My feet were getting dusty as I perched on a wooden bench to speak with the Chairman of a local youth group. We were talking about the shamba, or farm, that they manage when he told me that there was a water celebration occurring not far from where we sat. My ears perked up and I asked if we could go see it.
We wound our way through the market, towards the city center where three large tents had been erected. As we skirted around the first tent to get a view of the stage, a group of government officials saw me and quickly ushered us over to their seats. Before I knew what was happening, I was surrounded by high ranking men in uniforms and seated with all of the ‘distinguished guests’. It was very disorienting.
I guess that’s what I get for being the only white person in town.
When we were settled into our chairs my attention turned to the children singing on the stage. They were from Kibos Primary School and they performed three songs: one on the importance of keeping the river clean, one praying for peace in the upcoming election, and one on hand washing.
It was only when the men surrounding me began to stand up to speak to the audience that I had any real idea of what was going on.
The event was called the Nile Day Celebration and was funded by the Ministry of Water and the Nile Basin Discourse Forum, a community organization concerned with the rivers. There were speakers addressing climate change, environmental damage, and water access. The whole purpose of the event was to educate the people in and around Kibos on the importance of planting trees, keeping the river clean, and generally paying attention to their environment. It covered everything that interested me and everything I had been working on for the last four weeks.
In short, it was perfect.
One of my main priorities while I am in Kenya is implementing a community sensitization program to educate the community and increase the impact and sustainability of the water kiosk.
While it sounds very fancy and technical, the actual execution of it is incredibly simple. Everything, from the children singing about the danger of trash in the river to the speeches by public officials falls under the heading of ‘community sensitization’.
For this water kiosk, under the advisement of the Wandiege Water Company and SANA, we will be training individuals from the communities surrounding the water kiosk to become a ‘Village Resource Person’ (VRP). These people in turn will educate their friends, family and neighbors on the importance of clean water and methods of proper sanitation. It is a beautifully simplistic concept that will greatly increase the impact and scope of this project.
Now if only I could finish raising the money so we could get this all done before I leave!
Hopefully when we celebrate the launching of this kiosk, one of the VRPs will organize with a primary school in the area to do a song and dance about the importance of clean water!