Project Status

Project Type:  Rainwater Catchment

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 454 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2020

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/02/2024

Project Features

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"When I came to this school last year, I used to have sores on my mouth because of the unsafe drinking water. Sometimes in the afternoons, I have to persevere with thirst and I end up having a headache due to a lack of water in the school," said Bulukhombe Primary School teacher Mr. Walter Mulusa.

For the 363 students, 15 teachers and staff, and 67 church members who share the Bulukhombe Primary School campus, a severe clean water shortage is their daily reality. Established in 1976 by the Salvation Army Church, which still sits on the same parcel of land as the school, Bulukhombe Primary has had a difficult time accessing enough clean and safe water despite various attempts to alleviate their water stress.

In the past, pupils brought water from home in the morning but the school management realized that the water from different sources was causing outbreaks of typhoid, diarrhea, and fever among the students and staff. Because the water was combined for use once the students arrived at school, even 1 contaminated source meant everyone suffered.

Next, the school obtained a small plastic rain tank to take a step toward having clean water. But with just a 10,000-liter capacity, this tank is nowhere near large enough to serve the school population's needs. The water in the plastic tank looks deceptively clean; after inquiry, we were told that the tank has never been washed and the water is never treated. A few months ago, the tank's tap was vandalized, leaving it broken and missing several pieces of hardware needed for it to work.

The school is at an impasse for what to do with the tank. The administrators wonder if a repair to the tap will just see it vandalized again, wasting precious resources.

"Since the tap on the plastic tank broke down, the pupils bring water from the spring once a day for cooking and drinking," said Deputy Head Teacher Mr. Khaguli Benson.

Students head to the spring in the morning before classes start. The spring has been very poorly maintained, leaving the drainage area open, muddy, and slippery with rocks. The headwall is only partially intact, and the discharge pipe is missing.

To collect water, students put their containers right up against the wall to the hole where water flows through, leaving their containers prone to contamination from contact with the wall. The students' containers used to fetch water are not always clean, and without any method of water treatment back at school, the water's quality is compromised.

The walk between the spring and the school is very steep and tedious, which we personally experienced during our visit. As we were interacting with the pupils on the way there and back, most of them said that they usually get tired after bringing water to the school and end up feeling sleepy and unfocused during class time, if not actually falling asleep. Sometimes they are late to their morning sessions because they were waiting in line for water.

Fetching water wastes valuable learning time, compromising students' academic success to the chagrin of both teachers and students.

What we can do:

Rain Tank

A 75,000-liter rainwater catchment tank will help alleviate the water crisis at this school. The school will help collect the needed construction materials such as sand, bricks, rocks, and water for mixing cement. We will complement their materials by providing an expert team of artisans, tools, hardware, and the guttering system. A key feature of this rain tank will be a lockable manhole cover over the tap area, which will help to prevent unwanted tampering with the tap anytime school is out of session. Once finished, this tank will begin catching rainfall that will be used by the school’s students, staff, and church members for drinking, handwashing, cooking, cleaning, and much more.

We and the school strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve standards at this school, which will help lead to better student academic performance and will help unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.

Handwashing Stations

There is currently nowhere for students to wash their hands after using the latrines or before eating lunch, let alone the water or soap to do so.

The student health club will oversee the 2 new handwashing stations we will provide, and make sure they are kept clean and in working condition. The club leaders will fill the handwashing stations with water daily and make sure they are always supplied with a cleaning agent such as soap or ash.

VIP Latrines

6 doors of latrines will be constructed with local materials that the school will help gather. This school has decided that all 6 doors will serve the girls, whose sanitation and hygiene situation is most at risk due to their current low number of latrines which are in poor condition and almost full. All of these new latrines will have cement floors that are designed to be easy to use and to clean. And with a rain tank right on school property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.


We will hold a 1-day intensive training on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits at this school. Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train students and staff, including participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation (PHAST) and asset-based community development (ABCD). We will initiate a child-to-child (CTC) student health club, which will prepare students to lead other pupils into healthy habits at school and at home. We will also lead lectures, group discussions, and provide illustrative handouts to teach health topics and ways to promote good hygiene practices within the school. We will then conduct a series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.

Project Updates

December, 2020: Celebrating Clean Water at Bulukhombe Primary School

We have exciting news!

When Kenya closed schools nationwide in March 2020 to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, we worked carefully to ensure Bulukhombe Primary School's rain tank and latrines reached completion despite the closure. To achieve this, we relied on a combination of mutual trust and communication with the school and students' families to finish construction while keeping our team and the community safe.

Kenyan schools were initially scheduled to reopen in January 2021, when we planned to re-engage all of the students and teachers we serve. However, recently, the Kenyan government allowed certain grades of students to resume their classes for the remainder of 2020. Upon hearing this news, we treated the water in every school rain tank to ensure a fresh supply of drinking water for the returning pupils.

We are happy to share that with the change in school openings, we recently returned to Bulukhombe Primary School to officially celebrate the milestone completion of their 75,000-liter rain tank, six doors of VIP latrines, and two new handwashing stations!

Students and a teacher celebrate the rain tank

The event was a great chance for us to acknowledge the school administration and students as the primary parties entrusted with the tools we have given, as well as remind them of our continued support as they develop. Though limited in scope, this was a particularly joyous celebration as we had not expected this would be possible until some time next year.

With a strict timetable in place due to the safety guidelines for school visitors during the pandemic, students and teachers celebrated by drinking and splashing water at the rain tank. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.

"This [rain tank] has made my learning really easy because now I do not have to spend much time drawing water. Also, now I can be able to maintain a high level of personal hygiene, preventing diseases. I will spend more time in class reading than outside the school fetching water," said student Petronilla.

Teachers were just as excited as the students about the new rain tank on campus.

"With this tank now, it gives me more time with the students because they don't have to spend a lot of time at the water point drawing water, making teaching easier and faster. I anticipate more remedial time with students and also better coverage of the syllabus," said Mr. Simon Amara, the school's headteacher.

We celebrated not just the rain tank, but also the latrines and handwashing stations for helping the school end the cycle of fecal-oral diseases. Combined with the knowledge gained at training on how to improve health, hygiene, and sanitation with these new facilities, students and teachers will have a headstart at keeping many diseases - and COVID-19 - at bay.

The limited student body currently in school completes their term in December, and we look forward to welcoming back the rest of their classmates in January.

With the students’ return, we will continue to engage every school we serve to help keep students and teachers up-to-date on the latest guidelines for how best to stay safe from COVID-19 while at school. Of course, we will also continue our routine monitoring and maintenance program to ensure Bulukhombe Primary School can continue to celebrate clean water, today and every day.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

August, 2020: Bulukhombe Primary School Project Celebration Postponed to 2021

Not too long ago, we reached out to share exciting news about completing the construction of the rain tank and VIP latrines at Bulukhombe Primary School.

The school groundskeeper poses with the 75,000-liter rain tank at Bulukhombe Primary School.

Kenya’s president recently announced that due to the progression of COVID-19 in Kenya, all primary and secondary schools will remain closed until at least January 2021.

What does this mean for the project?

It’s simple: we will continue to maintain our water promise, monitoring the project’s integrity, and working with school officials to determine the best practices for the safety and maintenance of the rain tank and latrines.

We are pleased to share that these new WASH facilities remain in tip-top shape and, in the case of the rain tank, actively collecting water.

Water flows from the rain tank's tap.

We will not be able to celebrate and formally hand over the rain tank and VIP latrines to the school until students return. Because of that, we consider this project “incomplete.” That is why we extended the expected completion date to 2021 - after we expect schools to reopen.

The double VIP latrine block awaits students' return.

We are counting down the months and days until we can greet these students back at school with their new rain tank and latrines! Once we complete a refresher training on the project's maintenance and operation and we can safely celebrate the students' first use of the new project, we will be sure to send you an update.

Luckily, most students in this school live in communities where we have completed several rounds of COVID-19 sensitization training. We are continuing to work with all of the communities we serve throughout the pandemic to keep their water running and help them stay informed of the latest COVID-19 guidance.

Curious about what life is like dealing with COVID-19 in a different country?

Check out our new series, “Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles,” on our blog. Every week we invite a new person from a community we serve to share their perspective and experience since the pandemic came to their doorstep.

June, 2020: Bulukhombe Primary School Construction Complete

Please note, all photos in this report were taken before social distancing recommendations went into effect.

Construction of the rain tank and VIP latrines at Bulukhombe Primary School is now complete!

While Kenyan schools remain closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these new water and sanitation facilities will be ready and waiting for the students' return.

The school groundskeeper stands with the completed rain tank after schools were closed

We also conducted a sanitation and hygiene training before the students left, which included a sensitization on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention. We plan to do a refresher training once schools resume. This will help ensure that all pupils and school staff are fully prepared to take ownership of their new water point and choose healthy behaviors like handwashing both at school and at home.

Water flows from the new rain tank

Thankfully, many of the students will have already received additional health training in their home communities as we continue our COVID-19 sensitization and prevention trainings in the surrounding area.

See how we continue to fight COVID-19 on the frontlines in all of the communities we serve.

The rain tank has the ability to collect 75,000 liters of water, providing a new source of safe, clean water on campus. Combined with the 6 new VIP latrines we built and the future installation of 2 new handwashing facilities once classes resume, we look forward to seeing all of these components work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.

New block of 6 VIP latrines, half for girls and half for boys

The latrines will be divided evenly among the students by gender, 3 for girls and 3 for boys. All of these new latrines have cement floors that are designed to be easy to use and clean, locking doors for safety and privacy, and vents designed to keep air flowing up and out through the roof. With a rain tank right on school property, there should be enough water to keep them clean.

We will be sure to reach back out to you with more news and photos from the official handing-over ceremony of the rain tank once schools reopen!

How We Go From Ground to Rain Tank

Before schools closed, parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. Even after the children went home, the school team of kitchen staff and a few parents helped provide meals for the artisans, who were given accommodations by the school. Local women and men helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.

Students help deliver bricks to the construction site at school

The process officially began with our staff and school administration looking around the school compound to try and determine the best location for a new rain tank. This needed to be the best site with enough land and a nearby building with good, clean roofing to catch the rainwater.

Pupils deliver materials to the work team

Then, we cleared the site by excavating the soil to make level ground for the tank foundation. The foundation was cast by laying big stones on the level ground and reinforcing them using steel wire, concrete, and waterproof cement. Both the drawing pipe as well as the drainage pipe were affixed as the foundation was laid.

Pouring concrete over stone rain tank foundation

Next, the walls were formed using a skeleton of rebar and wire mesh with sugar sacks temporarily tied to the outside as backing. This was attached to the foundation’s edges so that the work team could start the Ferro-cementing process, in which the walls are layered with cement alternating with the inner and outer side until 6 layers of cement are in place. (The sugar sacks are removed once the interior receives its first 2 layers of cement.)

Adjusting wire skeleton wall reinforcement

Inside the tank, 1 central and 4 support pillars were cast to ensure the dome does not cave in once cemented. Meanwhile, the inner wall was plastered while the outer walls received their roughcasting.

Interior plaster and pillar work

Outside of the tank, the access area to the tap was dug, plastered, and a short staircase installed, along with a soak pit where spilled water can drain from the access area through the ground. This helps to keep the tap area dry and tidy.

Mixing plaster to continue exterior wall work

Dome construction could begin after the tank walls had been given enough time to settle. Using similar techniques as used on the walls, the dome started as rebar, wire mesh, and sugar sacks and was attached to the tank walls before receiving cement and plaster. A small manhole cover was built into the dome to allow access for future cleanings and water treatments.

Lead Field Officer for the project Patience Njeri supervises construction

Long wooden poles (about 75 of them!) were placed inside the tank to support the dome while it cured. A lockable manhole cover was fitted over the tap area, the gutters were affixed to the roof and the tank, and an overflow pipe was set in place at the edge of the dome for when the tank reaches capacity.

Sewing sugar sacks to wire reinforcements for dome support

Once finished, the rain tank was given 3-4 weeks to undergo complete curing. Finally, the interior support poles and dome sugar sacks were removed and the tank was cleaned.

Completed rain tank with water flowing

Since completion, there have been very heavy and frequent rains in this region of Western Kenya. We are monitoring the water levels in the tank thanks to the help of the groundskeeper, who continues to monitor campus during the break. When schools are ready to reopen, we will treat the tank full of fresh water just before students arrive to be sure it is ready for their use.

New Knowledge

Hygiene and sanitation training was scheduled with the help of the school principal, who ensured that the training date would be convenient for students, staff, and parent representatives. Individual teachers helped by selecting students from each class to represent the others. When the training day arrived, facilitators Patience Njeri Wanyonyi and Christine Masinde deployed to the site.

Facilitator Patience takes notes on the board at training

19 people attended training, including 16 students, 2 teachers, and a representative from the School Board of Management. We conducted the first half of training inside a classroom since it was drizzling outside. Then we moved outside for the practical session involving the new WASH facilities.

Group work activity

We covered a number of topics including COVID-19 symptoms and prevention; personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, and the 10 steps of handwashing; environmental hygiene; child rights; operation and maintenance of the rain tank, latrines, and handwashing stations; and leadership and governance. During the latter, the students elected their peers to lead their newly formed student health club.

A student shares her group's findings

The club will be greatly involved in the water, sanitation, and hygiene project management at school and will be responsible for encouraging good health and hygiene practices amongst their peers, teachers, and the larger community.

Facilitator Christine Masinde in action

We involved stretches, dances, and physical activities in between each topic to keep the pupils’ energy up and their minds active. By the end of the training, each pupil understood their role in sustaining clean water and good health within their school community.

Christine explains the rain tank construction process while the project was still underway

HIV/AIDS was the most memorable topic, said Trainers Patience and Christine. The children had heard a lot of myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. For example, some pupils believed that they could get HIV just from kissing or sharing utensils. At the end of the topic, everyone was able to rule out all the myths and could clearly say the facts on this disease.

Toothbrushing volunteers show off their skills

The other most memorable session was on teenage pregnancy, as every student could share how they have been affected by it either directly or indirectly.

Handwashing practical

"The knowledge gained today was very helpful. I have learned so many things concerning sanitation and hygiene and on the management of the rain tank. This will help me in my day to day life and also in better management of the facilities provided," said pupil Bryson.

A student demonstrates the 10 steps of handwashing

When an issue arises concerning the water project, the students and teachers are equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately.

Group photo after completing training

However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our team of field officers to assist them. In addition, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.

Thank you for helping to make this work possible!

May, 2020: Bulukhombe Primary School Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage at Bulukhombe Primary School drains students’ time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this school through the introduction and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news!

Project Photos

Project Type

For a rainwater collection system, we build gutters around a building with good, clean roofing to channel rain where we want it. From there, the water falls through a filtered inlet pipe into a high-capacity storage tank, the size of which is based on population and average rainfall patterns. In the tank, water can be stored for months, where it is easily treated and accessed. Learn more here!

A Year Later: Bulukhombe Primary School Doing Science Experiments!

December, 2021

A year ago, your generous donation helped Bulukhombe Primary School in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Jane. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Bulukhombe Primary School.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Bulukhombe Primary School maintain access to safe, reliable water. Together, they keep The Water Promise.

We’re confident you'll love joining this world-changing group committed to sustainability!

Jane, 12, commented, "Accessing water from the tank within the [school] compound is easy. [It's] very quick to get water for drinking and cleaning our classes. Being healthy all the time at school [is now possible] because [the] water is safe for me to consume without getting sick."

She continued, "The availability of water from the tank at our school has helped me to spend more time on studies and thus improve my performance in class. This had been a problem previously because a lot of my study time was spent going to look for water outside the school compound."

Alois Opwora, 38, a science teacher at the school, shared, "As a teacher, I have been able to do my classroom experiments which require water with confidence because there is water just at the doorstep. With this fact, I have managed to teach my science class well, and as a result, pupils get higher marks."

Navigating through intense dry spells, performing preventative maintenance, conducting quality repairs when needed and continuing to assist community leaders to manage water points are all normal parts of keeping projects sustainable. The Water Promise community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Bulukhombe Primary School maintain access to safe, reliable water.

We’d love for you to join this world-changing group committed to sustainability.

The most impactful way to continue your support of Bulukhombe Primary School – and hundreds of other places just like this – is by joining our community of monthly givers.

Your monthly giving will help provide clean water, every month... keeping The Water Promise.


St. Thomas The Apostle Church
Lorean and Anisha Ledesma
Mohammed Abraar Arshaq Ameen
Girl Scout Troop 74116
18 individual donor(s)