Success Built on Team Effort

A personal reflection by Rtn. Revd. Margaret Fowler

Twelve Years To An Overnight Success

It is 12 years this February 2021 since my first visit to Ciamanda Primary School, Embu County, Kenya with the Chelmsford Diocese schools link project. Christ Church and Buttsbury Junior School had joined in 2007.
Before I agreed to go in 2009, I asked what was the purpose of the trip.  No-one seemed to be able to tell me - simply that I would work it out when I got there.  At the time I was a Reader at Christ Church and was travelling as the parish representative.  Our party of about 24 teachers and parish reps visited eight different schools in Embu.

During that first week in Ciamanda, I was saddened by the many problems teachers and children faced but came home with one problem very much on my mind, a problem that we don’t have here in the UK, and that was the right of everyone to have access to a supply of clean water.  I began to talk about it to others – my church and my workplace in particular, to see what could be done to help.  

Desperate Situation

The priority was for piped water so that children no longer needed to go to the river.  We gradually achieved that with donations from the church, my workplace, and kind individuals, but over the years, the drought situation has worsened and water shortages, even piped water, have made the situation desperate once again.

I was surprised on my visit in March 2019 to discover that the children were going back to the river to fetch dirty water for drinking and cooking in school.  The polluted water made the children sick and stomach ailments became common again.

What was to be done?

After that March visit in 2019, Rotarian Malcolm Acors asked me to enquire of the Headteacher of Ciamanda Primary, Lucy Mbogo, what would be the number one priority if they could have just one major thing provided for their school.

After consulting with her leadership team Lucy swiftly came back to me – they would like a borehole, which would give the school a permanent supply of fresh clean water.  This struck a chord with Malcolm and other members who felt as I did that clean water was the right of every child.  A project to build a number of borewells in Embu schools began to take shape.

Support For Our Proposal

In March 2019, I made contact with two members of the Embu Rotary Club, Ruth and Jack Wambui.  Ruth was a former President of the Club, which met in Embu on a Wednesday evening.  I was able to visit the Club on my next visit in September, and showed members a proposal from our Club to build borewells in Embu schools. I stressed that it would need the support of the Embu Rotary Club. They agreed to consider it and let us know.

Meanwhile, funding from the Rotary Club of Billericay was sent to Ciamanda Primary to build a pilot borewell to demonstrate to other Rotary Clubs the efficacy of our project.

Lucy Mbogo doesn’t sit on her laurels when it comes to projects.  Once the money had arrived, she organised the work to be done, and the borewell was completed at Ciamanda just before Christmas 2019.

A sub-committee of Billericay Rotary Club had been formed to begin a crowd-funding process that has since successfully raised funds to build borewells in at least eight primary schools and the project is now well under way with three wells completed.

Planted 700 Trees

Lucy is now Head of Ena Primary School and that school’s borewell is also completed.  Lucy has planted 700 trees and 70 banana plants at Ena Primary because she is now confident of the water supply.  She is now Chair of the Headteachers Association for Embu Diocese and Secretary in the Mount Kenya Region for Embu and four other dioceses.

The Embu Education Secretary, Mr Jackson Ngari, and Rotary Club of Embu members visited Ena Primary School this month to formally hand over the borewell and to introduce the pupils to their Rotary Club.

Bishop David Ireri, who spoke at our Rotary Club when he visited us in September 2019, will visit each school where a well has been provided.  Jackson Ngari passed on Bishop David’s thanks to our Club for raising funding for the borewells.  

Other Projects

The many positive outcomes from this amazing project means that 2,500 – yes, 2,500! -  schoolchildren will have clean water and improved health.  Rotary Clubs in Europe have worked together and got to know one another better. And now the Embu Education Department, headteachers in Embu, and the Rotary Club of Embu have made contact with each other and will be able to work together on other projects to benefit schools in the future. 

On my first visit to Kenya in February 2009 I could never have imagined the journey that it would take me on, and also the importance of becoming a member of the Billericay Rotary Club in 2015, which has led to this very worthwhile water project being accomplished through some amazing Rotarians in Billericay and across the world.

By Revd. Margaret Fowler

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