out and walked the short distance to Jackson and Nelli’s (members of the EWB-Kenya team) compound. They were very welcoming. We were served biscuits and juice while we discussed the state of our project with Jackson. We headed back to our hut to unpack and settle in. Around 8:30 we were called for a delicious dinner where we were served beef, chicken, ugali, chipati, cabbage, and finally some delicious Kenyan tea!

After dinner we all took a turn using the new latrine, washed with the warm water Nelli graciously supplied, and the four of us are now sitting around a table with a kerosene lantern planning for tomorrow. It is 10:30PM so we’re going to succumb to the darkness and head off to our beds!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Team Member Check in: Joe Thiel

Greetings Everyone! Habari! Night is falling here in Nairobi. I’m sitting in the hotel, looking out over one of Africa’s largest cities, listening to music from the street as I contemplate the month ahead. It’s incredible; it hasn’t quite sunk in. At 5:30 tomorrow we catch a bus to Khwisero and our work truly begins. I can’t tell you how exciting that is. Over the past year I’ve learned so much about the district and our work there. I’ve ran fundraisers, attended meetings, given presentations and met some of the most talented people I know while working for our project in Khwisero, but to actually see it, to interact with the community first hand, to experience all of these things we have talked about is going to be incredible. I can’t wait.The best thing about our project, I think, is the connections we make both in Kenya and in Bozeman. Dozens (dozens!) of people helped me and the team to prepare for this trip. We had survey training, concrete training and social training. EWB members from Otto Stein, our advisor, to brand new freshmen spent hundreds of hours in meetings for this trip. Because of the incredible work of everyone in Bozeman I’m confident we can do great things in Khwisero this trip. It’s humbling really. I’m a sophomore in Chemical Engineering and Liberal Studies. I’m a young, poor college student, and I’m part of an organization made up of mainly young, poor college students, yet together we’ve been able to do some amazing things. With the Khwisero community we have brought clean water to thousands of children, a simple act which creates ripple effects throughout the entire community, creating a catalyst that can advance the whole society.This planned distribution pipeline will be EWB-MSU’s greatest challenge thus far. It carries with it incredible social challenges and greater technical complexities than we have faced in the past. EWB always says that we learn far more from our mistakes than our successes, and there will likely be many learning opportunities on this trip, yet the quality of the team I am traveling with, the incredible support we have received from the Bozeman community, and the hard work of every member of EWB-MSU is a testament to the power of people working together towards a worthy goal. I am honored to be on this trip, and I am confident of its success.


Eric: Landing in Nairobi

As I write this, we're recovering from meeting our trip's first unexpected challenge: navigating the international air travel system after the winter storm Matt mentioned below threw a wrench in our itinerary. As a result, we've arrived at Nairobi a day later than we'd originally planned, after spending a night in Chicago, 20 hours in London, and more time than I'd like to count in assorted airports and aircraft.

Needless to say, we're thoroughly exhausted at this point--I don't think any of us got more than 15 cumulative hours of sleep between leaving Billings and landing this morning. This afternoon, I sat down on my hotel room bed to do a bit of reading and woke up four hours later, only to discover everyone else on the team had done the same thing.

After taking a cab from the airport this morning, we met with Maurice, one of our Kenyan team members. He'll be accompanying us to Khwisero tomorrow, and somehow managed to arrange bus tickets for us even after we had to drop our original reservations due to our delay (much of Nairobi's workforce consists of people who've come to the city to find jobs so they can send money back to their families in rural areas, so finding transportation to the countryside as everyone travels home for the holidays is difficult).

At Maurice's suggestion, we're staying at the Wab hotel, part of the Buruburu shopping center on the outskirts of Nairobi. It's an interesting neighborhood, to say the least. As I'm writing this about 8:30 in the evening, we're being serenaded by something that sounds like a combination of karaoke night at the local bar and car alarms, though it may very well be someone blasting the latest Kenyan pop hit.

Fortunately, I'm exhausted enough this evening I don't think it's going to bother me. Actually, I'm starting to nod off as I write this, so I should probably quit before I get even more incoherent than I already am.

Mulembe (I'm pretty sure that's "peace" in Luhya),


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Matt: Over the Atlantic

Well, first blog on the “road” and its origin is mid-Atlantic, written on a London bound Mac-Book. Our debacle began the morning of Saturday the 19th at 3AM when we arrived at Billings Intl. Airport, only to find that Billings was more functional as an international hub (it’s not) than our intended hubs of New York LaGuardia and Kennedy.

When we arrived at the airport, we discovered that the entire Eastern seaboard had been shutdown due to a blizzard that the NY Times designated as one of the Top 10 storms that Washington DC and the like have ever experienced. Nonetheless, in a remarkable display of diligence, two United Agents worked with us for an incredible four hours to reroute our journey in order to put us into Nairobi in a reasonable time frame (within 3 days of leaving Montana).

We caught a flight to Denver, then Chicago, to find that our London flight that evening was overbooked, so, along with thousands of other stranded travelers, we searched for a hotel, found one and were asleep by midnight.

Now, twelve hours later, we are cruising at 640mph, 33,016 ft. over the Atlantic nearing Greenland while a five year old in front of me is irrationally disturbed over having to sit in his seat rather than dance in his seat. We will arrive in London at 11:30PM GMT and will leave for Nairobi at 7:00PM GMT the next day. In the downtime, we have found a hotel that is literally on top of London’s Charing Cross tube station, two blocks from Trafalgar Square and a block from the River Themes. We’ll have the better part of a day to play tourist before we’re off to warmer equatorial climates.


Matt: Our Project's Background

While I have the time, I’d like to expand a bit on the project in Khwisero from the two points of view that I can: philosophical and business oriented. Kenya is home to a myriad of international aid projects, and I apply that term conservatively, as Nairobi’s Kibera Slum, Africa’s largest, arguably has better access (geographically as Kibera is incredibly dense and financially due to subsidization) to foreign and domestically provided services like medical care, piped water, food, job-training, etc; than most other parts of Africa.

All across Kenya, thousands of well-intentioned groups, from all over the world, have tried to assist Kenyans out of a perpetual cycle of relative and absolute poverty, and have failed. Alternatively, many have been successful, and the single commonality shared between successful initiatives has been long-term sustainability through Kenyan ownership and autonomy. In recognition of this end goal, EWB at MSU has been delicately yet deliberately searching for the means to reach this goal.

In 2003, a soft-spoken Kenyan architect, now a virtual Bozeman celebrity, named Ronald Omyonga wrote to the national Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA) headquarters describing the need for improvement in the rural division of the Western Province of Kenya, named Khwisero, which he called home.

Ronald wrote because the primary plight of Khwisero was one of perpetual poverty; where the economy is largely agrarian in nature and is defined by a non-existent margin of growth where families are subsisting on their small plots of land (usually .5-4 acres) with little opportunity for growth. Western Province, where Khwisero is located, has the highest incidence of poverty in the country where 65-78+ percent of the population falls below the rural poverty line and HIV/AIDS is found at twice the national average where approximately 15.4 percent of the population is HIV positive.

Ronald wanted EWB to bring clean water and sanitation to the 58 primary schools of Khwisero; he recognized that long-term change comes from the youth, and by putting clean water access directly at the schools, students, almost always female ones, wouldn’t have to miss an inordinate amount of class time every day as they fetched water, thus avoiding the risk of unfairly putting them behind their male counterparts.

The existing water sources are sparsely located springs that are nearly all contaminated by human and animal waste; where contamination can lead to missed school, long periods of declined health and death in many cases for young children and the elderly in the area. By assisting the students and community members of Khwisero meet basic needs, in theory, they would be able to begin to fulfill other necessities for progression, including an enhanced education.

We initially identified the local schools as being not only the point of contact for our project efforts to very literally meet the ground, but we recognized these schools as being the hubs of the local community, where everyone, in some way was connected to the schools. Utilizing existing infrastructure and tapping into the school’s management capacity, which is one the most advanced in the community, we learned that these schools held enormous potential for long-term sustainability.

Each school that houses a well has been tasked with forming a management committee, comprised of school officials, teachers and community members, in order to assist in planning, implementation and operation of EWB initiated projects, which now depart from solely deep water wells, to include composting and bio-gas latrines, that provide an alternative to traditional pit latrines which contaminate local ground water and only last a few years in a single point, while concurrently providing value added bi-products including compost and methane cooking gas, respectively.

In addition to these income-generating aspects of the latrines, each school has set-up (admittedly with varying degrees of success) a maintenance fund where a small, non-exclusionary fee is charged for water, which is placed in a maintenance account in order to enable the schools to fund regular maintenance, emergency repair, and expansion of the existing projects. As an example, Ikomero, a primary school that houses a borehole installed in 2008, recently built a painted security fence around the well and pump by tapping into their maintenance fund, with significant resources to spare.

This trip is focused on two goals, as stated in below posts: to assess both the technical feasibility of a water distribution pipeline that could provide up to four schools and two health dispensaries with water as well as the management capacity of the schools and our Kenyan Board of EWB in planning, implementing and operating this pipeline project in order to ensure long-term sustainability. We recognize this trip as being a crucial one, in that we are at a point where significant progress can be made in the functions and autonomy of our Kenyan Board, school committees and local partners. This project will be the largest undertaken by EWB-MSU, and probably for nearly any student led group in Kenya or anywhere else for that matter, as project phases are likely set to continue through 2012 and will require extensive community support through management, private land-owners, government officials and volunteer community members.

So as our team continues at a rate of 640mph over the Atlantic, now nearing Ireland, our tasks are laid out before us, textually in a 3-page excel document, conceptually in a magnitude that is daunting to any group, but we have made a commitment to the people of Khwisero, which is being increasingly reciprocated by extraordinary business owners, teachers and farmers from all over the community, in a way that hints at the longevity that we all, Kenyan and American, seek.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Team Member Check-In: Eric, Project Manager

Hello! Karibu! My name is Eric Dietrich (Or jina langu ni Eric Dietrich, to use the full extent of my rather limited Swahili). I’m a sophomore in MSU’s Civil Engineering program, originally from Portland, Ore., and the trip’s project manager.

To provide a bit of background about myself, I’ve been involved in EWB since last fall and spent a month in Khwisero as part of Team 1 this past summer. In other parts of my life, I’m a member of the campus’s swing-dancing club, involved with the University Honors Program and serve as the news editor for The Exponent, MSU’s student newspaper.

As you may have gathered from our other posts, the purpose of this trip is twofold: to collect the technical data we’ll need to create a final design for the water distribution pipeline next spring, and to also lay the social groundwork for the community’s involvement in both construction next summer and the system’s long-term operation and maintenance.

Neither of those tasks will be easy. We’ll spend the next month working in a foreign culture where things as simple as holding a conversation or catching a bus become challenging. Our to-do list ranges from meeting with government officials to surveying the proposed route to facilitating community listening sessions. And, furthermore, we’ll be operating on what our past travel teams like to call “Kenya time,” where everything we set out to do in Khwisero takes twice as long as planned.

Regardless, I have every confidence our team of four will rise to the occasion. My three team members are easily among the most talented students on campus, and the combination of skills I have the pleasure of traveling to Africa alongside is nothing short of amazing.

That isn’t too say we won’t have our rough moments, of course; much of what we’re setting out to do is to learn from our inevitable mistakes. Over the course of our project’s history, the most important lesson we’ve learned is to approach our task with a sense of humility, and we plan to continue that tradition.

Before I sign off, I should take the time to recognize the extraordinary effort that my fellow EWB members have put into making this trip possible. This fall alone, our 50-odd members have quite literally put thousands of hours into our project—as we’ve prepared to travel, our peers have supported us almost every way imaginable, from simply attending planning meetings to sacrificing a Friday evening to fundraise by running a coat check and valet parking for an event at the SUB.

Without that dedication, we wouldn’t be headed to Kenya this Christmas. And, without similar dedication over the past five years, our student-run organization wouldn’t be in a position where we could even consider attempting a project as complex as the distribution pipeline will be.

So, my heartfelt thanks to those fellow EWBers who are reading this from back home, and those of you in the greater Bozeman community who have supported us with your donations and wisdom. You make this possible.

And, to those of you who aren’t (yet) involved in our effort—my thanks for taking the time to follow it. We’ll do our best to make it worth seeing through to the end.

Asante sana,

Team Member Check-In: Matt

Hello Everyone,

My name is Matt Smith, I am a Helena High School graduate and am in my fourth year at MSU with majors in Business Management and Philosophy. As many people point out right away, "That's an interesting mix! What do you do with EWB?" Well, I traveled last summer with EWB in order to research the socio-economic and political systems in Khwisero, Kenya and search for basic poverty alleviation interventions that could be associated with our existing water and sanitation projects. I have been an active student at MSU for the past several years and have been fortunate enough to work with local, state and federal policy as well as organizations ranging from student clubs, to large public and small private entities.

This trip we are going to focus on the social mechanisms in order to ensure project sustainability by working to build the capacity of our Kenyan Board of Directors and conglomerated Pipeline Management Committee. Additionally, we will connect and empower local landowners, of which the pipeline will directly affect, with the local politicians and government officials. We will engage these stake-holding entities by holding small-training sessions, development meetings and large listening sessions to engage community members and all other involved parties.

Hope you follow our progress, as we have heard rumors that Khwisero just got dial-up internet access (it takes a while for gossip to get over the Atlantic), if not, we'll be posting from an internet-cafe in Kisumu , off the coast of Lake Victoria.

Thank you for your support and interest,


Monday, September 7, 2009

Composting Pictures

Composting Action: Ekatsombero Primary

Almost finished product.

Mwisena Primary School



Mostly finished!

Both schools took the same design and ran with it. Both incorporated their own modifications and interpretations of the designs. I let Ekat run with a slightly different roof design to give us some design options. Both fundis and schools did an awesome job and are super excited about the projects. Next up, finding water.

Pictures Galore!

BioGas in action.

Latrine walls being constructed. The inner wall is for the funnel to get the waste into the dome.
See entry for waste. The pipe extends out of the walls for maintenance and cloggage removal. The pipe won't stay that long.

Funnel form work being constructed.

Site layout. 3 latrines, the expansion chamber being worked on and in the back the soak pit for excess liquid being dug.

Expansion Chamber slab has been cast. Featuring 2 manhole covers.
And then well worked on the dome lid. Still a work in progress.

More funnel construction.

Work on the soak pit.
The first funnel. Hope it makes a good poop slide.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Team 3 Wrapping it Up

So team Green Hippo’s Kenyan adventure is beginning to wrap up and I think that all of us are going to be sad to see it come to an end. A lot has happened these past couple weeks and we have seen many projects continue to progress. We all settled into our home near Munyanza and enjoyed seeing Team 2 and Team East for a couple days before getting rolling on our work. We got the incubator working again so Amy and Kalen took water samples at a few schools and were able to test them at the house, we also did some work finishing up hand-washing stations at Emwaniro and continuing on with the composting latrines in the east. Damon and Dalen have been cranking away with the biogas latrine. Unfortunately, we won’t be here long enough to see its completion or participate in the “group poop”. At Munyanza, we’ve been looking at problems and solutions for the orange water issue, as well as working with the teachers to improve their hand washing stations. Although it would be nice to stick around and be able to see some more aspects of our work and the completion of or our projects, we have all thoroughly enjoyed our time here, eating ugali and drinking lots and lots of tea. We hope that everything continues to go smoothly as JJ continues on with the projects.

Amy, Dalen, Damon, and Kalen
Team 3

Friday, August 14, 2009

Biogas Latrine Progress

The biogas latrine is nearly finished! Here is a photo timeline of its construction over the past month. Photos by Cameron.

Team 2 Update

Girls from Emwaniro Primary School carrying water from the Emwaniro borehole to team 2's house.

Team 1 and 2. Left to right: Sarah, Kiera, Erich, Megan, John, Matt

Francis Ashira, Jacky, Hannah, Megan and John at the surveyor training for West.

Laura Moon

Stanley, Erin and Matt at the KWDP headquarters in Khwisero. Stanley has been running KWDP since it started. KWDP was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Iyundo, a local couple who have been living together in Khwisero since 1963. KWDP focuses on protecting springs by installing a concrete retaining wall and metal piping. Their goal is to elevate the springs and protect their water from soil erosion. Although protected springs sometimes have better water quality than unprotected springs, many of them still contain coliform bacteria.

Laura, Matt, Kiera, Cameron, Sarah and Molly cramming into a matatu, or public van, the local form of transportation.

Biogas latrine construction at Shirali P.S.

Khwisero in the early morning.

JJ and Sam, an excellent fundi from the Umande Trust in Kibera slum, standing in the bottom of the hole that was excavated for the biogas latrine. Photo by Cameron.

Team 2, 3, and East at Wallace Airo's compound near Emwaniero Primary School. Top, left to right: Kalen, Damon, Amy, Dalen, JJ, Jackson, Tom, Chris, Megan. Bottom row, left to right: Molly, Cameron, Hannah, Laura, John. Not pictured: Matt and Erin.

Jackson and Matt at a farmers' meeting. Matt is researching agrobusiness in Khwisero. One of his goals is to work with people in Khwisero to determine how EWB and locals can empower farmers and their families to live better lives via improved farming practices and increased economic development.

A school girl from Ebukuala Primary School undergoing a distance vision test at the Ebukuala Eye Clinic. EWB-MSU collaborated with EWB-Khwisero, the Khwisero Health Centre, and local volunteers to pilot an Eye Clinic at Ebukuala P.S. The Bozeman Lion's Club donated over 200 eyeglasses to the clinic, and the employees at Advanced Eyecare of Bozeman spent hours reading the lens prescriptions and fixing up the frames. For more information about this program please contact Molly Bruggeman at mbruggeman@gmail.com.

Jacky and Dr. Erich, shielding themselves from the dirt on the piki piki (motorbike) tour of Khwisero's governmental health facilities.

Ebuyonga Dance Performance

"Cows" by Cameron Chen

Hi everyone!
Team 2 is back in Bozeman, where the internet connection is fast enough that I can upload these. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

During team two’s first week here, we researched the health care system in Khwisero. Jackson, the coordinator of EWB Khwisero, brought Dr. Erich Pessl, Jackline Amakobe, R.N., and I on a motorcycle tour of the health care facilities here. We learned that all of Khwisero’s health care facilities and patients are suffering from a lack of potable water. The old hand-dug wells that were installed by the Rotary Club of Kisumu have dried up and the cement rainwater catchment systems from Africa Now are cracking or nonfunctional. Most patients are also forced to cope with major shortages of staff, inpatient wards and essential medications, to name just a few challenges. The lack of water, though, is particularly demoralizing for the staff and compounds the patients’ ailments. For example, most expectant mothers are forced to deliver in dusty rooms, and without access to piped water and washing stations.
The next day, Erich, Jacky and I worked with staff from the Khwisero Health Centre, and Dr. Walter, an optometrist from Khushiku sublocation, on an eye clinic at Ebukuala Primary School. More accurately, they worked, and I took photos or talked with patients. Dr. Walter screened 300 patients, mostly students, in six hours. We distributed the majority of the two hundred eyeglasses that the Bozeman Lion’s Club donated to us, and Dr. Erich saw the patients who had medical eye problems, as well as other conditions. We referred the patients who needed eye surgery to the August 6th free surgical clinic at Khushiku sublocation. The eyeglasses were free for children, and we charged adults 200 ksh, approximately $2.80. With the money we made from adult glasses, we were able to pay Dr. Walter for a full day’s work. Overall, one full day of helping students and adults to address their eye problems cost EWB only $10.00. Dr. Erich left on Saturday the 25th, and ever since then I’ve been working on the proposed water distribution pipeline, and learning about other major problems that are facing people in Khwisero. In the next post, I will talk about some of those issues. Thanks for reading this!

As the awkward business student on team two I am conducting economic research and looking at community capacity building in the agricultural and business sectors. By conducting economic assessments through surveys, listening sessions and interviews we can better understand the sustainability of our projects by understanding a different aspect of the community of Khwisero. Additionally, we hope to research and recommend the use of cash-crops at primary schools as an income generating activity to raise money for project maintenance funds; assess the accounting and board practices at the primary schools and provide an economic report including basic recommendations of actions towards community economic issues through cooperative formation as well as technology and knowledge sharing. Additional inquiry into tribal and familial relations has opened up new perspectives into the Khwisero community and has provided explanations to issues that would normally be overlooked by outsiders.Thanks for all the support.

Bio-gas latrine work continues and we are several layers high on the dome construction. We have brought in a specialized fundi (~engineer) from Nairobi to assist in construction and we are proceeding well. -C

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Team KEO - Keeping it above 80!

Hello All -

I am happy to report team east is keeping it above 80!

Tom and Chris have been working hard and the results are showing. The composting latrines are getting underway and everyone is rejoicing.

Megan had the whole team working last night to complete the final touches on the surveys and this morning they were handed out to all surveyors! Go Megan!

There are still a few bumps regarding the two wells. It would seem both schools are built on a solid slab of rock which is causing some sustainability issues with any possible aquifers that might reside on the premises. But, with our moods averaging a solid 87, we are welcoming the challenge and eagerly awaiting the next report from the surveyors.

In the mean time;

JJ knocked himself out with his own head lamp on the same day he was nearly brought to his death by a rogue driver eager to test his car's limits. But don't worry, after a good helping of Ugali and some beef liver, he is as good as new.

Chris and Tom have been humbled as they attempted to keep up with elementary school kids in a game of "football". Bare foot and half their age, the kids ran laps around the two.

Megan, with two marriage proposals in one day, decided the 10 cows, 3 goats and 10 chickens were not enough for her to leave my side. We are happily sharing one bed and with the protection of Big Bertha are sleeping like babies!

And, as for myself, I'm enjoying every minutes here. The people are amazing; always with a smile on their face and laughter in their voice. I've only has 2 babies pee on me so far which is a winning average!

A few tips for keeping it above 80!

1. Spontaneous group singing
2. A full stomach of Ugali
3. At least 2 cups of tea a night
4. Practicing Luyha with the locals
5. Bartering for bubbles with Roosters
6. The smiles on the faces of the kids!!

Keep checking in for more,

Until then,

This Hannah sitting at a 97 - signing off!!!!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ode to KEO

Thousands of miles away we go

To a place we truly don’t know

They call the five of us team East

Out of everyone we know our district the least

Hannah Megan Chris Tom

And our manager J.J. who misses his mom

Some days are long and all are fun

How many could pull us apart, the answer is none

Before our departure we did tightly pack

Nalgenes, underwear, and the thought of a Big Mac

Sun up and a cup of tea Sun down and a cup of tea

Through these days we have discovered and now see

Life is a lesson you learn it when it is through

Here in Kenya we learn most when our travels are comprised of two

The day has ended with a game of cards starting our night

Before long our liquor filled friend might be an interesting sight

This poem is now ending because I must go to bed

Early we will rise with a chicken sounding from the shed

Tom Brown
Phase IV
Team East

Monday, July 27, 2009

Murieena my friends.

Just a quick check in for you.

We are currently working with 2 teams in Khwisero right now. A team in the west and a team in the east. It's been pretty crazy having so much going on in the district but really exciting at the same time. The team members are taking projects and running with them. As a whole things are progressing but we've had a few speed bumps slow us down. Part of the fun is working with the locals to find a solution that continues the project but also gives us a sustainable way forward. We have learned a ton and Laura noted there is a whole lot to do. Now and when school starts up again.

I'm still working on posting more pictures but that falls to a low priority when I'm not at a computer. I hope all is well in Bozeman.

Murieena means how are you to a group. Oriena is how are you to a single person. The typical response is Namalay, which means I am fine. The Luhya is coming along nicely and its been really fun attempting to talk to people in Luhya for 2 or 3 sentences before they go flying past our comprehension level.

Take care.

JJ Larsen
Phase IV Co-Project Manager

Monday, July 20, 2009

Team One, Signing Off

As of this writing, Team One has officially wrapped up our three-week stay in Khwisero. After packing and some heartfelt goodbyes this morning, we loaded our bags onto a matatu and headed south to Kisumu, where I'm writing this now.

I think I can speak for the team by saying our stay has been nothing short of wonderful, both in terms of personal experience and what we were able to accomplish for the community. After living in close contact with chickens, cows, mosquitos and ugali for almost a month, readjusting to "civilized" American life is going to take some doing.

We spent this past weekend sharing notes with Team two, and at this point they've taken the torch to continue the work we've started. We hope that they'll have as much success as we feel like we've had.

Oreo mano--thanks so much for your continued support,

Eric Dietrich,
Phase IV, Team One

Friday, July 17, 2009

Some Words of Thanks

As we were coming to Kisumu from Khwisero on our way to pick up Team 2, I began to reflect on the EWB-MSU-Khwisero Project. Maybe it is because I have just reached my half way point, or maybe I am just feeling grateful for being in such a beautiful place, for a wonderful purpose that has been progressing to a new level...I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for all the supporters of this project. It has taken a large group of very selfless people to reach the level of success we have been experiencing in Khwisero during Phase IV. That is not to say that we do not still face challenges, as I am sure this project will always face, but I see the way that community members and Primary Schools react to the EWB project, and I will say that they are with us and excited. It is now them who are driving the project, who are eager for us to continue or begin work in there area. And none of this would be possible without all of you: members of EWB-MSU who put countless hours into the project, donors who give their hard-earned money with the hope of seeing the world improve, friends and family of members who support those who are crazy enough to travel half way around the world in order to help people they have never met, and especially to the travelers, past, present and future, who immerse themselves in a different culture far out side their comfort zones to accomplish tasks with the Khwisero community that many may have seen as impossible. Good things are happening here, and I am grateful to be a small part of it.

The momentum of the project is strong. I hope that EWB members will be ready to continue their hard work...we have a lot to do. I hope that donors will be able to continue their support...the Khwisero community is ready for projects to improve the conditions of their Primary Schools. And I hope that many are looking forward to coming here in the future...the success of the project depends on it. There are 51 Primary Schools which are still waiting for our assistance. It is up to all of us to see that the project continues.

Once again, thank you for your support.


Laura Moon
Phase IV co-project manager

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I'm happy to report that Team 2 has landed in Nairobi and are eager to get to work in Khwisero. They will be arriving Friday afternoon and spend the weekend working with Team 1 getting up to speed. Things are continuing to go well as noted in Kiera's post the other day. The picture above is the current status of the bio-gas latrine. We have dug the dome hole and the expansion chamber. Time to start constructing.

More to report next week as the work continues to ramp up with the great work from Team 1. We will start construction on the dome for the bio-gas latrine. We will receive both the second team in the west and the first ever team to stay in the east of Khwisero. The community in the east that we will be staying with is very, very excited to receive EWB and start working with them. We will be finalizing our drillers and meeting with the EWBMSU Kenyan board to discuss the best option. We have a much work still to do with the hand washing stations, the household survey of the schools, the assessment of the distribution system from Emwaniro, and many many other projects to work on.

We are busy, happy, and thoroughly enjoying Khwisero. We will end with a quick Kiluhya lesson.

Bushire - Good Morning
Keshitare - Good Afternoon
Bwakera - Good Evening

And my personal favorite:
Oliomulamu - Are you fine?
in which you reply:
Endiomulamu. Yes I am fine.

JJ Larsen
Co-Project Manager
Phase IV
0723 353 821

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"It's a cultural experience" - Team I motto

Mulembe EWBers,

Phase IV Team I's African summer will end soon, but before we leave Khwisero this week, I would like to share an update on our work since the last blog.

JJ, our second project manager arrived safely in Khwisero last Wednesday. We have thoroughly enjoyed his knowledge and experience this past week.

The excavation of phase I for the Shirali Primary School bio-gas latrine has been completed - about 60 cubic meters of shoveled red dirt. Laura, Eric, and the team have been hard at work on the Bio-gas Latrine calculating materials, finalizing the design and working with the school management committee. Next week, EWB will be working with a Fundi (skilled worker) for the Umande Trust to construct the bio-gas dome. Mr. Oloo has worked on these domes before and will provide valuable insight into the project.

Sarah, our Architecture student, has been working on a model of the bio-gas latrine using her impressive cardboard skills. This model will help to educate the community and aid in the construction process.

Eric, Megan, and myself have the water testing project and incubator up and running. We have been led around by many school children and guides to take about 30 samples thus far from the local springs and wells.

JJ, Eric, and myself attended a distribution pipeline meeting with a special committee composed of 4 primary schools and two health clinics. We discussed the pipeline phases and followed up on some preliminary work. The community is very excited for this project and we hope to determine all the necessary information this summer so we can implement on the next trip.

On the sanitation front, materials for six hand washing stations have been collected and will be constructed for Ebuhonga Primary School this week. We hope to expand this program to each school we've worked at to date.

Jackie Robin, her son Andrew, and his friend Sawyer visited Khwisero for a week to work with the pen pal program in the primary schools and experience rural Kenyan life. Together we celebrated the fourth of July by making "freedom fries" and singing songs with Jackson's family. Jackson is our local EWB Co-ordinator and helping us immensely.

Megan Malone, our Sociology and Anthropology student has been working on translating and finalizing the survey, and spending many hours interacting with community women and their families.

In further strengthening our relationship, EWBMSU had our first official meeting with the EWB Kenya Board to discuss our Phase IV 2009 summer work plan. They are a very motivated group and are going to help us achieve our goals for the summer.

The community of Khwisero have yet to cease welcoming us into their homes and sharing their lives. We thank them as well as our own families for their continued support and love.

"We are still together."

Kiera McNelis
Travel Team I

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Update of Primary Schools

Hello from Kenya all!!

It is wonderful to be back in Khwisero and working on the project. Kiera and I have been in the village since June 27th. We visited all five primary schools which EWB-MSU has implemented a deep water well to date. The following details our findings:

Shirali Primary (Borehole drilled Phase I, Composting Latrines Phase II and III ): Well is still functioning, but there is a slight orange water problem. We have been collecting water from this well for the team's drinking water. The first compost latrine is being used by the male teachers and the first compost pile is ready for land application. The second composting latrine is being finished. Fundis have been working for the past week and it is being painted yellow with a black stripe, very nice! The new headteacher, Lydia, is also a member of the new EWB Board. The school is "feeling very comfortable with the EWB projects." We met with the School Management Committee (SMC) to be official handed over from EWB-Kenya and Board to the Shirali Primary SMC. We are now living with a member of the SMC at his compound near Shirali and our meals are being donated by the surrounding community. They are treating us very nicely. For an update on the biogas latrine project at Shirali see Eric's post.

Munyanza Primary (Borehole drilled Phase II): When we arrived Khwisero, we learned that Munyanza's pump had not been functioning. During the first week here we went to a parents' meeting. Jackson (our EWB-Kenya Coordinator) explained the history of the project to the parents in Kiswahili and Kiluhya (the local language). He stressed that the school must take ownership for the project in order for it to succeed. Last week we learned that Munyanza had fixed the pump and are making preparations for Team 3 to stay in the community.

Ebuhonga Primary (Borehole drilled Phase III): The well is functioning with no problems. The school has started several clubs with gardening projects, some including community members. They grow watermelon, animal fodder, and kale which they will sell in Kisumu to raise funds. The gardens are watered with the water from the wells EWB funded. They have also collected some funds from selling the water to community members.

Emwaniro Primary (Borehole drilled Phase III): Although we have not been able to meet with the headteacher yet, we have learned that the well has been operating with no problems. They have been selling the water to community members. The SMC has also been meeting to discuss the proposed distribution pipeline project. We will be meeting with them next week.

Ikomero Primary (Borehole drilled Phase III): The well has been functioning with no problems. Ikomero has collected the most funds for selling the water to community members (1 shilling/20 Liters). They are ready and eager to continuing working with EWB-MSU on latrine projects.

We also visited the two new schools in the East:

Mwisena Primary: We met the headteacher and ate lunch with the teachers. The ground surveyor have identified the point were the borehole will be drilled. They are very excited to received our project. They are very interested in the composting latrines because they are unable to dig pit latrines very deep because of the high water level. They currently do not have sufficient latrine facilities for there students. Also, the headteacher is a member of the board.

Ekatsombero Primary: We had a meeting with the School Management Committee to discuss the project. A Water User Management Committee has already been formed to manage the borehole. It was a very productive meeting in which they asked a lot of questions. They had a meeting with the parents' after we left to inform them and discuss the project.

Both new schools are ready to host Team East and are anxiously awaiting their arrival.

The EWB Board: We have met several members of the new board and will meet with all on July 10th. The office is in a small building next to the Khwisero Jail. Our neighbors in the building are the District Education Officer and the National ID Card Registrar Office.

I think that is all I have to report for now!

Laura Moon
Co-Project Manager
Phase IV
0725 700 244

One week down for Team One

Team One arrived in Nairobi last Thursday, and spent a day in the city before boarding our eight-hour bus ride out to Kwhisero.

While in Nairobi, we met with Ronald, and toured a set of Biogas latrines built in the Kibera slum (the second largest in Africa) by a group called the Umande Trust. The biogas latrines there are designed to alleviate two of the slum's most pressing issues, inadequate sanitation facilities and limited fuel for cooking, by harvesting methane produced as human waste decomposes.

Back in Khwisero, we're in the first stages of implementing a similar design at Shirali Primary School, where we installed pilot composting latrines last summer and put in our first well in 2006.

This past week, we met with the school management committee, and were pleased to hear their enthusiasm for the project. At present, we're preparing to excavate for the system's digester dome, and have completed an initial material cost estimate.

The school management committee has requested we size the project to serve the school's 300 female students (the working plan is to construct composting latrines for the boys later this year). Once completed, the biogas latrine will replace the open pit latrines currently in use, preventing sewage contamination of local groundwater and saving the community the cost and effort of regularly digging new latrines.

--Eric Dietrich, Team One 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Map of Khwisero and the 2 new schools

The following is a map of the Khwisero district in western Kenya created by several EWB@MSU students after last summer.  Adam Sigler took on the task of recording a GPS point for each primary school and their closest water source.  The 2 new schools we will be working with are numbers 8 (Ekatsombero) and 9 (Mwisena), in the eastern most point of the district.  I've blown up the map of these schools.  

We are excited to finally expand our work to Eastern Khwisero after working only in the west for the first 5 schools (Emwaniro 30, Ikomero 37, Shirali 46, Munyanza 47, and Ebuhonga 52).

Click on the images to see larger versions.

Images are property of Engineers Without Borders at Montana State University and can not be used without the written permission.  Email ewbmsu@gmail.com for permission.