The Water of Life: The difference Christian Aid week makes
As Christian Aid week 15-21st May quickly approaches, Gill Alexander Regional Coordinator for Bristol reflects on the impact donations have made on one community in Kenya.
In 2010 Christian Aid week materials focussed on a slum in Nairobi, Kenya called Matopeni. Matopeni literally means “in the mud” and there wasn’t a single working toilet there. Instead people used plastic bags or ‘flying toilets’. There was no drainage, no sanitation and no clean water. Illnesses such as typhoid, cholera, malaria and pneumonia were common. Walkways were constructed of broken planks of wood covering open drains. During the rainy season many people’s homes flooded with sewage.
Christian Aid works through local partner organisations who understand the culture and challenges and involve the community in overcoming them. In Nairobi, Chhristian Aid works through Maji Na Ufanisi (MNU) which means Water and Development.
So what has changed in a year? Thanks to your fundraising efforts MNU began working with local people in Matopeni in June to transform their environment. Having waited so long for this work to begin, the Matopeni community were keen to get involved as soon as it started - even if it meant getting their hands dirty. On 24th July 75 residents turned out in force to take part in a clean up. They helped to clean rubbish from communal areas and unblock existing channels to reduce flooding.
Just two days later on 26th July work began to construct the new drains. Men and women from the community were involved in the project as foreman, masons and labourers. With unemployment in the area high and many residents relying on casual work to feed their families, this not only allowed them to take ownership of the project but also provided a valuable source of income.
By December, work on the community’s new drains was complete along with a storm drain for the rainy season. They had constructed five feeder channels and a 650 metre main drain to carry sewage away from the settlement.MNU have also run training in health and hygiene issues to help reduce disease in the slum and leadership training.
In the new year construction began on the new toilet and shower block and by March they were onto the tiling. The shower and toilet block is fully accessible for the disabled. The final step is installing the new taps to provide clean water in the slum at various locations.
A water tank has already been installed. The storm drains have already been effective and reduced flooding and many people in the slum have commented on how life is improving already and less children are sick.
Real progress has been made in Matopeni and we want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you who have supported Christian Aid for many years and who will be helping again this year. We simply couldn’t transform people’s lives with out you. Whether you’re involved in door to door collections, you’ve made a donation or pray for our work you all make a difference.
To continue following the story of the community in Matopeni please visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk/whatwedo/matopeni-slum-project/index.aspx
Christian Aid works with people of all faiths and none is 48 countries to tackle poverty.
For more information please visit www.christianaid.org.uk
Gillian Alexander is the Regional Coordinator for Bristol and Somerset
Email galexan a_t christian-aid d_o_t org
Telephone 01454 415 923