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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunsets over Khwisero

Joe Thiel, Project Manager

It’s been a week of first experiences for all of team one.

Jonah, Jeff, John, and the most recent arrival, Chad, hauled water for the first time yesterday (their necks are still recovering). Jonah and Jeff played their first game of football with the children of Mushicongolo Primary School, and lost rather miserably. I also gave my first “keynote speech” at a barrazza, the Swahili term for a large community meeting, and we all failed to finish our first “big ugali”, much to the amusement of our hostess, Nellie.

More importantly, I think that we’ve all grown to love Khwisero, its people and their easygoing lifestyle.

Yesterday we met with the parents of Emwiru Primary School, where we hope to construct a composting latrine, and I saw firsthand why what we are trying to do is so important. Emwiru is a school of 367 students (although enrollment can sometimes surge to over 400). After meeting with the school’s management committee and discussing the proposed project, they took us to tour the facilities the composting latrine would help to replace, 8 stalls serving 180 boys.

In the words of John, one of our Kenyan volunteers, the latrines were “pathetic.” One structure was near to collapsing, while the other had a healthy infestation of maggots. Both were pit latrines, dug to a depth of nearly 40 feet risking fecal contamination of nearby groundwater sources. We hope that, by partnering with the community, sharing resources and information, we can bring latrines that can provide at least the start of an answer to these issues with latrines that last longer, protect groundwater sources and provide an additional benefit in the form of compost.

Today, we met with Mushikongolo Primary, another of the four schools at which we plan to implement composting latrines this summer. We found a similar situation, latrines that were in disrepair due largely to a simple lack of resources, but we also found a great example of Khwisero’s defining trait: relentless optimism. These are communities that have seen many promises and faced many disappointments, but still remain unbelievable welcoming to students like us that, to them, must seem all too similar to all of the aid groups that have come before. Amidst poverty that, to most of us, seems unimaginable, they exhibit a hopefulness that defies their perceived situation.

Meeting with the parents of these schools, listening to their children recite English poems, visiting with teachers and getting my butt kicked at soccer have taught me this: Khwisero is an amazing place with amazing people and unlimited potential.

As I sit here in a hut, sharing stories with Johnson and his eldest son, watching the sun set over this place and its beautiful, complex people, I can’t help but feel once again that we have much more to learn than we have to teach in Khwisero.


mbruggeman said...

Thanks for the great updates!
:) Molly

Anonymous said...

This article called "toilet tales" on The World radio show sounded like it might be of interest to you all. Keep up the great work and the wonderful updates. -Lizbeth Thiel http://www.theworld.org/?s=kenya+composting+toilets

Harmony said...

sounds like you are needed there. nice progress! keep it going!