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.