One never knows what challenges will stand in the way of bringing clean water to rural communities. We are sad to report that the project to construct a new well began at Robis Village, but was cancelled for the time being due to dissension within the community. We hope to return to that village in the future and successfully bring clean water.
Our partner has decided to engage with a new community for a project. Below are the details for a well that will be drilled in Lungitown, Sierra Leone:
Ebola has been a tragic reality for the people of Sierra Leone over the last two years. Though considered stable at the moment, the country is still very cautious.
Our teams have remained safe and are on the front lines of Ebola prevention through this water, hygiene and sanitation program. Your support acknowledges and celebrates their selfless work and bravery.
The entire team continues to express their gratitude for your support of communities in Sierra Leone, and we can’t wait to celebrate safe water together!
Please enjoy the following report comes straight from the field, edited for clarity and readability:
Welcome to the Community
#10 Carana Street runs through Lungitown, Sierra Leone. The area around Carana Street is home to approximately 441 people from 52 different households.
A normal day starts and ends with fish. This is a fishing community where everybody eats, breathes, and dreams fish. There are three mosques and one church in this community. Religion is important here, but when there’s an opportunity to catch fish, everything is dropped. Fish in these parts are worth more than gold or diamonds. Fishing is the only source of sustainable income, with agriculture as a far second.
Lungitown is occupied by the Susu tribe, the peoples who inhabit most of the coast of Kaffu Bullum Chiefdom. They are a relatively peaceful people who live alongside the smaller Temne Tribe. A majority of the Susu speak Temne, which is a very easy language to learn.
Children in Sierra Leone really suffer the most in each household. The children fetch water and do chores while the adult men head out to sea to fish for the day. The women also wait at the shore to help the men draw in their nets. Once the fish are in, the women are also responsible for cleaning, drying, and then selling the fish at the market. At an early age, children have no choice but to stop school to help the family. Daughters are sold at a young age as wives to the more prosperous fishermen, to somehow gain their favor. What future do these children have? I met a young boy mending a fishing net with amazing ease, and thought of the opportunities he could have if only he attended school.
Mr. Mohamed Turay is a local council member and representative of his community. He applied to our organization a year ago, and had been offering money and prayers at the local mosque until news of acceptance this year. When we arrived for the first time, he offered us a seat in his best chairs and had even bought bottled water and soft drinks for us to enjoy. He couldn’t hide his excitement when he heard we wanted to help his Lungitown community. Adults and children gathered around to hear about the process, watching and listening with rapture. Ever since the day Mr. Turay got the news of this project, he’s been calling our office to check the status. All of the excitement and welcome around this project encourages us that it will be a success.
Children as well as adults head down a steep hill as early as 2am to get in line for fetching water from an unprotected spring. Drops of water to be exact! There used to be other water sources, but they've been condemned. Though the unprotected spring might not be impressive, the hill is. It took me forty-five minutes to crawl down that hill to evaluate the spring. When I say crawl, I literally mean crawl. My first attempt was on two legs, but the children were waiting and advising me to take off my shoes and socks. I didn’t listen to the advice, and was instead on all fours as the children climbed up and down with ease. They have so much practice carrying their heavy buckets of water up and down that incline, while I took a detour zig-zagging around to find the easiest path.
Since the spring at the bottom of the hill has a low recharge, a tiny cup is used to scoop water. It’s a long process to fill a water container! It takes at least 30 minutes to fill one that is 20 liters. Children can’t carry such a large container when it is full, so multiple trips with a 5-liter jerrycan are necessary. Even with 5 liters of water, children have to work together to get the water up the hill and back home. Water is so scarce here that any water brought home is immediately used for either cooking or drinking.
The most obvious negative consequences are the bloated stomachs. There are skin infections and blindness, not to mention the constant cases of diarrhea, typhoid, and cholera. Mama Fudia Dumbuya is a sixty-year-old grandmother of nine and a mother of seven. Her grandchildren stay with her. Most meals have to be skipped in order to afford the high cost of drinking water. Mama Dumbuya is too old for the long and dangerous walk down the hill, and her grandchildren are too young to go down by themselves. "I used to be better looking than this! And the children walk around with sun-bleached hair and stomachs looking too large for their ages." Her and her grandchildren’s survival is dependent on the coconut and mango trees that were planted by her parents. "We need help," she added.
How can anyone be excited about hygiene and sanitation when there’s not even enough water for drinking? I watched a little girl wash her school uniform, but not the way one would imagine. She washed her white shirt in the spring water, and it only looked clean from afar. She used a damp rag to rub dirt out of her pants, since there wasn’t enough water to clean both items.
Many households here have pit latrines, but they are saved for guests. Thus, I found them to be clean, because locals instead head down to the beach to relieve themselves. There are very few hand-washing stations in the area; out of the 52 households we could find only two places. We've included pictures of these two stations in the "See Photos & Video" section.
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training
Community members will be trained for three days in hygiene and sanitation. Since this is such a large community, extra hours may be taken each day to ensure that all topics were covered thoroughly. The facilitator will use the PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Training) method to teach participants how to make their own hand-washing stations, wash hands, construct proper latrines, and many other topics. By the end of training, each household that participated will have their own hand-washing station.
Plans: New Borehole
The well will be drilled at #10 Carana Street, which is an address in the center of the community. Residents will form a water user committee that oversees and maintains the new well. They will also form a constitution that the community needs to follow if they want to draw water from the well. For example, a household should have and use a latrine before benefiting from the new source.