Wednesday, July 4, 2012
ACCT International: Kapsabet
Tuesday we woke up in Eldoret with plans to meet up with Isaac, one of our intern mentors with our partner organization Aqua Clara International. ACI has offices and a guesthouse in Eldoret and we planned to check it out to see if it was a place the interns could stay if they came into Eldoret for work.
Isaac picked us up at 9 am and drove us to the guesthouse/offices. It was a relatively simple space that was clearly originally intended as a single family living space. The living room had become ACI's offices that consisted mainly of a couch, a desk, and a laptop. There was a kitchen and three bedrooms, which served as the guesthouse. The main purpose of the buildings seemed to be storage. Two areas outdoors were housing the materials for the biosand filters that ACI supplies to local schools.
After we had seen the space, he asked if we wanted to go to Kapsabet. Two interns were stationed there at the time, and he had plans to visit schools in the area and planned to take them along. Having nothing else to do that day, we hopped in his station wagon and headed out.
When we arrived at the host family's home we discovered the interns were at a local university meeting with a professor. After we spoke with the host mother and shared some chai, we were on the move again to locate the girls. Isaac told the host mother he would have them back near 4 pm. When we picked up the interns, we discovered they had no idea they were heading out on this trip. It appears we were all in for a surprise adventure.
At the first school we visited we met up with a local teacher (though not from this school), who was serving as the local project manager Waterlines, an international NGO that does water projects. According to Isaac, the teacher was volunteering to manage this project, and Waterlines was not compensating him. From what I could tell, Waterlines had funded guttering systems and water tanks for several schools in the area. In addition, Waterlines was now partnering with ACI to provide each school with three biosand filters, three clean water storage containers, and three hand washing stations. The purpose of these school visits was to check on the gutters and tanks and for Isaac to negotiate a date to bring the ACI materials, train the school in their use, as well as provide training to community guests in water-related health and sanitation issues.
At each school a large group of people was assembled to meet with us, ranging from the principle and head teacher, to representatives of the school committee, to a majority of the teachers present that day. We all introduced ourselves to each other and, as visitors, we were required to sign the guestbook. At each school we were also treated to a gathering of the students and, typically, a song.
At the first school, inspection of the gutters and tank were very disheartening. The cement tank had been constructed on the highest point on the school grounds, making it impossible for any rain water collected by the gutters to be fed into the tank. The tank was not in use at all. In addition, the gutter system was only installed on a single side of a single roof and was poorly constructed. Even if the water could be funneled to the tanks, the school would continue to lose out on a significant amount of water from the un-guttered roof space and the leakage in the one guttered section. The second school we visited also did not have a functioning gutter system. Of the other three schools we visited that day, two had relatively functioning systems. However, one had an impressive system gutter system that collected water from all the roof surfaces on the compound and then piped them underground to a huge cement tank (I cannot remember, but maybe 60,000 litres) that was easily filled in only two or three days thanks to the efficient system. What was interesting to me was that this was clearly the most affluent of all the schools and that school already had a water tanke before Waterlines had partnered with them to build the second one. Each school was required to put in some part of the construction costs and it is clear that this wealthy school was able to build a functioning system, while the other schools struggled.
Isaac took the opportunity of arranging the installation of the donated water purification materials to educate the people in the meeting to the needs of the school children and the responsibilities of the school towards these needs. According to UNICEF, children need 2-3 litres of water per day. Most of the schools we were visiting that day had 300 or more students. In order to meet the needs of the student body, the school would need the capacity to filter at least 600 litres of water per day. Each of the donated filters could produce up to 60 litres of filtered water. However, only three filters were being donated (up to 180 litres) leaving the schools short of the needed filter water for their students (though I am assuming that at that time the students were probably not drinking the amount of water they needed anyway, much less water that had been filtered or boiled). Isaac explained the effect dehydration can have on children and how properly hydrated children could be better students. He also stressed the importance of the hand-washing stations. Isaac indicated there should be one for each classroom. For most schools, this would require an addition seven to 10 hand-washing stations. He stressed to the schools that it is important for them to contribute towards their students needs as well and that they should consider ways to purchase these additional materials. However, he was also insistant that they wait until after the first three had been installed to ensure they knew how to properly use and maintain them. He made it clear to the schools that if the donated materials were not used properly, he would remove them for use in schools that could use them properly.
When we left in the morning, Isaac indicated he hoped to visit two or three schools. However, as the day drug on, it was clear he intended to visit all five of the schools in the partnership. The hours slipped by as we rode six people in a five-seater car. I spent most of the rough ride over dirt roads in poor shape sitting with one butt cheek on a sliver of car seat between Cale's legs or just sitting on his lap. When we finally dropped the interns off at their host family around 7 pm (three hours later than indicated), I was exhausted. However, we still had the ride back to Eldoret, another hour. We offered to take Isaac out to dinner, as we were starving. When he finally dropped us at our guesthouse, we had spent 12 hours with him that day. Cale and I dragged ourselves into bed and passed out.