January, 2022: Raka Village Well Rehab Complete!
We are excited to share a safe, reliable water point at Raka Village in Sierra Leone is now providing clean water to students and neighboring community members! We also conducted hygiene and sanitation training, which focused on healthy practices such as handwashing and using latrines.
16-year-old Mariatu K. explained how the newly rehabilitated well will help her in achieving her lifelong dream. "This water well has reduced my trips to the swamp, which means I now have more time to study, which will eventually translate to better grades in school. I really want to surprise my parents by being the first in the family to make it all the way to college. That has always been my dream."
Mariatu dumps water over her head at the well celebration.
"I now have options of where to fetch water and there are no more restrictions on the amount of containers I am allowed to fetch," Mariatu continued. "Accessing water in the community is no longer a problem, and it leaves more time to study."
"Now that this water well is available in the village, we will spend less time fetching water and more time making sure there is food on the table," said a different Mariatu, a 40-year-old farmer and trader. "The access to [a] safe and reliable water source is going to translate to more time to spend with my family, [and] more time making my homemade cakes and processing fufu (cassava starch) and palm oil."
Mariatu (the elder) at the well.
"As a parent, any success of my children is a reward for me," Mariatu continued. "I plan on making sure that there is always going to be food on the table and at the same time reduce the number of times my children, both boys and girls, go to the swamp."
We held a dedication ceremony to officially hand over the well to the community members. The ceremony was attended by several local dignitaries from the Port Loko District Council, the Ministry of Water Resources, and community headmen from Raka and several neighboring communities. Each official gave a short speech thanking everyone who contributed to the rehabilitation of the water project. Then, both Mariatus made statements on their community's behalf. The ceremony concluded with celebration, singing, and dancing.
Clean Water Restored
The drill team arrived the day before beginning work. They set up camp and unpacked all of their tools and supplies to prepare for drilling the next day. The community provided space for the team to store their belongings, along with meals for the duration of their stay. The following day, the work began.
First, we raised the tripod, the structure we use to hold and maneuver each of the drilling tools. Next, we measured the well's original depth. We then socketed the pipes and installed a casing.
Finally, we lined up the drill rods and started to drill! We reached a final depth of 13.71 meters with water at 11.49 meters. The hand-drill method allowed the team to install the cylinder far below the aquifer so that the community has great water access throughout the year.
With drilling complete, we installed screening and a filter pack to keep out debris when the water is pumped. We then cemented an iron rod to the well lining and fixed it with an iron collar at the top. Next, we bailed the well by hand for three days and flushed it, clearing any debris generated by the drilling process. Finally, we tested the yield to ensure the well would provide clean water with minimal effort at the pump.
Bailing the well.
As the project neared completion, we built a cement platform, walls, and drainage system around the well to seal it off from surface-level contaminants. The drainage system helps to redirect runoff and spilled water to help avoid standing water at the well, which can not only be uncomfortable but unhygienic and a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes.
At last, we installed the stainless steel India Mk11 pump and conducted a water quality test. The test results showed that this is clean water fit for drinking!
Before conducting any hygiene training, we made repeated phone calls and visits to the local water user committee to better understand the community’s challenges and lack of sanitation facilities. We shared the findings from our discussions with the committee members to help them make the necessary adjustments before the training began. For example, we identified households without handwashing stations or ones that may need to repair their latrines. With this information, community members worked together to improve hygiene and sanitation at home.
After this preparatory period, we scheduled a time when members from each household using the water point could attend a multi-day hygiene and sanitation training. We then dispatched our teams to the agreed-upon location to hold the meeting.
Training topics covered included handwashing and tippy taps, good and bad hygiene habits, disease transmission and prevention, worms and parasites, dental hygiene, proper care of the well's pump, keeping the water clean, the cost recovery system, dish racks and clotheslines, the importance of toilets, keeping latrines clean, balanced diets, the diarrhea doll, and HIV and AIDS.
Not only was attendance in Raka better than we expected, but each day when our facilitators arrived for training, we saw evidence of the community members listening to the training in latrines being built and tippy-taps being constructed.
Handwashing with a tippy-tap.
"Today, I have learned important lessons on how to take good care of myself, my family, and my community," said 48-year-old mother and farmer, Hawanatu Kamara. "Through this training, I have come to know the dangers of open defecation and the essence of eating good food and fruits that are of great value to us especially our children who needs them to grow healthy and strong."
The topic that incited the most conversation and debate was when we displayed examples of good and bad hygiene. Community members identified households that were practicing bad behaviors like open defecation and walking barefoot (which poses the danger of contracting parasites like hookworm). At the conclusion of this topic, everyone agreed to work together to eliminate bad hygiene behaviors from their community.
Another particularly enlightening topic was a balanced diet, which sparked some debate. A few community members hold traditional beliefs that children shouldn't eat certain foods (like mangoes, eggs, fish, and meat) for fear of infecting them with witchcraft. But the facilitators emphasized that children should be eating more than just rice, which was the primary diet fed to children in Raka. In the end, one villager concluded that it's important not just that their children's bellies be full, but that they are full of nutritional foods that will make their bodies strong.
Facilitators use a three-legged stool to display the balanced diet topic.
Village headman Komrabai Sesay, at whose home the training was held, shared what struck him most from the training. "Many a time, I have seen people hanging their face masks under their chins, and I have been doing the same, since we have been doing the mask-wearing for protocol's sake and not for the right purpose, which is to protect us from the Covid-19 virus. But through this training, I have learned about the proper way of mask-wearing, which is to be fitted in covering both the nose and mouth."
"I know if we all start following the advice from this training and move from our past behavior, we will become a community with healthy and strong people with fewer infant deaths and hospital visits," Hawanatu concluded.
When an issue arises concerning the well, community members 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!