Photographs by Kerry-Ann Hamilton

Karibu! Welcome!

The Howard chapter of Engineers Without Borders arrived in Nandi Hills on Friday after a four-hour journey from Nakuru. The roads were winding and bumpy, but considerably better than in past years. We had breathtaking views of the Rift Valley and drove by tea plantations on both sides of the road.

When we arrived James Esendi, director of Build the Village, greeted us outside as our 9-seater matatu (minivan) pulled up to the BTV campus. He had open arms as he greeted advisor John Tharakan and some other familiar faces including EWB-HU President Bianca Bailey and Team Lead Aleah Holt. Members of the BTV staff gave a double hug to the entire team. Karibu! The luggage was off loaded from the roof of our matatu and we settled in the dorm-style accommodations. There are two large rooms, one for boys and the other for girls complete with bunk beds.

It was not long before chai time. Chai or Kenyan tea is a staple of every home. It is made of steamed milk and Kenyan tealeaves. Careful, it can be very hot.

The team spent the afternoon reviewing plans with James. Without question, face-to-face is preferred over conference calls. The team and the BTV staff assessed how we could achieve the greatest impact for the community. Four biosand filters were earmarked for members of the community. One will now go to the clinic and three in homes. We also learned that chief approved the local dispensary as a location for the filter.  Two purification filters will be added to the BTV campus including one at the orphanage.

The chief is the decision maker for the community and all activities are vetted through him. James reminded us that a good idea is only realized if it has the chief’s blessing. With the chief’s green light, the team will proceed.

While the relatively low-cost concrete-based biosand filters is USD 45, it is out of reach for most villagers in Choimim who live on much less than a dollar a day. However, there is a high need for clean water because of the frequent cases of diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. The team has learned that many members of the community are not fully aware of what makes them sick and how to properly purify their water. For example, some warm versus boil their water. EWB-HU will visit homes in  Choimim to observe their water practices and to educate children and adults about appropriate water treatment. They will also lead a training session in the church hall on Sunday.

To address the cost issue, EWB-HU will build two plastic biosand filters as pilots. They are a cheaper alternative to the concrete-based filter.

Saturday will be spent shopping for materials. We will travel to Eldoret, a township about an hour away from Choimim to a hardware store…it is no Home Depot or Lowes so these young engineers and their advisors are prepared to improvise.

Dr. Kerry-Ann Hamilton, director of strategic communications and marketing, is traveling with EWB-HU on their service mission to Kenya. The blog “Water is Life” chronicles the travels and work of the 9-member delegation from Howard University.