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, September 2, 2011

Tying Up Loose Ends

Matt Smith

With this summer’s travel coming to a close, EWB-MSU has sent over 100 students to Khwisero since the project began in 2004. While each has had a wholly unique experience throughout their travels, a universal feeling seems to arise as each student’s time in Khwisero nears an end; they feel like they left quite a bit undone.

In recognition of the variety of cultural and environmental differences between America and Kenya, EWB-MSU tries to encourage travelers to come up with a myriad of project ideas to pursue while on the ground and to plan for each to not go according to plan. One of the challenges of being dynamic and adaptive, is that we each feel like we should have accomplished more. When one project slows, we pick another up. Then, when we watch the Khwisero countryside pick up speed through the windows of a country-bus, it is too late; our trip is over.

This is my third trip to Khwisero and now, in my second month in Kenya, I’ve seen three teams of students come through and I’ve ridden that country-bus with them. I’ve seen them torn between their home and its comforts and the new home that has invariably been created for them by the community of Khwisero. Each time I return to Khwisero with a “To-Do” list. “Review the EWB-Khwisero financial logs” and “pay the hardware invoices” are easy tasks; “Restructure the Board, work with everyone to create a new constitution” and “Save the world” seem to be a bit more difficult.

As the remaining EWB-MSU member, I will be responsible for ensuring that the summer’s projects are finished and are appropriately transitioned to community ownership. We have four composting latrines that are receiving their final plastering and will be outfitted with plumbing, water catchment, moving walls and incinerators for feminine products. The MEM pipeline, after its third-year of planning, has recently laid foundations for a water tower and the first phase of trench—over a mile—has been dug thanks to community contributions. The first phase of the pipeline will serve Mundeku Primary School and the community through two additional water points. The sum of all three phases will serve five primary schools, two health clinics and a large portion of the community through roadside water kiosks.

Our last project has been several years in the making as well: a water catchment system at Ekatsombero Primary School in the Eastern stretches of the District. The catchment system has undergone several redesigns throughout the summer, but our team in the States is working with local contractors to come up with a final design that is amenable to all involved.

In addition to the material projects, I’ve been tasked with finding ways to build the capacity of our local support organization: EWB-Khwisero. We’re developing a constitution that more clearly outlines roles and responsibilities, restructuring our local Board of Directors in order to match recent political reforms and making sure the team has the tools they need by enrolling them in computer training at the polytechnic school and finding other opportunities for further training.

One month lies ahead of me and I have a list of my own. Ultimately though, I’ve addressed one of the central tasks on my list, answering a critical question: “Can I do this kind of work in the long-term, is it worth it?” When I take my turn on the inevitable bus-ride back to Nairobi, I’ll have few regrets.

No comments: