An update from Well Aware community manager, Karen Kavete:
We are standing next to a 16,000-liter storage tank at Kaliini primary school watching in awe as the head teacher, Mr. Muthini supervises a contractor to replace his wooden door for a more secure metal door. All this is in preparation for the UV water treatment system that Well Aware has promised to install in the school. James, Mike and I discuss with the school leadership on how to harvest more water to last them for a year. The region has only one reliable rain season falling between October and November, we learn from Mr. Muthini. The school has only two classroom blocks that can be guttered, the rest are rusty and will not provide safe water for drinking.
Mike sees it first; the clouds are heavy with rains and he cautions we must leave. The deputy head teacher, Phyllis, needs an extra minute with James...and just like that it pours. The rains are so heavy the furthest we could run was 5 metres into the classroom being repaired. The rains are heavy, it’s like hammering on our roof. The outside becomes a bit dark. We don't talk because we cannot hear each other over the roaring rains. And for thirty minutes we sit still, us worried about being stuck in the mountains and them glad they have collected water for a month or so.
Out we go, and I'm attracted to 10,000-liter tank full and overflowing. James sees it too and we head over to it. Both amazed, he's first to stand right under it, just like in the movies. We are joined by the deputy who's sad and gloomy, not excited at all about the water flowing. For a minute I think it's an age thing like my parents would kick us out of the rains, her worry concerns me. When I probe, I learn the loss of so much water saddens her. Like other members of the community, they only rely on rain water. They do not have enough storage to tap all the rain water. "If spoons and cups could hold water, we surely would fill them too. Now we have water in plenty, but because we lack enough storage, we'll lose most of it. Just like that, we have enough for a month then we don't have for eleven months. The tanks can't last us for a year, we are likely to have an attrition in attendance as the water level drops. Most children come to school because there's food. If we have no water we cannot cook. We cannot ask them to bring water from home because we understand the struggle and some parents may not even have that little for drinking. You see, a good population has no storage relying on 20-liter jerrycans which can't last two days leave alone a year."
My joy is gone and I don't bother to translate to James what she said, a part of me knows he read something from her voice, to face and a few common words like tanks and "Maji". We leave for the van. In the van, each one is withdrawn to his thoughts while Mike drives we admire the scenery and watch the rain water flow by. James asks about increasing the storage and I'm glad he noticed. In a region with no sustainable wells, no rivers and no streams their only hope is rain which can only heal their wounds if harvested and stored to last beyond the drought. I'm left wondering, what would you do if you had massive water volumes for thirty minutes, maybe for 20 days in a year...Then you don't have it for 345 days?