Earlier this year, we received an email from Shailah Bevan, a volunteer serving in Kenya with the U.S. Peace Corps. In it, she described her work in Mawingu Division, an area of central Kenya home to about 14,000 residents. According to Shailah, the biggest problem in Mawingu is a lack of clean water, especially in schools where approximately 7,000 children spend 10 hours each day:
"None of these schools has any access to water," Shailah explained. "Once a week the teachers send five to 10 students fetch water from the nearby dams. (In all of Mawingu Division there are only two sources of water at these dams that are heavily shared with every farm animal imaginable.) This has lead to a huge increase in many waterborne diseases among the students, including bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E and typhoid fever. In 2012, there were a total of 46 student deaths caused by advanced typhoid fever."
Shailah then shared pictures of some of the children she works with and presented her idea for helping them: rainwater harvesting. Find out more in the video below:
Beyond dangerous waterborne diseases, dehydration is a real and constant threat to children's health and learning, she added.
"Surveys were given to students at all 14 schools asking how many times a week they consumed water at school and at home. Some students said they only consumed water once a week, usually at home. That means that most students are not consuming water at all during their long school days. This greatly affects student's retention of knowledge and all-around health," Shailah wrote.
"These diseases and deaths could be decreased drastically with the addition of water tanks and gutter systems to the schools," she said. "With a water tank and rain catchment systems, gutters are installed along the roof top which catches the water and dispenses it directly into the tank. This would offer students clean, safe drinking water."
Parents in Mawingu Division communities have agreed to contribute to the installation of the system, so Shailah is seeking donations to buy the tanks and gutter catchment systems. To ensure sustainability, she also plans to incorporate Project WET's educational materials to educate teachers, children, parents and the larger community how to keep water clean and how to use use clean water to stay healthy through simple actions like hand washing with soap and adequate hydration. Project WET is assisting her efforts to purchase the rainwater harvesting systems as well as to provide the educational materials and training necessary to successfully use and sustain the program. Find out how you can help by visiting the donation page for Shailah's project.