Love is the Answer: Conclusion

Miss the previous update about this sanitation project? Read it here.

When we started this project to construct three drainage trenches to solve a major sanitation problem in the Kitui Ndogo slum, I knew there were going to be two main phases. First, the funding and actual construction work. Second, the ongoing care and maintenance of the trenches on the part of the residents.

The second phase, to me, was the more difficult one, given it involves people's psychology and habits, which are not easy to change given the harsh environment of the slum and the daily struggles to eat.

Calling on the Community

To the right, that's one of the three trenches that were constructed.

Before, where you see the trench, you would have seen a thick, stagnant stream of black ooze, filled with human waste, months old trash and who knows what else.

Nobody has a toilet in their home and there are very few community toilets within walking distance, which aren't free either. So, urination can occur in the trenches. As for feces, people usually do that in a plastic bag and then throw it outside (possibly ending up in the trench as well). There is no waste removal program, so household trash is typically just thrown outside the home.

In light of these factors, our concern is that the residents living right next to the trenches, won't keep them clean, which could lead to them stagnating all over again and defeating all the work we just did.

In an attempt to prevent this from happening, we called a community meeting yesterday, which included about 30 residents, Chairman Kilonso Abraham, myself, and Chryspin Afifu, a representative of the NGO I'm working with.

That's Chairman Kilonso, leader of the entire slum community, on the left addressing the residents, explaining the need to maintain the cleanliness of the trenches.

This lady (I didn't catch her name) was incredible.

She has a home adjacent to one of the trenches and stepped up with some gusto, reinforcing much of what Kilonso said. She was being firm with her fellow neighbors about the need to keep the trenches clean and even recommended some kind of fine system if anybody failed to do so!

It was inspiring to see an actual resident step up like this — as we were — which gave me confidence that the project is in the good hands of the community now. Trust me, you would not want to make this woman mad!

After Chryspin shared, I wrapped up the meeting by saying that I did not want any thanks or appreciation for helping to raise the money. What I requested was for everybody to keep the trenches clean and that this would be the best way to express appreciation.

Wrapping Up

We wrapped up the meeting by expressing appreciation to the crew (above) from the community who performed the labor of building the trenches. They are among the chief heroes of the project, given that the work was difficult and hazardous. Those of them who were paid (not all were), were paid less than $5/day and shared some of their earnings with those who volunteered their time.

The fact earnings were shared like this is an indicator of how much the community wanted this project and how much they were willing to work together to make it happen—also good signs for future ownership and care.

My partners and I will visit again after a couple of weeks to inspect the trenches and see if the residents are caring for them, as we hope they will after this meeting.

Otherwise, that's a wrap of what turned out to be a miraculous project.