April 6, 2010
When we visit water projects at schools, we're usually greeted by hundreds of little pounding feet, threadbare book sacks slung on tiny shoulders and more smiles than we can count.
But here at Kampi Ya Moto, we arrived to find grown-ups, instead. School’s out for Easter break but there’s still plenty of water – and learning – here.
Two and a half years ago, charity: water built its first water project at a primary school in northwestern Kenya. The well now serves 350 students at Kampi Ya Moto school and an additional 1,000 people in the surrounding community. Our local partners drilled a deep borehole, then piped the water through the school grounds and to a kiosk out in front of the school's gates. The school employs a manager to sell water to the community for three Kenyan shillings ($.04 cents) per Jerry can and uses these nominal fees for maintenance. Between 200 and 300 people show up at the kiosk during peak hours on any given day. The manager admitted that he’s now working 12 hours each day to meet the demand.
This is where 25-year-old Andrew comes for water. He drinks the water at Kampi Ya Moto -- but he makes a living from it, too. Ten times a day, he fills his three Jerry cans with clean water from the school's kiosk and straps them to the back of his bike. He then pedals around the community, delivering water to families.
We met Andrew on Good Friday, when we pulled up to Kampi Ya Moto School to check up on the project.
"I'm just getting water," he stammered, thrown off guard by the three women jumping out of a car to talk to him. Then he smiled.
We asked Andrew if this clean water has helped him. He responded emphatically, “This water gave me a job.”
As we spoke with Andrew, a woman quietly slipped behind him to lean comfortably against the kiosk wall. Her bright red sweater caught our eye. We asked if she’s a teacher at the school. “No,” she replied, “I am a school counselor at another school down the road. I am just a neighbor who lives across the street.” She pointed towards a sturdy and modest brick house a few hundred yards away.
Rose used to spend two hours every day collecting dirty water from the Molo River. She’d return home only to feel uneasy each time her children took a drink.
“Since this well was drilled, all the kids in the community are now healthy,” she told us. “There’s been such an improvement in attendance at this school. We used to have a problem with typhoid – but not anymore. Now, the water is so clean. We are so happy.”
We asked her how she spends those two hours saved each day. She scrunched her face in thought. “Since the well was drilled I decided to go back to school, so I suppose I use that time for studying.”
What for, we asked?
“My Master’s degree,” she replied, matter-of-factly. “In counseling. To further my career.”
Since the beginning, charity: water has been dedicated to helping schools. We don't fund pencils, notepads and textbooks, though. We fund water.
Our Water for Schools program was formed to not only provide safe drinking water for children at school (and surrounding community members), but also to promote their education. Half of the world's schools don't have clean water. Millions of kids miss class a result -- they spend hours collecting water for their families or they fall sick with waterborne disease. Water projects bring kids back to class. The children have a chance to finish their education, to become the doctors and teachers and astronauts they tell us they want to be.
But as Kampi Ya Moto proved, a water project makes education possible for the adults, too. Soon, Rose will have more school under her belt than many Americans. The reason: she doesn't have to walk for water. And she doesn't have to tend to her family's chronic sickness from contaminated sources. She can spend those hours studying, as she does, and then working the job she’s been dreaming of for years.
We noticed the sign outside the school's bright turquoise gates said "Knowledge is Power" in big, bold letters. How true, both for kids normally at the desks inside and the adults filling their Jerry cans at the kiosk outside.
We photographed Rose and learned her story on Friday morning. The next day, we came back to share Esther's printed photo... and Rose shared some of her photos with us, too:
Want to help fund projects like the well in Kampi Ya Moto? You can. Learn more here.