Project Status



Project Type:  Borehole Well and Hand Pump

Regional Program: Port Loko, Sierra Leone WaSH Program

Impact: 116 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Mar 2023

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 12/20/2023

Project Features


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Community Profile

Gbonkorakom's water crisis dramatically reduces the productivity of its 116 community members.

The community depends on palm oil production and farming for income, but collecting sufficient water has been an everyday struggle. The hand-dug well that was built in 2019 by another entity is unreliable. It is seasonal, meaning it is dry several months of the year and suffers from regular pump breakdowns, and needs to be rehabilitated.

When well water is not available, community members must make the long trip to a small watering hole at the local swamp (shown below) for water. But it presents several issues. It is very difficult to collect, but most significantly, it is contaminated, making community members ill with frequent cases of stomachache, diarrhea, and typhoid.

"Since the main water source [broke] down, it has been difficult for me to fetch water," said 38-year-old petty farmer Isatu Sankoh, shown below collecting water at the swamp.


"Honestly, this water is not safe for my use, but since I have no choice, I must use it," Isatu said. "There are times water at the stream changes in color and [there] remains a pungent odor."

For Isatu to successfully run her business as a food vendor, she must have water, and the faster she can find it and start cooking, the better. But she often misses out on customers because it simply takes too long for her to collect water and return from the swamp to start cooking before her customers have already purchased food from other vendors. "The water situation really affects my trading. This reduces my sales greatly," said Isatu.

But adults are not the only ones suffering without easy access to water.

Students like 13-year-old Isatu B. struggle, too. "This problem of water in my village is [a] huge burden on me because I always [have the responsibility to] collect water," said Isatu. "Since the well in my village has problems and [is] not working for the past months, I must go [to] the swamp to fetch water."

Isatu makes at least two trips a day to the water source. First thing in the morning, she goes to collect water and bathes near the swamp before hauling water back home and heading to school. Then once her school day is done, she journeys to the swamp again to collect the additional water she needs to launder her school uniforms.

All of this time and energy spent on collecting water leaves Gbonkorakom's people exhausted and unable to concentrate on other important things like working and learning.

Here’s what we’re going to do about it:

Well Rehabilitation

The well marked for this overhaul is dry for a few months every year and needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the community year round. The pump will be removed, and a hand auger will be lowered inside and powered by a 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, everyone within the community will have access to safe drinking water in both quality and quantity, even through the dry months.

Hygiene and Sanitation Training

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 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 handwashing 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.

Project Updates


March, 2023: Gbonkorokam Community Well Rehabilitation Complete!

We are excited to share that a safe, reliable water point at Gbonkorokam Community in Sierra Leone is now providing clean water to community members! We also conducted hygiene and sanitation training, which focused on healthy practices such as handwashing and using latrines.

"Today, I feel so happy that our main source of water has been rehabilitated," said 38-year-old trader Isatu Sankoh, whom we interviewed during our first visit to the community.

"This is a blessing to me and the entire community at large," Isatu continued. "This is because we have been struggling to fetch water due to the frequent pump breakdowns and the seasonality of the water point. Now that we have this water point, I will no longer go to the stream to fetch water. This will prevent me from walking far distances since the water point is just a stone's throw from my house. This will serve as an advantage for me to fetch enough water that will be used to do our work at home. I thank God for this water point. Enough water will be always available at home."

"Now that we have a new water point, I would count it as a huge blessing for me because of the impact it has created," said 15-year-old Isatu B., whom we also spoke to during our first visit. "This new water point would help me to fetch water with ease. I will no longer walk far distances as I used to walk before. Water will now be available at home because the well is very close to our house. I am also happy because the water at the well is clean, and this will prevent me from suffering from water-related illnesses I used to experience."

Isatu also hopes water access will help with her education. "I will now be punctual in school," she said. "My teachers will not punish me for being late. Also, I will now be able to fetch enough water at home that will serve us for days. This will prevent me from fetching water every day. I will now have ample time to study and go for extra lessons. Therefore, I will be able to study hard and obtain good scores on my exam."

Both Isatus splash water.

We held a dedication ceremony to officially hand over the well to the community members. Several local dignitaries attended the ceremony, including representatives from the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ward Council. Each official gave a short speech thanking everyone who contributed to the rehabilitation of the water project and reminding everyone to take good care of it. Then, both Isatus 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 their tools and supplies to prepare for drilling the next day. The community provided space for the team to store their belongings and 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 drilling tool. 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 18 meters with water at 11 meters. The hand-drill method allowed the team to install the cylinder far below the aquifer so that the community has excellent 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.

Bailing.

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.

As the project neared completion, we built a new 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 be uncomfortable and unhygienic and a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

At last, we installed the pump and conducted a water quality test. The test results showed that this was clean water fit for drinking!

New Knowledge

Before conducting any hygiene training, we called and visited the local water user committee to 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.

We also invited a nurse from the local clinic to help explain some topics and spread awareness about Sierra Leone's free vaccinations for children under five. She was instrumental in reinforcing each lesson.

After this preparatory period, we scheduled a time when members from each household using the water point could attend a three-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, COVID-19, 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.

The topic that prompted the most questions was worms and parasites, which are a common problem in tropical regions like Sierra Leone. Participants were very interested to learn how worms and parasites can enter the human body (via the food we eat, walking outdoors with bare feet, and drinking dirty water).

The training facilitator shows participants lifesize models of common parasites in Sierra Leone.

One woman by the name of Aminata shared a personal story on this topic. When she was working on her farm one day, someone came to tell her that her daughter was very ill. She rushed home to find her daughter with a swollen stomach and sores on her feet. Aminata prepared to take her daughter to the hospital, but Aminata's mother-in-law refused, saying the girl ought to be taken to a local herbalist instead. Eventually, Aminata was able to override her mother-in-law's authority and take her daughter to the hospital, where labs showed she was infected with worms. After treatment, the girl recovered, which she wouldn't have if Aminata had listened to her mother-in-law over her own gut. Through this story, everyone at the training was able to understand how serious worm infections are and how sicknesses and injuries should be brought to a hospital rather than herbalists or witch doctors.

Another key lesson was handwashing. One woman named Adama shared that many members of her family passed away during an Ebola outbreak some years back because they had ignored handwashing protocols, which helped to drive the lesson home for everyone present. Community members have been working to install simple handwashing stations near every latrine throughout the village.

Isatu at the training.

"I want to thank God for the wonderful three days of training," said Isatu Sankoh (quoted earlier). "It is an opportunity for me to learn new things that are important to my health. The training was very interesting to me because I learned a lot about hygiene. Certain things that I took for granted will now be handled with seriousness. My children normally played on the ground without washing their hands properly before eating. Although we have water in the house and soap to wash their hands, yet still they practice the same thing. I was able to learn today about worms lessons and the negative effect of such actions. I will not allow such things to happen again. I will also use this training to teach others that we should wash our hands after the toilet before eating and take good care of ourselves and our surroundings if we want to be healthy. It is an opportunity for our community to have this kind of training."

Conclusion

This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members themselves. 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 their local field officers to assist them.

Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our monitoring and maintenance program. We walk with each community, problem-solving together when they face challenges with functionality, seasonality, or water quality. Together, all these components help us strive for enduring access to reliable, clean, and safe water for this community.

With your contribution, one more piece has been added to a large puzzle of water projects. In our target areas, we’re working toward complete coverage of reliable, maintained water sources within a 30-minute round trip for each community, household, school, and health center. With this in mind, search through our upcoming projects to see which community you can help next!

Thank you for making all of this possible!




January, 2023: Gbonkorokam Community Well Rehabilitation Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Gbonkorokam Community drains people’s time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this community 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

Abundant water is often right under our feet! Beneath the Earth’s surface, rivers called aquifers flow through layers of sediment and rock, providing a constant supply of safe water. For borehole wells, we drill deep into the earth, allowing us to access this water which is naturally filtered and protected from sources of contamination at the surface level. First, we decide where to drill by surveying the area and determining where aquifers are likely to sit. To reach the underground water, our drill rigs plunge through meters (sometimes even hundreds of meters!) of soil, silt, rock, and more. Once the drill finds water, we build a well platform and attach a hand pump. If all goes as planned, the community is left with a safe, closed water source providing around five gallons of water per minute! Learn more here!


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The Harmonist
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