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.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Project Update: Ekatsombero Rainwater Catchment System

Above: Team member Matt Rine teaches schoolchildren American phrases.

Ryan Olff

Just a quick update on the rainwater catchment and filtration system at Ekatsombero primary school. After a month of hard work, problem solving, and minor issues with construction, I am glad to say that the rainwater catchment system is getting closer to completion. Watching the 16,000 liter tank lowered into a 15 foot deep hole in the ground was something else considering Kenyan construction and engineering techniques. The process took nearly five hours and was quite entertaining.

The last few parts and pieces were delivered yesterday by Haikal Investments, the contractor working with us on the project. The delivery included the last few PVC parts needed to finish up the plumbing from the 5000 Liter tanks into the sand filter, which will then filter the water into the 16,000 Liter holding tank. They also supplied us with PVC gutters and began to install the pump so that concrete can be poured.

It has been a challenge coming to a new place, getting used to “Kenyan time,” learning a whole new system for construction, and being thrown into a project manager position my first time here. It seems like the trip has been too short, and I can’t help feeling like I haven’t made enough progress while working here at Ekatsombero. There is still a lot to be accomplished, but over the last week of my stay, a lot of the remaining parts have been purchased and construction can resume. Currently, we’re hoping that the project can be finished by the end of August.

I wish I could have seen things finished personally, but with the inevitable minor setbacks, this being EWB’s first-ever rainwater catchment system, we’ve found ourselves forced to learn by making mistakes as we go. All I can do now is be positive and leave Matt Smith, who will be staying in Kenya into the fall, with the necessary information to complete the project on time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Field Notes: Our Kenya Board and Fellowship Program

Matt Smith

Editor's note: The following represents a portion of a piece written for kenyaconnections.com, a hub to facilitate networking between assorted EWB chapters and other development organizations working across Kenya.

It’s odd when good ideas emerge: usually at odd times in odder places. The idea for the EWB-MSU Fellows Program came up on a country-bus somewhere in between Nakuru and Kericho, Kenya. Our organization (Engineers Without Borders – Montana State University) had been working on water and sanitation projects in Khwisero District, Kenya for six years at that point and we had built a substantial network of Kenyan partners since we began. In fact, we established a Board of Directors in Khwisero in 2008 as a way to direct our projects to schools with the most critical sanitation and water needs as well as balance out project distribution across political boundaries. Our EWB-Khwisero Board is currently composed of school-teachers, government officials from the ministries of water, education and health as well as interested community members.
We found that the Board was a way that we would be able to navigate the political, familial and other cultural complexities of a region that was wholly unfamiliar to outsiders. We also had hopes that the Board would be a way to integrate more partners into active roles in our programs. In many ways, the Board has been a successful idea, though...

Finish reading here: http://kenyaconnections.com/2011/07/field-notes-ewb-kenya-board-and-fellowship-program/

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Work Continues

A quick update on our projects. Things are getting fantastically busy:

Ryan Olf has taken over for Jeff Moss and Ben Carreon working on the rainwater catchment system at Ekatsombero Primary School. Ekatsombero has been waiting since 2009 for a water project, when plans to provide the school with a well were derailed by a tragic lack of accessible groundwater. On Monday, a 16,000 liter water storage tank was lowered into the ground to provide the school with a clean water source. The water will be collected off the school’s roof, draining into two above-ground 5,000 liters tanks before passing through a sand filter for storage in the larger tank underground.

Kendall Saboda and Kala Jaquet have worked to organize a series of eyeglass clinics at the primary schools on the MEM distribution pipeline route in western Khwisero. The first eyeglass clinic was held Friday; over the course of the summer we hope to distribute nearly 1500 eyeglasses to schoolchildren and community members.

Kendall is also busy testing springs around Emwiru Primary School to research water quality. Her sampling is tedious with the timings of the daily samples going in and out of an incubator running off a car battery, thermostat, and light bulb.

Autumn Labuff has worked nonstop on the 2400 household surveys we hope to conduct at around 14 primary schools looking into varying water usage, helping us gauge the impact our work has on the broader community. She is now working on taking GPS coordinates at all the households and training the Kenyan surveyors who will conduct the surveys

Matt Rhine (aka “Pony”) has scheduled several meetings with teachers at schools throughout the Khwisero district, looking to establish a network amongst them to analyze the problems of education at Kwhisero Primary Schools.

Justin Stewart has been wonderfully documenting all these various projects with his camera, working on a photobook for our organization. He is traveling to document all our old and new projects, quite the task as we have worked at 14 schools in Khwisero including this summer’s work.

Kiera McNelis has worked at both Mushikongolo and Emwiru Primary Schools on the composting latrine construction ordering materials, collaborating with the contractor Fredrick and awesome EWB-Kenyan Fellows, Patrick, John, and Raphael. Last week, the foundation excavation for the composting latrine began at Emwiru and Mushikongolo is preparing to pour the slab of the latrine floor.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Team Five is Alive—Passing Through Nairobi

Matt Rine

We landed in Nairobi June 28(me coming in through Ethiopia, Zach Gartner through Amsterdam, and Justin Stewart, Kendall Saboda and Ryan Olff coming in after a week in Germany and Amsterdam). Navigating around the city was an exciting, if a bit scary, experience for everyone. The unspoken traffic rules took a while to catch on to; we likened it to a very intense live action game of frogger.

While waiting for Chris Maus, our Project Manager, and Kayla Jaquet to come in, we visited the city market. This was a wonderful experience during which vendors aggressively sell their wares and bartering is still a form of business s(I got a bracelet for a pen!). We spent the rest of the wonderful day wandering around the University of Nairobi and the national museum, while Joe (who graciously endured a day-long bus trip out from Khwisero to welcome us to East Africa) got to know some of the anthropology and sociology professors.

The hostel dinners were awesome, consisting of chapatti, lentil soup, rice and samosas. We breakfasted at the Nairobi Java House, which is definitely one of the nicer coffee shops I’ve been in (though its playlist is four songs long, and all four are practically identical James Taylor songs at that).

Unfortunately, Chris’s bag was misplaced during the transfer in Europe so he, Zach, and Kayla spent an extra day in Nairobi waiting for it while the rest of us struck out for Khwisero. The Easy-Coach (Kenya’s premier bus company) ride was long and hot, but the beauty of the changing Kenyan countryside as we traveled west made up for it. After a relatively stressful matatu (local bus) ride for the last leg of the journey from Kisumu, we finally arrived at Jackson’s compound—it was a great relief to be among such fine hosts.

We’ve got quite a series of tasks before us: Ryan will work on the rainwater catchment system at Ekastumbero, as well as a paper on the local construction industry. Kendal is troubleshootng the incubator we’ve used for microbial water testing, and Justin is taking the pictures for an EWB photobook. Personally, I’m researching how to quantitatively gauge the effect of humanitarian aid on education, though I’m not quite sure that’s possible.

Today I walked to Emwaniro to talk to Harriton, the school’s head-teacher, hoping to coordinate a meeting of educators from all around the area. I was lead by two great guys from Ebukwala named James and Josek, who spent a lot of time working with Thomas, Jonah, and. It was really great to talk to two people my own age. James is planning on working in wildlife management, and Josek is planning on teaching math and science (coincidently, my own career aspiration). We talked a little about the states of our own countries and our hopes for the future. As much as there may be cultural and economic gaps, it’s wonderful to find similarities here.