Sharing good news from Kadok Secondary School in Uganda

I started today with a delightful email from a school in rural Uganda that we are helping through the CanAssist African Relief Trust.  Kadok MapAt this remote area near Kumi, the community is trying to improve educational opportunities for students of secondary school age who have no local school to attend.

In Africa, most kids who go to secondary school, attend boarding schools. This is deemed to be a better education as the students are kind of corralled at the school and not as easily distracted by other activities or even household duties demanded of them when they are at home.  For girls this is also thought to be more important so that they are not subjected to sexual advances or even abuse.   Unfortunately the cost of attending a boarding institution is prohibitive for many.

In some communities there is an attempt to provide day schools when boarding facilities are not close by or out of the financial reach of so many.  Students attending these schools sometimes feel like second class citizens. When I visit them I let them know that day schools are by far the most common form of secondary education in Canada and are by no means inferior.

Parents and community members at Kadok are trying to build up classes for teens in their district.  They are quite prepared to sacrifice to have their kids become better educated.  The school operates out of some temporary buildings and rooms at the back of stores along the village street.

These are the deplorable sanitation facilities previously the only accessible toilets for the students at Kadok Secondary School.

These are the deplorable sanitation facilities previously the only accessible toilets for the students at Kadok Secondary School.

They have had no sanitation facility that can be used by the students at the school (or by others who live along this street or frequent the village for shopping).  CanAssist is building latrines to help with this deficiency and hopefully improve sanitation for both the pupils and the community.

This progress report is a real treat to me and I hope that our supporters find it equally delightful.  This is only one of many projects currently underway with CanAssist funding.

The total cost of this will be about 20,000,000 Ugandan Shillings ( approximately $8000 Can)

The work for community projects like this one is all done by hand. And with bare feet!

The work for community projects like this one is all done by hand. And with bare feet!

In July, CanAssist mounted a challenge to our donors and were excited with a response that netted over $20,000 in donations, a number that will be matched by the Sasamat Foundation in Vancouver.

The Kadok school will be the first of many communities that will benefit from these gifts to CanAssist.  They have already received half of their allotment and today sent photos of the progress so far.  Notice that the work is all done manually and with no access to safe work gear.

Paul Abunya reports some of the challenges they have encountered including:

  • Latrine 4During the digging of the pit, the bedded rock got blocked reducing the speed of digging.
  • Also trucks could get stuck on muddy grounds as we were ferrying building materials.
  • It took time for the beam and Nero cement to set. Extending days to put the slab since its rainy season.
  • Despite the challenges we have accomplished the following:
    1. There is overwhelming feelings and support from the community.
    2. Community has donated more land for the expansion of the school.
    3. There has been continuous increase in enrolment of students.

Things are moving ahead.  Labourers in the community are being provided with some small work, construction materials are purchased locally and eventually the community will have toilets for the first time.

Thank you to our CanAssist supporters – feel good about what you are doing to help.

CanAssist African Field Representative, Daniel Otieno visited the school in May 2015 to confirm project details.

CanAssist African Field Representative, Daniel Otieno visited the school in May 2015 to confirm project details.

It’s World Toilet Day!

Are you celebrating World Toilet Day?  Do you ever stop to  realize that billions of people around the world do not have access to sanitation facilities like we do in the “developed” world.

According to the World Bank data, only 32% of Kenyans have access to “Improved Sanitation” facilities  – either a toilet or a Ventilated Pit (V.I.P.) Latrine, The latter is basically an outhouse with a decent base, ventilation and a hole on the floor and would be far from what we might call the V.I.P. treatment.

There are many efforts to provide clean water to communities (another luxury for some)  but somehow, latrines are not very sexy to promote for NGO’s doing work in Africa.

Through the CanAssist African Relief Trust we are trying to help.  CanAssist has done several projects involving latrine construction at schools, clinics and in communities.

Over 200 people in the village used this small latrine with no ventilation and a full pit!

Over 200 people in the village used this small latrine with no ventilation and a full pit!

One such community is Osiri Village on Lake Victoria where over 200 people used one small toilet which was run-down and full.  Or, more commonly they used the fields and bush around the village for defecation. Not only is this humiliating and degrading, it fosters spread of bowel infections like Cholera and Typhoid.

New Latrines at Osiri Village - August 2013

New Latrines at Osiri Village – August 2013

CanAssist donors helped provide the community with new latrines in August this year.  Still not enough to serve this many people but better than what was there before.

So today, on World Toilet Day, as you flush that toilet, think of the many, many people around the world who live without that luxury.

“On behalf of  the beach management unit i would like to thank you, the entire board of the trust and also the family whom we learnt donated funds through the trust of CanAssist to put up the 4 doors pit latrine in our beach . Thanks.”  Tobias Katete  b.m.u chairman

Osiri, a Lake Victoria fishing village

Osiri village is a 15 minute walk from the Luanda ferry dock that takes me to Mbita town. It is a small fishing village with a population of about 500. The people there struggle with poverty and the unfortunate lack of adequate clean water and sanitation.

Osiri fishermen

Osiri fishermen

I was introduced to the community through Meshack Andiwo, a fellow who as had the opportunity for a bit more education than most there. He indicated that the community was concerned about the children not getting any schooling. It is near this village that CanAssist has built the Stewart Geddes School. Fishing had been the main source of income for people in the village but this is becoming more challenging for a number of reasons.

Firstly, as in the rest of lake Victoria, the fish stocks are being depleted. Nile perch were introduced to the lake in the 1950’s as a potential source of fishing income. This was both a blessing and a curse as these fish have a voracious appetite and have consumed many of the smaller species in the lake, upsetting the ecological balance. They can grow to be very large. Nile perch caught in the lake are packed in ice and taken to a larger city, Kisumu or Nairobi, for filleting and shipping to Europe.

Day catch of Nile Perch. These four fish weighed 38.5 kg.

Day catch of Nile Perch. These four fish weighed 38.5 kg.

Although the price that the fishermen can get for the fish has fallen, it is still an income. So the people who live here are forced to sell the fish and go without. Despite being close to this nutritious food source, they can not afford to keep the fish which end up in European markets.

Another introduced species that is causing problems in the bay is Water Hyacinth. You may know this as the lettuce-like floating plant on ornamental garden ponds in Canada. They sell for $4-$5 each in garden centers in May and June. They have a nice purple flower and spread out over the pond only to be frozen at the first frost.

Somehow, this native of South America entered the Lake Victoria system in the 1980’s and since then, they have rapidly taken over. Millions of them float in clumps or even large islands in the lake, being blown around by the wind and currents.image Although they may shelter the fish in some ways, the fishermen have trouble with their nets brewing caught up in the rafts of plants and when a large crop blows in to the shore at the village, it makes landing or launching a boat impossible.

Water hyacinth floating on the lake.

Water hyacinth floating on the lake.

They also act as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, thus increasing the spread of malaria and dengue fever.

I told the folks here that the poverty problem in their community could be solved if they could just sell these plant pests to North Americans and Europeans for their backyard ponds. Another inequitable obscenity, when you think about it very much.

This unventilated latrine is the only toilet for the 500 people living in Osiri village.

This unventilated latrine is the only toilet for the 500 people living in Osiri village.

There are few households with any toilet and most of the people in the community either use the bush or one small latrine found near the centre of the village. They collect their water from the lake but the lake is becoming increasingly polluted with sewage, laundry detergents and other effluents. Many do not boil or purify their water before consuming it as this takes time and money or consumes scrounged firewood that is needed for other cooking.

Kids swim in the lake and others bathe there. Many are infected with bilharzla, a parasitic fluke that can infest kidneys and bowel.

Despite these challenges, the people who live in Osiri Village are cheerful and optimistic and my visit to the community and the Stewart Geddes school was heart-warming.

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A letter from Africa

One of the three completed latrines that will dramatically improve sanitation for students at the Mutundu School in Kenya – funded by CanAssist African Relief Trust

I am happy to share this letter of appreciation from Michael Gichia who has been the African contact with the Murera Community Empowerment group and the Mutundu School where the CanAssist African Relief Trust has funded construction of new latrines and provision of clean water.

See these earlier posts for background on this project.

Sanitation…or lack of it
Sanitation..making progress
Not just new latrines

Dear John,
I hope you are doing fine as we are here in Kenya. I would like to let you know that we have completed the proposed project successfully and I’m taking this opportunity on behalf of MCESO to thank all the trustees, board members, staff and the friends of Can Assist African Relief Trust for their generosity in support of our project titled, provision of clean portable drinking water and construction of enhanced sanitation facilities in Mutundu primary school in Ruiru District 0f Kenya. Your financial commitment has incredibly helped and has allowed us to reach our goal. We would like to let you know that your financial inputs towards our proposed project have greatly helped the project turn into a successful and replicable model and the situation at Mutundu pry school has improved from worst to best.

We pray that may God keep continue giving you good health as well as good will to keep on helping marginalized communities.Please find attached our end project for your files.Too, we have kept all the project invoices safe.We look forward to submitting another project proposal to Can Assist African Relief Trust soon.

Thank you once more and God bless.
Sincerely,
Michael.

Read Michael’s full report on this project here.

Mutundu school latrines

Before and after photos of the boys latrines at Mutundu School. In addition to the latrines, sanitation has been improved by the construction of handwashing stations. CanAssist has been delighted to have funded these sanitation improvements.

Sanitation – making progress

A month ago, I wrote in my blog about the need for latrines at an elementary school in Kenya – “Sanitation – or lack of it”.

The CanAssist African Relief Trust board approved of this project and sent money (about $5200 Can) to the school last week to start construction of latrines for the school with 8 stances for girls, 8 for boys and 2 for staff. This will be a huge improvement in the sanitation for the school,

Today, I received photos from the community showing that their construction has already started. Once these people have the funding, they dig right in (literally) to get the job done.

It will be delightful to follow this project through to completion. Congratulations to the community for your enthusiastic initiation of this improvement to your school.

Thank you to Michael Gichia of the Murera Community Empowerment and Support Organization for the photo updates.

Sanitation….or lack of it.

When I was selling my house three years ago, prospective buyers were always anxious to see the kichen and the bathroom(s) as a priority.  What was the bathroom countertop like?  Were there two sinks? A rain shower?  One of those toilet lids that closes quietly without banging?   Magazines and web sites intrigue us with bathrooms where we could luxuriate all day. We in North America are certainly spoiled when it comes to bodily ablutions and evacuations and we have all been in service station washrooms that make us cringe.

According to Unicef and World Health Organization data, less than 35% of the population of Kenya has access to “improved sanitation” – which might just mean a clean ventilated outdoor latrine. Flush toilets for most…forget it.

One of the areas of focus for the Canassist African Relief Trust is to help schools in East Africa improve the situation for their students by constructing new latrines and having rainwater collection for both drinking and washing.

Let’s compare our expectations for sanitary toilet facilities with what some students and teachers endure in Kenya

These are the two buildings that serve as toilets for 300 pupils at the Mutunda School in Kenya

Recently CanAssist received another request for latrines from a school in a region where we were not acquainted with anyone as a contact.  So we sent one of our Kenyan colleagues to check it out.

Initially he was surprised that the request was coming from this community which, on the surface, seemed to be reasonably well off.  But as he went a bit more rurally to one of the schools, even he was shocked by what he found.

The Mutunda Primary School has about 300 pupils and ten teachers.  There are six stances in two toilet buildings to serve the students. The latrine for teachers  had long ago collapsed and was unusable.  The student latrines were in disrepair.  There was no access to water for hand washing.

The toilets that were used by the teachers have collapsed and can not be used. Want to teach here?

Dan sent photos. I have seen other latrines like this in Africa and remember the smell. Just looking at the photos almost made me gag.

The girls’ toilet. No further explanation necessary.

How on earth can you teach young people the health advantages of using clean sanitation facilities and hand-washing when the school toilets look like this?

The school has requested $5000 to build new toilets – ventilated drop toilets that are 30 feet deep. There will be 8 stances for the boys, 8 for the girls and two for the teachers (about $250 for each unit).  They will also install some rainwater catchment gutters on the school building to help promote hand-washing.  Hand-washing has been demonstrated to be as effective as clean drinking water to reduce disease from fecal contamination.

The CanAssist board has yet to review this proposal but I can’t imagine that we will not approve of this project.  How can we refuse? This is not only a matter of sanitation and health but also one of simple dignity.