This project is a part of our shared program with Mariatu’s Hope of Sierra Leone. Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
Welcome to the Community
New London Community is a diverse community with many different religions and tribes. Since this community has grown so big, they need two chiefs.
A normal day in this community is very quiet and peaceful while all of the children are in school. In the morning, the family gathers for prayer, either Christian morning devotions or Muslim Suba prayers. After that, they warm up their leftover rice and have breakfast.
New London is unique when compared to neighboring communities because every year April 27, which is Independence Day, they organize sports activities and invite other communities to participate.
The livelihood of people living in this community are teachers, hospital workers, amputees, airport workers, petty traders, housewives, farmers.
There are many gardens down in the swamp area, where water is also fetched.
We first met this community several years ago. When we got there, they showed us a well sitting in their community that was producing no water. We opened it up and weren't encouraged by the low water levels we saw, and informed the community that we weren't confident we could get it working for long. At that time, we were only repairing old pumps or installing new ones. But since their pump was broken, they begged us to come in and fix it anyways. Because of their extreme suffering from water scarcity, we did so.
As the years passed, we continued to monitor the well and witness the water table drop. Mr. Jalloh opened up the well again and tried to send someone down inside to dig deeper, but the well is too narrow.
In the meantime, we've developed a new method of hand-drilling from the top of the well, converting this hand-dug well into a borehole. We expect that with this method, we will be able to drill an additional 30 to 40 feet.
Since this well fails the community, they must return to the swamp to meet their water needs. The community dug a huge hole in the area where they garden. Although the swamp water is normally a milky color, the people have dug the hole to a point where the water is clearer. Unfortunately, clear doesn't mean clean! They use this water for drinking and watering crops.
We met Mr. Koroma at the swamp. He was adamant that there were no germs in African water, so he drinks the swamp water with no hesitation. Yet sickness commonly plagues the community, including swollen bellies, worms, malaria, typhoid, dysentery, and cholera. Mr. Koroma brushed off these sicknesses, saying that this is normal life in Africa.
Every house in this community has a latrine. They know the importance of good hygiene, but how can they really practice good hygiene when they don't have access to clean water? How does it feel to bathe in dirty swamp water?
All but one of the latrines were constructed from mud blocks and have roofs. Only one was constructed as a native toilet made out of thatch. The latrines were clean, but the holes were not covered (leaving them open to attract flies and wild animals). Since every home has a latrine, open defecation is not an issue there. However, farmers often relieve themselves in bushes when they're out farming.
Every home has a clothesline, but less than half have dish racks for drying utensils up off the ground. Only a handful of families have a dedicated place to wash hands, which is an important step in preventing disease anywhere, but especially here where they don't have a health clinic.
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training
There will be hygiene and sanitation training sessions offered for three days in a row.
Not many hand-washing stations were observed here. After our visit, the hygiene and sanitation trainer decided it would be best to teach community members how to build a tippy tap (a hand-washing station built with a jerrycan, string, and sticks). They will use these tippy taps for hand-washing demonstrations, and will also teach about other tools like dish racks and the importance of properly penning in animals.
These trainings will also strengthen the water user committee that manages and maintains this well. They enforce proper behavior and report to us whenever they need our help solving a serious problem, like a pump breakdown.
Plans: Drilling, or New Well?
We have decided the most responsible course of action is to first attempt drilling the existing well deeper. If our new method does not succeed in producing reliable clean water, we will bring in the drill rig and find a place for a new borehole.
The well marked for this overhaul needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the community year round. The pump will be removed so that we can use a hand auger. This hand auger will allow the team to drill several meters deeper to hit a sufficient water column that will ensure the well supplies water throughout all seasons. As the team drills, casing will be installed, transforming this hand-dug well into a pseudo-borehole. PVC piping will connect this lower system directly to the pump, a construction that we know will also improve the quality of water.
Once this plan is implemented, everyone within the community will have access to safe drinking water in both quality and quantity, even through the dry months.