February 27, 2015
At Voss Foundation, we pride ourselves on transparency, which is why we feel it is so important to share the following story:
We recently learned that one of the solar panels was stolen from our water system in Swari, Voss Foundation’s first Women Helping Women project, with Milgis Trust in the Samburu District of Kenya. The thieves cut through the angle iron of the stand and slipped the panel out. (NB: To cut through angle iron requires hard work, and may have taken several days.)
Fortunately, the system continued to pump water to the village standpipe, the school, and the health center with the remaining panels. Nevertheless, the Milgis Trust team went to Swari immediately after they found out, to assess the situation and make repairs to prevent the loss of additional solar panels.
Alana, one of Milgis Trust’s staff, welded the cut so no more panels could be removed from the stand. They also put in stops to secure the other panels in place. The repairs are temporary, but will allow the system to continue to function.
According to Milgs founder Helen Douglas-Dufrense, the theft angered the community. They dismissed the water watchman, who is employed to protect the pump and the solar panels, and replaced him with another member of the community. The community also agreed to raise funds for a replacement panel. Lesoloyia and Lazaro, Milgis Trust’s Ground Manager and Water Coordinator, met with members of the community, and it was decided that the school will take over the management of the water system in Swari.
As sad as we are about the theft, we are very pleased with the response of the community and of our partner. The experience reminds us that sustainable access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) starts before implementation and continues after construction or rehabilitation is completed. It is important that we continue to monitor all of our projects, and work with partners who have a long-term presence in the regions, to ensure sustainability. We only know of this because Milgis Trust continues to monitor the status of all of our projects and reports back to us, whether the news is good or bad. It is of utmost importance to us to have partners like Milgis Trust that not only value transparency, alerting us to challenges as they arise, but have the experience and capacity to positively respond.
Not only does Milgis Trust have a full-time Water Coordinator who visits the projects regularly, they also send their scouts round to check the projects. Thanks to their commitment to monitoring, we are lucky to catch relatively minor issues, like the theft of the solar panel, and respond appropriately before they became serious!