A Return to Kenya for RainCatcher and Beachbody

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The RainCatcher and Beachbody schools projects were initiated here in March. Through Beachbody’s generous donations, the efforts of the volunteers, and by tapping into an existing network, many schools are now equipped with rain-harvesting systems consisting of gutters and collection tanks. The next step was to bring the filters and demonstrate how they work.

Throughout this area, people collect their drinking and cooking water daily from boreholes, streams, rivers and other contaminated sources. By installing equipment to catch rain, this project is designed to provide reliable water to the anchors of the communities – the schools.

RainCatcher returned to the Kogelo area of Western Kenya to check on the progress of the tank-and-gutter installations and to meet with leaders to demonstrate the point-of-use filtering process and distribute filters.

Some of the tanks were near empty, as it hadn’t rained much recently. For one demonstration, the students had to go collect water from a borehole down the way. That water was dirty, making it the perfect sample for a training, but the hearts of the team sank, thinking that the students weren’t fully benefiting from the work that had recently been completed.

Besides the water being clean and safe, the aim is for it to be convenient, readily available. Women and children spend a great deal of time collecting water daily and the hope is that by reducing that collection during the day, the students will have more time for class and for fun.

But, while RainCatcher’s Fred Mango took the team around to different schools to meet the students and teach them about safe water, clouds gathered, it got very dark, the skies opened up, and torrents of rain came down.

With the roads muddy, the treks on the back roads slippery, and one visit cancelled, there was only one sentiment among the team traveling in the trucks: A desire that it keep raining and fill those tanks!

And, much to the RainCatcher team’s delight, rain it did. That day, that night, and the next day.

A Determined Man Named Joseph

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When here in Uganda, our base of operations is a pretty cool little hotel near the airport. Easy for people to report for training and a comfortable place to stay staffed by great people, including RainCatcher’s Dennis.

One surprising source of inspiration and direction has been our room steward, Joseph. Though he also has a new church and ministry he runs, a wonderful wife and four young sons, Joseph spends very long days here at the hotel.

He may seem quiet and unassuming, but that demeanor masks an incredible strength and devotion to his village, his parish and his neighbors. Joseph asked about our projects the week we arrived. Since we left early each morning and returned, exhausted, at sunset it was easy for his training to be delayed.

We would schedule a time and something would come up for us or his shift would go long due to things like the frequent blackouts or generator issues. But, Joseph was not going to allow the long hours or chance to prevent him learning about the filters. At times we returned to find him waiting for us, ready to be trained, ready to bring life-saving systems to his village.

The night before we left the country, he patiently waited again. Now trained, focused on the idea of using schools as a starting point to help the most people, and with three filters in his bag, he went home and we left for Kenya. We didn’t give Joseph and his three filters another thought.

When we got back, though, he was like a magnet! We were transfixed by his energy. As he explained how he’d identified 21 schools, visited three of them and conducted training, he was glowing. He presented the list and gently, but firmly, described how we were (he was?) going to equip the remaining 18 schools. How could we refuse?

So, we gathered again, with his list, now officially referred to as the “JOSEPH – Clean-Water Project, Uganda” and provided enough filters and money to set up each school.

And he left with a bag containing enough gear to bring safe water to thousands of people.

We’ll conduct a larger training in his area soon and, because we’ll never again doubt Joseph’s conviction, we expect his vision of bringing the RainCatcher solution beyond the schools and into the surrounding villages to come to pass.

This will certainly require some addendum to the list and a new name for his project. Perhaps “JOSEPH – Today the schools. Tomorrow the World!”

Bringing Safe Clean Water to Kirinda Schools

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We got on the road early. It was going to take hours to reach Sylvia’s village and, due to her solid scheduling the night before, students from six local schools were traveling to Kyakajwiga Primary School to meet us at lunchtime. Many of those school groups were traveling on foot.

That road trip is how we learned so much about Sylvia and about a day in the life of the average Ugandan student. We had ample time to witness her determination, her brilliance, and her heart.

On the way, we passed children hauling a variety of water containers, many clearly empty. Gathering water is a daily, time-consuming chore. Crowds of children gathered around open pits by the side of the road and we knew that water was surely teeming with life-threatening microbes.

After about four hours, we pulled up to the school and a sea of different colorful school uniforms worn by unbelievably well-behaved children. How they managed to remain quietly seated as we got out of the car, started taking pictures and pulling out equipment is a mystery. Later, knowing how thirsty so many of them surely were, we would marvel that they still demonstrated such restraint as we passed very few cups of water around for only some of them to taste.

Sylvia was impressive. She had their complete attention as she alternated between making the students and the teachers laugh and impressing upon them the value of the systems. The children already knew the dangers of their drinking water.

Sylvia posed the question, “What are the bad things that happen when you drink unsafe water?” Their hands shot up as they answered her: diarrhea; fever; dehydration; cholera; typhoid…

With their training from the night before, Sylvia and her sister Noelene led the demonstration, with Jack’s assistance.

They gave clean-water systems to the headmasters of all six schools: Kyakajwiga; Mirembe Muslim; Kabandiko; Makukuulu; Bulenge; and St. Jude of Kirinda. Previously they’d had to either try to keep up with demand by boiling water or watch their students drink the dirty water they brought to school.

With this simple solution, each school now has an endless, clean water fountain for their students. Sylvia vows to do the same for the district’s remaining 51 schools and there is no doubt that she will do it quickly.

By the end of the demonstration, Jack was ready to initiate some fun. With the headmasters’ permission (the students would not have moved a muscle without it), Jack ran to play soccer with the children, balls donated by Nike, and a resident cow.

Their playful shrieks and laughter filled the air. When they had worked up a thirst, they were able to easily fill their cups with safe water for the very first time. And there was no threat that the supply was going to run out.

To see a slideshow of images from this day in Uganda, including more pictures of the students having a blast playing soccer, please Click Here

RainCatcher Passes Muster for Mbale

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To deliver clean-water systems effectively and reach the most people, RainCatcher works with committed partners with established networks in areas with great need. Some partners are large organizations with broad reaches, others individuals or newer groups who have programs set up in communities we’re trying to reach.

Suzanne and Whitney are an example of the type of caring people we seek out. They are Country Directors with a group called Help International, which sends them new volunteers every few weeks. Before this meeting, their exposure to RainCatcher was limited to a couple short email exchanges with Jack.

Yet, because they knew RainCatcher had set up a temporary base of operations not far from the airport, they decided it couldn’t hurt to stop by on the way to pick up their next round of volunteers. Why not give us a chance to show them how it all works?

Both Suzanne and Whitney were lovely. Friendly, savvy and more than a little skeptical, they visited Dennis, Jack and Martha for a complete RainCatcher lesson.

From the start, they had some very good questions. You see, it’s not uncommon for groups to come in, drop off a “solution,” and move on to the next project. Because the need worldwide is so great, it’s understandable that follow-up isn’t thorough and that the original group might never even see how their “solution” works out.

Having experienced the disappointing aftermath of some incomplete water projects, Suzanne and Whitney wanted data, they wanted details. And, because old-style filters wear out, get clogged, and become useless rather quickly, they really weren’t expecting much from RainCatcher. But, it was only a little out of their way, so they arrived, politely obscuring their low expectations.

So, we gave them the whole RainCatcher show! Dennis rigged up a way to fill the bucket from a sink in the yard. Jack showed them videos on point-of-use filters as a solution and pages of documentation on how the filters not only remove anything larger than 0.1 micron but how they last for years. (For comparison, the bacteria that causes Cholera is 0.5 micron.)

Then, since they were playful and there was a lot of teasing going on, we made the water extra dirty and let the results speak for themselves. They were flabbergasted.

After that, they couldn’t wait to get RainCatcher up to the Mbale area to distribute a solution to the Ugandans they work with, live with and love.

Plans were made: We’ll travel to Mbale soon to get a program started and deliver filters. By the time Suzanne and Whitney departed we had two more partners eager to teach people how to use the filters and help us save more lives.

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