Project Status

Project Type:  Rainwater Catchment

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 478 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/10/2024

Project Features

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"It has not been an easy walk in the park on the issues of water, hygiene, and sanitation matters in this school," said Senior Teacher at Lwombei Primary School, Mrs. Phinorah Khanali.

"Due to lack of water, our morning preps have never been successful as much time is wasted in the morning fetching water. Our girls feel burdened each day when asked to get a second round of water to meet the feeding program's water needs. One time, our girls came screaming as a man at the well had chased them. From that day onward, we have always escorted them to get water. This is a great challenge as they don't get a lot of water from any one source, so a lot of time is wasted in waiting for everyone to get water."

For the 462 students and 16 teachers and staff at Lwombei Primary School, a severe lack of clean water is their daily reality and has been since the school was established in 1941. Sponsored by the Friends Church, the school is a music champion, excelling in the previous music festival up to the provincial level.

And yet, the school struggles to run each day due to its water crisis.

A pupil at Lwombei Primary School wakes up as early as 5:00 am on a typical school day. For a girl, such as Class 7 pupil Naomi, she starts her morning with household chores, sweeping the house, and washing utensils. Then she prepares breakfast and rushes to the river or fetches at least 2 containers of water for her siblings' use. After bathing and taking breakfast, Naomi leaves the house carrying another water and her school bag.

On the way, Naomi draws water from a nearby stream, where she braves the cold and dark to get to school on time. As she arrives at school, she has to be checked by the Master on Duty to see if she has brought water. If so, she can attend the morning preps till 7:00 am when students break and go to assembly for morning prayers and directions from the Head Teacher and the Master on Duty. Any students who arrive at school without water are either punished or sent out again until they come back with water - or both.

At lunchtime, the pupils are sent back out to fetch water once again. Class 7 and 8 pupils like Naomi, who receive lunch from the school, have to fetch at least 1 container of water before eating. Afternoon classes run till 3:45 pm when the pupils start cleaning up their classes and toilets with their water. After cleaning, Class 7 and 8 students remain for preps while the rest of the classes depart to go home.

We followed some of the students to their homes during our visit to observe the water sources they use for school. Several groups bring water from hand-dug wells that are not protected or only partially protected. The water inside looked cloudy and had a mild smell to it. Others fetched water from the river that is open to contamination. With the heavy rains at the time of writing, the river water was brown and filthy.

This daily routine of fetching water for school use is tiresome, time-consuming, and wastes a lot of study and class time for both teachers and students. When students finally get back to class, many are too tired to focus, and their academic performance suffers. This, coupled with absenteeism due to waterborne illnesses, is dragging the entire school's success down.

There have been constant outbreaks of diarrhea, stomachaches, and headaches at Lwombei Primary. The headteacher said he had recently been diagnosed with typhoid and was still on medication to get better. He said he had resolved himself to carrying water from home daily, but sometimes he is not so lucky when he goes to class, and the teachers sneak into his office to steal his personal water.

"Since I joined this school in 2016, to date, I've suffered health-wise and have been admitted to the hospital twice with cases of typhoid. Our students have also been struggling performance-wise due to lack of water in school. We appeal to you to consider our school in the provision of safe and clean drinking water," said Deputy Head Teacher Mr.Teddy Liabeya.

The sanitation and hygiene situation is also wanting and adds to the health problems in the school. There is just 1 handwashing facility which is located close to the staff room. The pupils fear colliding with their teachers at the staff room and rarely attempt to wash their hands. The latrines, many of which are almost full and are no longer structurally sound, are cleaned daily, but due to lack of water, this is done hastily and not thoroughly.

The only water source that has been nonfunctional for a while now is a public standpipe located on school grounds. When it was first installed, water was available 1-2 days per week for about 3 hours each day. While this is normal for what it means to "have" piped water in this area, the school is hopeful the piped water will resume its service. When it does, the rain tank we plan to build will help serve as a storage tank for the piped water, complementing the rainwater.

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. Once finished, this tank will begin catching rainfall used by the school’s students and staff for drinking, hand washing, cooking, cleaning, and much more.

The school and we 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 unlock the potential 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.

The student health club will oversee the 2 new handwashing stations we will provide and ensure 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

2 triple-door latrine blocks will be constructed with local materials that the school will help gather. 3 doors will serve the girls while the other 3 will serve the boys. 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.

Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More

We will hold a 1-day intensive training session with students, teachers, and parents. This training will cover a wide range of topics, including COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, prevention; personal and environmental hygiene; and the operation and maintenance of the rain tank, latrines, and handwashing stations. There will be a special emphasis on handwashing.

Our team of facilitators will use various methods to train, including participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation and asset-based community development. We will initiate a student health club, which will prepare students to lead other pupils into healthy habits at school and home. We will also lead lectures, group discussions and provide illustrative handouts to teach health topics and promote good hygiene practices within the school, including handwashing and water treatment. We will then conduct a series of follow-up training before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.

Project Updates

June, 2021: Lwombei Primary School Rain Tank Complete!

Lwombei Primary School in Kenya now has access to a new source of safe, clean water thanks to the completion of their rain tank, which can collect 75,000 liters of water! We installed new latrines and handwashing stations for students, and we trained the school on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention. These components work together to unlock the opportunity for these students to live better, healthier lives.

"I will be able to attend school throughout the year, and the issue of coming on and off to school because of health problems will reduce," said Sarah.

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

"I will be at peace because pupils will be at school throughout, and no one will be asked to go and get water during the lesson, and this will enable me to finish my syllabus and embark on revision which will lead to good performance. The rate of absenteeism will reduce because initially pupils were asked to bring water and the sources were unknown, which resulted in an outbreak of waterborne diseases leading to absenteeism in school," said teacher Alexander Shivachi.

How We Go From Ground to Rain Tank

Construction for this 75,000-liter rain tank was successful!

Parents, staff, and students helped our artisans gather everything needed for construction. The school’s kitchen staff and a few parents helped provide meals for the artisans, while the school provided the artisans’ accommodations. Local women and men helped our artisans with their manual labor, too.

The process officially began with our staff and school administration looking around the school compound to 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.

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

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

Inside the tank, we cast one central and four support pillars to ensure the dome does not cave in once cemented. Meanwhile, we plastered the inner wall while roughcasting the outer walls. We dug and plastered the access area to the tap outside of the tank, where we also installed a short staircase. In front of the access area, we constructed a soak pit where spilled water can drain from the access area through the ground. The pit helps to keep the tap area dry and tidy.

Dome construction could begin after the tank walls settled. We attached a dome skeleton of rebar, wire mesh, and sugar sacks to the tank walls before cementing and plastering it using similar techniques as the wall construction. We included a small manhole cover into the dome to allow access for future cleanings and water treatments.

We propped long wooden poles (about 75 of them!) inside the tank to support the dome while it cured. Then it was down to the finishing touches: fitting a lockable cover over the tap area, affixing the gutters to the roof and tank, and setting an overflow pipe in place at the edge of the dome for when the tank reaches capacity.

Once finished, we gave the rain tank three to four weeks to undergo complete curing. Finally, we removed the interior support poles and dome sugar sacks and cleaned the tank.

We officially handed over the rain tank to the school directly following the training. Students and staff celebrated the presence of clean water on campus. The event was an excellent chance for us to acknowledge the school administration and students as the primary parties entrusted with the tools we have given and remind them of our continued support as they develop. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.

Immediately after the construction work ended, the staff in charge of the station handed over the project to the headteacher. The headteacher called a pastor who prayed for the facilities.

VIP Latrines

This project funded the installation of six new ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, three for the girls and three for the boys. These new latrines have cement floors 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.

Handwashing Stations

The two handwashing stations were set up during training and handed over to the student health club. These were placed outside of the girls’ and boys’ latrines to encourage handwashing after latrine use. Health club members will teach other students how to wash their hands at the stations properly, make sure the stations are filled with water, and ensure that there is always a cleaning agent such as soap or ash available.

New Knowledge

We scheduled hygiene and sanitation training with the headteacher. He helped us mobilize participants for the training. The participants included:- two parent representatives, three teachers in charge of sanitation in the school, and eight pupils from classes four, five, and six. When the training day arrived, facilitators Betty Muhongo and Stella Inganji deployed to the site to lead the event. Thirteen students and teachers attended the training, which we held.

We did our training under a tree that had enough shade and a cool breeze. It was the only place where we could adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.

We focused on COVID-19 prevention, transmission, and symptoms while also covering several other topics. These included personal hygiene such as bathing, oral hygiene, and the ten 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.

The club will be significantly involved in the water, sanitation, and hygiene project management at school. It will be responsible for encouraging good health and hygiene practices amongst their peers, teachers, and the larger community. We involved stretches, dances, and physical activities 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.

The handwashing technique was a memorable topic for us during the training. We highlighted the importance of washing hands often with soap and running water. We then gave pupils a chance to show us how they wash their hands. The facilitator took them through the ten steps and ensured that it was done for 20 seconds. The facilitator took time to explain the importance of washing hands frequently using the ten steps. It was agreed that proper handwashing was essential for preventing diarrhea and COVID-19, among other diseases.

"The training was so useful to me because I have acquired information on sanitation matters, water handling, COVID-19. My life will not be the same. I have a lot to share with my family, friends, and schoolmates," said Whitney.

We asked Shantel what it was like to be at home for most of the last year due to Kenya's national coronavirus-related school closures and what it has been like coming back to school.

"The year 2020 was the worst in my life. It really affected my academic calendar. I am not sure when I will be able to take my national exams. It's my prayer that this disease will not reoccur again. I am back at school, and hopefully, I will catch up and continue with the syllabus."

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

Thank you for making all of this possible!

May, 2021: Lwombei Primary School Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage at Lwombei 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: Heavy Load Lifted!

June, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Lwombei 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!

Lwombei Primary School student, Byron, 13, shared what it was like before his school's rain tank was installed last year.

"Every morning we used to come to school carrying a jerrican of water and a bag of books. During the day if water needs arose class lessons could be paused for us to go and get water. It consumed a lot of our study time," said Byron.

He continued, "Before this waterpoint was installed cases of typhoid and diarrhea were rampant but now it is a thing of the past. I have never missed school because of waterborne sickness."

"The heavy load of carrying water and books at the same time in the morning was lifted. I fetch water easily without wasting time from our constructed water tank."

Not only has the burden of carrying water been lifted but the learning environment at the school has also improved. "Our school is clean which has provided a conducive environment for learning. I am more focused in class which has resulted in improved grades," said Byron.

With more time and energy to focus on his studies, the future is brighter for Byron.


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 Lwombei 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 Lwombei 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.


Project Sponsor - Milliman IntelliScript