The Woni Witu self-help group was set up in 2014 by members of a rural community in Kenya, motivated by a desire to find a solution to daily struggles they faced due to a lack of access to clean water. Through partnering with Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF) and Sand Dams Worldwide (formerly Excellent Development), their achievements include building four sand dams and three shallow wells, made possible through generous funding from the Isle of Man Government. We met with group member and mother of two, Faith Mwende Mbevi, 29, to discuss the life-changing impact this has bestowed upon the community.

Before the constructions, the nearest water supply was from River Athi - roughly a five hour walk away. Every day at 6am a family member, usually a woman, would begin the laborious journey to fetch water for the day. With only four 20 litre jerry cans and competition from surrounding areas and livestock, it was never enough. Now clean water is provided nearby, and can be fetched whenever needed. With more time and water community members can plant trees, make bricks and wash clothes daily, adding increased wealth and dignity to people’s lives.

Another prior concern was the severe health implications that came from drinking contaminated water from River Athi, which was green in colour and tasted like it had been used to wash fish. Faith says, “We used to experience a lot of sicknesses, especially through waterborne diseases and diarrhoea was prevalent’ and ‘there would be a lot of complaints from both children and their parents. I had to stop working for my kids because I am sick, so that affected them and a lot of other things in the household.”

"I had to stop working for my kids because I am sick, so that affected them and a lot of other things in the household."

Furthermore, sickness never affected only one person. The community suffered the emotional and physical impact of tending to those stricken by waterborne diseases. "If it went unchecked it could lead to death, and in the community we lost some people as a result of that - it made me feel troubled,” says Faith.

Fast forward to 2018, Faith highlights sweeping health improvements, stating “cases of sicknesses as a result of waterborne diseases dropped drastically. Our children stopped missing school, and we as parents can now attend to all the duties at our households and anything else we are involved in.”

She emphasises the value of persevering through uncertain beginnings, explaining that “those who are not in the group for a long time regret why they never joined earlier, because they can see the benefits that we are now enjoying.” When asked how the community feels towards the impact of these achievements, she simply says, “We feel contented, we feel we now have what was missing.”

Evidently, many problems from the past no longer remain, as the project’s achievements have provided the community with the time, opportunity and resources required for more prosperity and enjoyment.

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