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 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.