Project Status

Project Type:  Dug Well and Hand Pump

Regional Program: Port Loko, Sierra Leone WaSH Program

Impact: 375 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Aug 2018

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 10/03/2023

Project Features

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Community Profile

St. John Primary School started as a community school in 1970 by Pa Charles Benjamin. The school had no building of its own, so Late Pa Charles Benjamin negotiated with a community elder who consented that his home be used as a temporary school. At that time, the school only had three community teachers headed by Pa Charles Benjamin and all of them were not trained or qualified. The enrollment during that period stood at fifteen.

They built their first classroom structure in 1973. The building was designed to host classes one to seven along with an office space for the headmaster. There has been a lot of staff turnover, and in 2012 they hired a headteacher by the name of Mrs. Annmarie Alexandra Kamara. By that time, the school had grown to 548. Enrollment has declined until today, with a current enrollment of 375.

There are now two school buildings, one for seniors and one for juniors. Each building has office space. There are also two latrine structures. Two latrine doors for the staff, two rooms for the boys and another two for girls. There is a big football field often used by the school for interclass football matches and also by the community for sectional football leagues. There is a temporary structure used as a kitchen located very close to the hand-dug well.

Water Situation

Depending on the time of year, water quantity can be low or dry in both protected hand-dug wells and the swamp.

Most hand-dug wells in this part of the country, where the water table is way below the reach of private local diggers, are dry in the months of March, April, and June. Since the community hasn't been able to deepen their hand-dug wells to find water, they walk further into the swamp to dig holes for water. This is normally the time of the year that the water situation graduates to a crisis. Students have relied on trips to the swamp for about three months so far this year.

The hand-dug well at the school is just like the others in this region, and students spend several school days out in search of swamp water. The holes dug in the ground here look like they're meant for animals. The water is yellowish and the surrounding environment is dirty.

Most parents who send their children to this school can't afford lunch. As a result, kids use water to help curb their hunger.

Sanitation Situation

The current teachers have a great educational background. They will not compromise on hygiene and sanitation. But one factor that impedes good hygiene here is the absence of water. That is where improvement needs to take place. Handwashing facilities need water to function, and water is also needed to clean the latrines. They are on good footing in terms of hygiene and sanitation but need some support with regards water.

What we can do:


There will be hygiene and sanitation training sessions offered for three days in a row.

After our visit, the hygiene and sanitation trainer decided it would be best to teach gather students, teachers, and community members together at the school. They will teach about good and bad hygiene, penning in animals, and building good tools like handwashing stations and dish racks. Most importantly, the trainer will emphasize the importance of having and using even basic pit latrines.

Well Rehabilitation

The well marked for this overhaul is dry for four months every year and needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the school year round. The pump will be removed, and a hand auger will be lowered and powered by our drill team. 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 the bottom of this hand-dug well into a 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, these students and teachers will have access to safe drinking water in both quality and quantity, even through the dry months.

This project is a part of our shared program with Mariatu’s Hope. Our team is pleased to provide the reports for this project (edited for clarity) thanks to the hard work of our friends in Sierra Leone.

Project Updates

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at St. John RC Primary School

Our teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in our fight against the virus while maintaining access to clean, reliable water.

We are carrying out awareness and prevention trainings on the virus in every community we serve. Very often, our teams are the first (and only) to bring news and information of the virus to schools like St. John RC Primary School in Sierra Leone

We trained people on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19.

With distancing and/or small groups: Due to public gathering concerns, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

We began training communities before the first reported case of COVID-19 in the country and before the government enacted public health guidance related to it. We worked with trusted community leaders and Water User Committees to gather community members for the training. Although community members did not observe social distancing during the training, we sensitized them on its importance and effectiveness in combating the spread of the virus.

We covered essential hygiene lessons:

- Demonstrations on how to build a simple handwashing station

- Proper handwashing technique

- The importance of using soap and clean water for handwashing

- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces including at the water point.

We covered COVID-19-specific guidance in line with national and international standards:

- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19

- What social distancing is and how to practice it

- How to cough into an elbow

- Alternative ways to greet people without handshakes, fist bumps, etc.

- How to make and properly wear a facemask.

During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point.

Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we also dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed.

We continue to stay in touch with this community as the pandemic progresses. We want to ensure their water point remains functional and their community stays informed about the virus.

Water access, sanitation, and hygiene are at the crux of disease prevention. You can directly support our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve while maintaining their access to safe, clean, and reliable water.

August, 2018: St. John RC Primary School Project Complete

We are excited to share that there is a safe, reliable water point at St. John RC Primary School, already providing clean water to students, teachers, and neighbors! Students no longer waste valuable class time in search of the water they need. Hygiene and sanitation training was also conducted, which focused on healthy practices such as washing hands and using latrines.

New Knowledge

Two days before the training, the team sent a representative to remind the school’s headteacher. The headteacher then informed the neighboring homes about this same program. Participant recruitment for school is always straightforward. The students are already at school waiting for us! It was an extremely hot day and it was stuffy inside the classroom. Some of the community members stood outside looking through the windows to see what was going on. Students, teachers, and community members were fully engaged despite the heat.

Topics included handwashing and how to make a tippy tap handwashing station, good and bad hygiene, disease transmission, tools like dish racks and clotheslines, oral rehydration solution, animal care, latrine use, and pump maintenance.

Making tippy tap handwashing stations

We love using pictures and demonstrations to clearly communicate new health habits. One of our favorite activities is the disease transmission story, for which we call on volunteers to hold up five common scenes. These pictures show how germs enter a community and follow a dangerous chain to the mouth. There was a bit of finger-pointing between the students, but it was so simple for them to see how not using a latrine, not penning in animals, and ignoring handwashing can result in illness.

"We have had problems with water shortage, but now they have been solved. Now, we need to put what we have learned from your hygiene team into practice," said Headteacher Kamara.

Headteacher Kamara

"This team has taught us new ways to wash our hands which are very effective in washing away diseases. With diseases washed off our hands, we are guaranteed good health. With good health in this institution, our learning will improve."

Clean Water Restored

The first thing the drill team did when they arrived at RC Primary School was to contact the headteacher. She showed them an area where they could store some of their materials.

Here is how they restored clean, reliable water here:

1. Raised the tripod

2. Found the original depth (for this well, we measured 41.8 feet)

3. Socketed the pipes

4. Installed casing

5. Lined up the drill rods

6. Drilled!

Drilling by hand is always hard labor. They met sand up to 44.8 feet, then stone clay up to 51.8 feet. They started seeing black clay that is bad for water quality, so they stopped at 53 feet.

7. Installed screening and filter pack

8. Cemented an iron rod to well lining, and fixed it with an iron collar at the top

9. Bailed the well by hand for three days

10. Tested the yield (we got a static water level of 38 feet going at 28.7 liters per minute)

11. Built a cement platform, walls, and drainage system

12. Installed a stainless steel India Mk11 pump

The hand-drill method allows the team to install the cylinder far below the aquifer so that the community has great water access throughout the year.

13. Water quality test

The Ministry of Water Resources has verified that this well meets the World Health Organization’s standards for drinking water.

The high heat was the only challenge for the team, and they just had to persevere to get the job done.

It was "well worth it" for the team to restore reliable water here!

"I stay not too far away from this well and I have personally suffered some consequences related to water shortage as both a teacher and community member. Whenever we had a problem with this well, the only choice we had was to trek with kids to neighboring communities to fetch water. For cleaning, we normally sent the kids down to the swamp and the hill is too steep for some of them. We missed valuable study time during our pursuit of water," shared Teacher Joseph Koroma.

"So this well is going to improve both our learning and sanitation situation."

June, 2018: St. John RC Primary School Project Underway

Dirty water from the swamp is making students attending St. John RC Primary School sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this school through the narrative 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

Hand-dug wells have been an important source of water throughout human history! Now, we have so many different types of water sources, but hand-dug wells still have their place. Hand dug wells are not as deep as borehole wells, and work best in areas where there is a ready supply of water just under the surface of the ground, such as next to a mature sand dam. Our artisans dig down through the layers of the ground and then line the hole with bricks, stone, or concrete, which prevent contamination and collapse. Then, back up at surface level, we install a well platform and a hand pump so people can draw up the water easily.

Giving Update: St. John RC Primary School

November, 2019

A year ago, your generous donation helped St. John RC Primary School in Sierra Leone access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Marion Dumbuya. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help St. John RC 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!

The rehabilitation of the well at St. John RC Primary School in Sierra Leone has led to significant improvements in the school over the past year.

"The intervention has reduced the distance and time pupils take to fetch water. Before now, they walked to neighboring communities in search of water. The pupils can now use water during and after using the toilet. They wash their hands clean with soap and water, a habit they have established from the teachings of your hygiene and sanitation team last year," said Deputy Headteacher Mohamed A. Kamara.

The school has changed in the area of sanitation and tidiness.

"Initially, when the water level falls in the dry season, most of us used paper to clean ourselves after toileting because there was no water, and talk less of a soap. However, the intervention of Mariatu’s Hope, with regards to the rehabilitation of our well and also the hygiene and sanitation training, things have positively changed. We can now boast of having water and soap in the toilet and also fresh drinking water in all our classrooms," said 10-year-old student Marion Dumbuya.

Their toilets are well kept and clean, the school compound is well taken care of, and the handwashing station at the toilet is still up and running. Above all, the students are now coming to school clean and with complete uniforms. Our teams were impressed with the school administration for helping to keep the teachings and practices of the hygiene and sanitation in the school.

"Before this well was rehabilitated, to start with, during the dry season when the water table falls and the well could not produce enough water, or better still when the well dried, the kids engaged in varying degrees of unhygienic behaviors at the school. The rehabilitation of the well has rescued us from this great mess," said Mr. Kamara.

"Our pupils now come to school tidy every day, even their classrooms are kept tidy. I also want to use this opportunity on behalf of the school administration to thank your organization for the good work been done in the school and community. God blesses you all”.

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 St. John RC 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 St. John RC 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 - Pineapple Fund