Upon completion of this project to repair a well in Sierra Leone, our partner in the field reports...
Pepel Corner is located in the Koya rural section of Western Area Rural District and it borders the Moyamba District. The people here are mostly engaged in farming as their primary source of livelihood. Before intervention, the community had no reliable water source and used a protected well that dried up." The well had been damaged for a long time, and many well parts had been destroyed," shared the Sierra Leone team. "There was no casing put on the well and the slab had developed a serious cut. The soil was very muddy which hindered our work progress. Illness perpetuated in the community, subjecting many to suffer from cholera, dysentery, malaria and respiratory illnesses. The Ebola situation also threatened the people and affected the progress of work, as people were generally afraid to come and support the work. Because of this, fewer people than normal were present." There were shared communal facilities available in the community, but these facilities were not enough to support the needs of the entire 150-family community of Pepel Corner. As a result, the nearby bushes served as alternative toilets. The community was prone to water-related diseases and has been fortunate to have not yet recorded any Ebola cases. However, the restricted movement that has been imposed on the country and their livelihood, since most are farmers, has greatly affected them. To access water after their well broke, families used several swamps to support their water needs and this situation became worse during the dry season when the community dug holes in the swampy area to access water for drinking, bathing and cooking. Ready to end their suffering and know safe drinking water, community leaders sought help from the Sierra Leone team, and they responded.
For the 150-family community of Pepel Corner, safe water has been secured and with safe water good health and the promise of productive days are also within reach! Although securing safe drinking water is principal for community development, securing safe water will only remain if the community is committed to maintaining the restored water point. To help encourage community commitment, the team held a community meeting before any project activities took place. During this meeting, the people were encouraged to keep safe water in their community by taking full ownership of the restored water point. The community embraced ownership of the improved water point and established a five-person Water Committee that was trained to manage the well and equipped with skills to repair the well—were it to fall into disrepair, become subject to theft or vandalism. For the Water Committee, a point person was identified and trained to maintain the restored water point. Part of the responsibility of this Water Committee is also to collect a nominal fee of $0.05 USD per liter of water collected from families to create a resource fund for future or necessary well repairs.
Continued support of good hygiene choices to influence the overall adoption of good hygiene and sanitation behaviors was given significant attention. The team worked alongside the community health workers and the New Harvest Church to further the impact of hygiene and sanitation education. During the week, the team had an opportunity to share hygiene and sanitation lessons with 15 people. The team commented on the community’s overall hygiene situation. "This is a fairly big community, but it was sad to see that there were very few latrines for use. The community was instructed on the importance of good hygiene practices. Open defecation is widely practiced and the lessons on hygiene stressed the importance of latrine use and how this good hygiene practice can prevent many of the water-related diseases prevalent in the area. Since they have had no cases of Ebola in the community, the training included aspects of how they can prevent themselves from contracting the disease and how they should handle any suspected cases to avoid contracting the virus." It is with the continued support of good hygiene and sanitation choices coupled with access to an improved water point and the community’s ability to make informed health decisions that safe water will continue to impact Pepel Corner for years to come.
To allow the 150-family community the full benefits of knowing safe water and to encourage informed hygiene and sanitation decisions, the Sierra Leone team combined H&S lessons with demonstrations. The team spent time teaching additional lessons on the Ebola virus to create even more awareness on how the people can avoid contracting the virus and how they should handle suspected cases. Hand washing with soap was emphasized and the team provided the community with amenities such as disinfectants to be used at the well site before collecting water. When teaching about keeping the water clean, the H&S trainer used an actual bucket of water to demonstrate how beneficiaries should properly cover the bucket to keep the water clean. In practice and to encourage the adoption of good hygiene behaviors, the team first educates communities served so that they are able to make not only good hygiene choices, but informed hygiene choices. Using the Traditional Method, which is a participatory method to help community members discover ways to improve their hygiene and sanitation choices and implement community-driven solutions, the team addressed the following hygiene lessons: disease transmission, germs, healthy and unhealthy communities, hand washing-proper techniques and water-saving methods, latrine perception, diarrhea doll-causes of diarrhea, good-bad hygiene behaviors, tippy tap and proper care of the pump. After the initial hygiene lessons were shared, the community was encouraged to construct proper latrines and was informed about the dangers of continuing the practice of open defecation. Beneficiaries embraced the hygiene and sanitation lessons and committed to start constructing a pit latrine with no slab that will serve as a shared communal facility. The project staff will maintain a relationship with the community and continue to follow up and monitor the implementation of activities that were initially promoted to beneficiaries, including the construction of toilets. Besides this, the WASH committee in the community is also tasked with following up with the community to help guide the implementation of project activities. Lastly, the Sierra Leone team works with government officials who also take time to follow up with the implementation of proposed activities. At the end of the day, the project staff liaison with all of these stakeholders will make sure that the planned activities are achieved.
Community Member Interview
"Since we used to share the water with animals, the water was not good for us," shared 40-year-old community member, gardener and petty trader, Abubaker. "It was usually full of dirt, but we had no choice. We used to get sick from the water-related diseases as a result of the bad water source. Now that Living Water has repaired our well, we are full of praises! We now have access to clean water and the well chlorination makes it safe for our use. Our dignity has been restored."
As much as the Ebola epidemic has brought significant sorrow and suffering, it is through suffering that doors to the gospel message of Jesus Christ have been opened. When the Sierra Leone team initially arrived, they not only shared the gospel, but also shared why they had entered Pepel Corner — that it was because of Jesus Christ. After completing the well rehabilitation, the team followed up with a group of 63 people (15 men, 22 women and 26 children) and 30 of those committed their lives to Christ! "There is a need for more churches to come in the area to support the new converts so that they can be grounded in their faith," shared an evangelist. To ensure the community has continued opportunities to hear the Word of God, the team worked closely with the local church that will continue to support the 150-family community of Pepel Corner. The team will continue to equip the church with leadership skills and support them with materials and financial resources necessary to effectively carry out evangelistic work in the area. The church will be on the forefront of spreading the gospel using various approaches such as evangelistic rallies, the JESUS film and oral Bible stories. The church will also encourage the community in various water and sanitation activities to help ensure safe water is available for this generation and the next.