Where Have You Been?!?

Whenever I return to Sierra Leone, I’m welcomed by friends with a hearty, “Long time!” to convey I was missed and they were happy to see me. I can imagine some of you responding likewise, “Long time!” and I apologize for the gap in our communication. But we’ve been busy and we’re back with updates!

We last left you summarizing our partnership on a Rotary International Global Grant supporting three rural schools around the city of Bo. While the Rotary clubs support the schools with new supplies and furniture, and helping 3 teachers at each school to attend college, Healthy Schools International installs latrines and solar power.

By the end of 2018, we’d installed solar and a 7-stall waterless composting latrine building at Largo Primary School. I returned in February of this year to commission the 5-stall latrine at the school in Barlie and to troubleshoot the solar installation at Largo (operator error and provided more training).

HSI Office at Mile 91

We also had the great pleasure of opening a new office in Yonibana, better known as “Mile 91” (it is 91 miles outside Freetown). We are moving our current office located in the IMATT section of Freetown to the more centrally located Mile 91. In the future, we hope to have expanded storage facilities and more staff there so HSI can expand its reach and impact.

World Toilet Day was November 19th! As you can imagine, this day is special for HSI; it’s about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which promises sanitation for all by 2030. We’re proud of how our supporters have helped us make schools a healthier place for students (and safer for girls to attend) by providing private space within eco-friendly sanitation infrastructure.

We hope to complete our third and final sanitation project at Nguabu school, the most remote of the Global Grant schools (so remote, a bridge had to be built over the local stream in order for trucks to deliver the heavier materials.

A few things to look forward to in our the next couple of months; we’ll be launching a new series called, Get to know a volunteer, where we’ll be spotlighting the hard work of our great volunteers from Kenya to Virginia, updates on the Nguabu latrine construction in Sierra Leone, and what happens next at Mile 91!

Stay tuned for more great news about the impact you’re making as you support our mission!

Healthy Schools International® Celebrates the International Day of Education by Promoting Clean and Safe School Environments

Healthy Schools International Executive Director, Derek Reinhard, speaks with teachers at a rural school outside Bo, Sierra Leone
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IN 2018, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as  the International Day of Education, to celebrate the role of education for peace and development. The very first celebration of this Day of Education will be marked at the United Nations in New York. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) advocates that without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.

This day is the occasion to reaffirm fundamental principles. Firstly, education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. Secondly, education is the most powerful force in our hands to ensure significant improvements in health, to stimulate economic growth, to unlock the potential and innovation we need to build more resilient and sustainable societies…” Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General

Education is a human right that should be available to all. However, in countries all over the world, children attend schools in unsafe environments which lack access to safe drinking water and handwashing facilities and no proper toilets and sanitation. Even where school enrolments have improved, learning outcomes remain poor because absenteeism due to water-borne illness and smoke-related respiratory problems.

If education is the key to helping children escape poverty, access to water and sanitation is key to helping children safely maximize their education. To neglect this is to be careless with the well-being and health of children.
Kelly Ann Naylor, Global Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, UNICEF. 

With a vision of bringing clean infrastructure to school communities in Africa, Healthy Schools International (HSI)  works to promote the link between healthy environments and student performance at underserved schools in rural district of Sierra Leone and Kenya. Most recently HSI partnered in a Global Grant with the Rotary International of West Springfield, Virginia USA and Sierra Leone Rotary clubs.

Along with eco-friendly infrastructure such as clean water, safe sanitation and solar electricity projects, HSI works with school and community leaders to develop revenue-generating business models based on the projects so there are funds always available for the upkeep of the systems.  In addition to providing essential furniture and classroom supplies, HSI helps students thrive by providing eco-friendly water, sanitation and energy solutions.  Projects in Sierra Leone include the installation of a new latrine block utilizing waterless, composting technology, and solar electricity for four classroom buildings. A similar strategy is being developed for implementation in the rural district of Maasai land in the Southern Rift Valley of Kenya.

Healthy Schools is passionate about this mission and dedicated to building on its current success. Achieving basic level of health and sanitation in schools has required significant efforts to raise awareness among students, parents, teachers, and their communities. HSI is working to promote the understanding, recognition and adoption of these environmental concerns as essential and integral components of an effective learning environment. As the world marks the very first International Education Day and works to promote education, HSI remains committed to advocating for and promoting healthy learning environments that help to improve learning outcomes for children and help them safely maximize their education.

Celebrate 2018 With Us!

On Friday, October 5th, friends of Healthy Schools International, volunteers and board members gathered to celebrate a year of growth and good work. Wowed by the world-famous West Africa dance troupe, KanKouran, we danced to the drums and watched cultural demonstrations of love and struggle in rhythm and movement.

     We discussed the struggles of our partner schools and so many others we have yet to meet (to the left is the sole sanitation facility for a school of 300 in Tonkilili District, Sierra Leone).   We also celebrated our volunteers and partnerships, hearing from guests from the Sierra Leone Embassy in Washington, DC, and from our own Patrick Manoah, the Healthy Schools International project coordinator, visiting with us all the way from Nairobi, Kenya.
 

    Another accomplishment we are proud of is that, for the second year in a row, HSI has earned GuideStar’s Gold Seal of Transparency. It is awarded to nonprofits who demonstrate fiscal stewardship and reporting standards.     I am so grateful for our volunteers and for your generosity which, together, make all this good work and impact possible, helping raise thriving students and healthier communities in Africa. I hope we can count on your continued giving (and if so, please click here now), and journey along side us in 2019.

Yours (Dancing) in Service,
Derek Reinhard
Executive Director

A Look Back at 2018

Unusable Latrines at Barlie School, Sierra Leone

Healthy Schools International is thrilled to be a supporting partner on a 3-year, $101,000 International Global Grant. The grant was awarded by Rotary International to the West Springfield, Virginia, USA and Bo, Sierra Leone Rotary clubs. We are part of a pilot program designed to improve student performance at three underserved rural schools in the Bo District of Sierra Leone.

Each school will receive new furniture and classroom supplies and three teachers at each school will attend certification training (qualifying them for a government salary). HSI will provide safe sanitation and solar electricity for each school campus. Most recently, we’ve completed a solar electricity micro-grid for Largo Primary, one of the three pilot schools.

School ChildrenWe are happy to report that all nine teachers have started their certification training and each school has received new furniture, blackboards and supplies. HSI has also completed its work with Largo Primary by implementing a new latrine block utilizing waterless, composting technology. The next school we want to start construction for is Barlie Primary which is more remote than Largo and whose latrines could really stand replacing (as you can see from the header photo above).

Look for more great news about the the important work your support is bringing to rural and underserved schools in Sierra Leone and Kenya!

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As I’m sure you’re aware, most every online credit card processor charges a fee, even for donations to charities. Well, through the end of the year, the PayPal Foundation is waiving all processing fees for donations made to Healthy Schools International! AND, on top of that, they will add 1% to each donation.

If HSI is in your giving plans this year, please consider making your donation through the PayPal Giving Fund at this link. Thank you!

2017 Trip Recap – Sierra Leone

Photo of community leaders pointing to rooftop solar on the Roke Fullah school

Three leaders from Healthy Schools International (HSI) traveled to Sierra Leone in October to visit current partner schools, review past projects and explore ways to improve and expand our programs. It was a particularly significant trip as this was our first chance to introduce our friends and partners to our name change from Deeper Missions.

Photo of HSI Travel TeamHSI Board President, Ross Meglathery, Derek Reinhard, Executive Director, and Board VP, Kim Hanson, were pleased with their week-long stay which included having the honor of visiting with Dr. Minkailu Bah, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Education, Science and Technology.

Our two primary stops were at the Ebert Kakua School for the Deaf just outside the city of Bo in southern Sierra Leone and the Makeni Roke Fullah Primary School in a rural area of the Tonkollili District in the center of the country. Because of the generosity of our donors, and a grant from the Training Resources Group, these two partner schools have received clean infrastructure upgrades to help protect the health of the staff and students and to help the community build sustainable revenue models which bring in income to maintain the systems.

So far, the school for the deaf has received a sanitation upgrade and a 1.2kW solar electricity system to power lights and electronics in the class rooms. The remaining installations include an expanded solar generation system so their new dormitory, dining facility and community hall can have clean power, and drilling a borehole where which will supply clean water all year round.

Roke Fullah WellAt the primary school in Makeni Roke Fullah, a borehole well was drilled last year, for which the community is grateful because up to that point they were retrieving water from a shallow river. This past summer, a solar electricity system was installed (see featured photo above). Remaining is the largest project to date for us: safe sanitation facilities for almost 500 students.

Interestingly, both schools chose to start a cellphone charging service for the community in order to generate income for help pay for maintenance on their respective infrastructure. The Ebert Kakua School for the Deaf has already set aside sufficient funds to pay for any major component failures and so now can direct some funds toward school operating costs.

During the trip, the team also visited with potential partner schools in the Bo city area. We found one school with a tremendous and immediate need for a water well and sanitation–finding any kind of water involved time away from school for staff and children alike, and the current pit latrines are all out of operation.

These are the challenges we face and these faces are the reward we get for helping students thrive in areas otherwise overlooked.

Thank you for the kind and generous part you are playing.

Healthy Students Need Safe Sanitation

Eloo Installation at Nairobi School

November 19th was World Toilet Day. Why would that be “a thing”?

Anywhere in the world where there are people living together, there is going to human waste to manage; every home, every village, every city, every country.

And every year, millions of people, particularly children and the infirm, suffer and often die from enteric disease. School days are missed, learning is affected, students suffer short- and long-term impacts.

There is no safety or safe sanitation here

Human waste management is essential for healthy schools.

Many countries are still economically developing and are unable to either afford the cost of large infrastructure projects (think building a lot of septic treatment plants and then either trucking or piping the waste to them) or, a more difficult reality, there is not reliable access to water (clean, grey or otherwise) that would support a water-based waste management system.

We have selected the Enviro-Loo by Enviro Options in South Africa as the primary solution for human waste management at the rural schools we partner with in Sierra Leone and Kenya. We’ve installed them with great success in varied settings (schools, church, small hospital) in Sierra Leone.

The featured photo for this post shows these “Eloos” installed at a primary school outside Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo of children in Sierra LeoneSafe sanitation helps keep students healthy and thriving. They can then have a good shot at growing up to be healthy, contributing citizens who can help break the poverty cycle.

Take Nothing For Granted

Outdoor pit toilet with palm branch enclosure

It’s a sort of standing joke with my friends that, whenever we get together for a visit, my wife will get to talking about the grandchildren and I, well I get to talking about poop.

The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some startling statistics about how people suffer, especially children, from poor Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (WASH).

For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa only 31% of the population has access to “improved” sanitation.

Sadly, in the rural areas where Healthy Schools International operates that percentage is even lower. That featured photo for this blog entry, yeah, that’s one of the two “toilets” for a school of nearly 500 students in Sierra Leone. The bush in the background, that is also a toilet area.

So, yeah, I talk a lot about ways to better manage human waste rather than taking it for granted that everyone in the world has access to a clean and safe toilet.

Eloo Installation at Primary School
Enviro-loo Installation at Nairobi School

November 19th was World Toilet Day. It marks an observance that there are communities still needing help to develop safer ways to manage a natural bodily function without creating a health hazard for the entire community.

So, wherever you go, please…

Photo of empty toilet paper tubes
Take nothing for granted.

Hello world!

Watch this space! We are transferring our best-of-the-best Deeper Missions posts as well as updating you on the latest news coming from Healthy Schools International!