May 18, 2015
Voss Foundation’s Program Director, Caitlin Rackish, spent over three weeks in Eastern Africa with our partners Milgis Trust in Kenya, Malaika (formerly known as the Georges Malaika Foundation) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Good Future & Hope in Uganda. While there, Caitlin visited our water, sanitation, and hygiene projects funded by Women Helping Women, Jewel’s Project Clean Water and Virgin Unite through Give A Drop, Lene Maria for Rent Vann, and Kim and Tenny Field. She saw some projects still under construction, and discussed future projects. She also took the opportunity to meet with potential partners and visit proposed project sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. Caitlin continues to report back on her trip.
2015 marks the 5-year anniversary of the completion of Voss Foundation’s first water project in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with our partner Malaika, a borehole currently outfitted with a diesel pump at the site of the Malaika School for Girls, founded by our 2010 Women Helping Women honoree, Noella Coursaris Musunka. The first borehole initially brought clean, safe drinking water to the entire community. It also provided water, the first raw material in construction, on-site during the construction phase, which enabled the school to be built.
Since the completion of the first borehole, Voss Foundation’s partnership with Malaika has grown. Malaika decided that once the school opened its doors in 2011, the first borehole should be dedicated for the sole use of the school, its kitchen, garden, and bathrooms. So Voss Foundation and Malaika drilled a second borehole outfitted with a manual pump, in the village of Kalebuka to ensure the community would not lose access to water in 2011. Voss Foundation’s Executive Director, Kara Gerson, attended the opening ceremony of the school and inaugurated the second well, funded by our Give A Drop partnership with Virgin Unite and Jewel’s Project Clean Water, on a site visit in 2011. Although we received regular updates, like photos of the queue at the pump or the school gardens in bloom, letters from the students, and e-mails that kept us informed and have allowed us to see the ripple effect of clean, safe water, Malaika did not apply to partner another project until last year. It was then that we funded two new boreholes for the community, which has grown substantially, as part of our dedicated 2014 Women Helping Women project. The two newest boreholes were completed in January of 2015, so we decided my recent trip would be an ideal time to visit Kalebuka to see the boreholes – both new and old – and spend time with the Malaika team, to learn more about how access to clean water has impacted peoples’ daily lives and the community as a whole, and discuss future projects with the community and staff.
While in Kalebuka, I spent a lot of time at both the Malaika School for Girls and the Kalebuka Football for Hope Center (KFFH). Although I’ve seen many pictures of the school and KFFH, and hear a lot about Malakia’s work from their team, the visit provided me with much better sense of the full scope of Malaika’s work on the ground, and how our projects contribute to their efforts. I had the opportunity to speak to the teachers and staff, see classes in session, learn about the student government, which includes two Ministers of Health, and even play with the girls, albeit briefly, at recess. One thing that was immediately evident is how much the girls and the dedicated staff love to come to school. Technically, my visit coincided with the Easter vacation, but Malaika opened the school for a half day, and almost all the girls chose to come to school. In every classroom I visited, I saw engaged students, excited to share what they’ve learned. At recess or at Girls Scouts, tennis, or the other Saturday morning extra-curricular activities, the girls laughed and played, supporting one another, and eager to participate. All of the staff, from the dedicated teachers to the security guards to the cooks, who prepare two meals a day for the girls, were clearly proud to be a part of the school. The same was true at (KFFH), the community center that provides education, health, entrepreneurship and sport programs to youth and adults in the village.
In addition to spending time and at the school and KFFH, I visited the boreholes, all of which are operational. I also met with with Solutions for Africa, the drilling company whom Malaika contracted for all four projects; the President and Treasurer of the water committee for the first community borehole; a group of women in a literacy class at KFFH; and the parents of all the students. (I thought I was meeting with a small committee of parents, so you can imagine my surprise I walked and found what seemed like 100 people, if not more, waiting for me! It goes to show how involved the parents are in Malaika and their children’s education.) When I met with the President and Treasurer of the first community borehole, I talked to them about topics like how the community handled financial and operational management, problems they had with the source, and how the committee resolved these problems. Not surprisingly, that borehole has required maintenance over the years, but thanks to their meticulous record-keeping, proactive measures (like monitoring use), and their routine collection of water fees, they’ve been able to pay a technician to make repairs each time. (We will share more about this in a upcoming article about maintenance and management.) In both the meeting with the parents and the small focus group with the women, we talked about how the current boreholes meet the community’s water needs, what water sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) needs remain unmet, what the community’s priorities are for future projects, and different technological options. It is clear that Voss Foundation and Malaika still have a lot of work to do with the community before everyone’s WASH needs are met! (NB: Had it not been for Elvis Nshimba, the class 3B teacher, who patiently translated for me each day, I would not have been able to conduct any of the meetings. I can’t thank him enough.)
When not in Kalebuka, I got to see some of Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga province and the second largest city in the DRC. (Kalebuka is on the outskirts of Lubumbashi.) Sebastien, Malaika’s logistics coordinator, took me to see various urban water and sanitation systems, including recycling and waste management, in Lubumbashi one morning. We spent the morning straddling sewage canals, touring a workshop where bricks are made from a mix of recycled plastic and the detritus from mineral extraction, walking through the trash dump, and checking the quality of the compost at the zoo. It was fascinating! I was also lucky enough to meet Noella’s wonderful family, try different local foods, and get a beautiful dress made by Natacha Mosakwa Bayindo’s sister, who is an incredible seamstress.
Thanks to the students and staff of Malaika, and all the members of the community who took the time to meet me, for a fantastic first visit to Kalebuka. Voss Foundation is fortunate to have Malaika as a partner, and we’re excited to work with you on future WASH projects.