Sunday, August 3, 2008

How important is a bathroom to a school of 500 Children?

When we first came to Kinshasa the first humanitarian project we submitted for approval was to improve a school in the community of Camp Luka.

The ASAMI Primary school was missing roofing in many places,
holes in the walls and no windows,

steps leading into the class rooms and
It had a partially finished latrine that was falling down

None the less they were holding school in the building but would have to cancel school if it rained. We had just completed the final pieces of the Camp Luka water project and it was such a wonderful addition to this neighborhood and here were all those children with no school to attend in their neighborhood.

We had been told that schools were not a priority for the humanitarian funds as there are so many schools in need of help here in Africa and no regulations or standards for schools but, we had been told of a great organization, IFESH, that specialized in building and improving schools so we worked with them and wrote up a project for the ASAMI Primary school.

As we had been told would happen the project did not pass the criteria for an area initiative. We were very disappointed but moved on to other projects.

A few months ago we had the occasion to return to Camp Luka and follow up on the water project and saw that some improvements had been made in the primary school building but the school still had no usable latrine. IFESH had already evaluated the latrine situation and had a plan drawn up from our first efforts. We worked with the community and submitted a project to add a latrine to the school along with Family Health and Hygiene training which did pass criteria and we were on our way.

We went with Jeanne, from IFESH to tell the community and start the project. The meeting was choice in that Jeanne conducted an election among the community members and a project president, vice president, sec and treasurer were elected along with a committee for construction, and a committee for community outreach taking responsibility for the health and hygiene training. The election was very serious business and took 2 hours to complete. At the end everyone had a job to do and the project was officially underway.

One site visit found the footings and pit completed and the health and hygiene training was already underway.

The community was doing the work under the supervision of IFESH. A second visit found the walls nearly finished and a training for the community on conflict resolution ,being taught by IFESH. It was very rewarding to see the community work together for the common good.

Sister Moon took advantgage of all the children wanting to be a part and taught them some songs like the Hokey Pokey, Going on Safari.

They had a logt of fun. They then sang her some songs in Lingala.

The Closing Ceremony was soon at hand. The Latrine was officially turned over to the school and a dedication prayer and ceremony officially opened the latrine for business.

Eric our site manaager conducted the ceremony.
The Chef of the village and some of the elders offered a prayer and then drank Orange Fanta which they spit on each corner of the latrine as part of the dedication ( they were suppose to use Palm wine but settled for Fanta). We understand this was part of the ceremony to ward off any evil or harm to the latrine.

The official ribbon cutting(actually TP cutting)

Four latrines 2 for girls and 2 for boys

We then held graduation with certificates of participation for all the Health and Hygiene trainers that will be going out into the village to train the members of the community.

This was a pretty grand event for a latrine. It made us realize how important it was to the community to have this addition to their school.

The Moons came to lend their support and enjoy the festivities.
This project has accomplished several goals. A school of more than 500 students now has a latrine, where before they were using the outdoors. A community has received a training course in basic hygiene and now are better prepared to help themselves avoid disease and achieve better health. The community also has a better understanding of resolving conflicts and working together to complete community projects. The community now feels better about itself.
Working with good partners always makes for a better project. The good people at IFESH, along with the Camp Luka community members put forth the effort necessary to make this project a winner.


Angela said...

I too love a clean bathroom!

Tiffany said...

There's so much we don't appreciate. The kids (who have been in school one week now) enjoyed looking at the pics of the school. You both look great!