New Canaan, Kenya

The Story of a New Era in New Canaan

New Canaan is home to 6,000 people and was originally a settlement for displaced persons (IDP’s) resulting from conflict and violence that arose after the 2007 elections in Kenya.

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The community previously suffered from a high percentage of unemployment, and due to a lack of funds, many youths were stranded at home because they could not afford college or high school. Additionally, after the violent clashes of the elections, many women lost their husbands, leaving many mothers to take care of their homes single-handedly. In other families, only the very young children and grandparents survived. These homes face even greater financial difficulties – mostly relying on donations and goodwill for survival. When we met them, the community was also suffering greatly from a lack of clean water access.

Previously, a piped water project had been installed in New Canaan in 2009 by the government. However, conflict arose between the two communities within New Canaan, “Molo” and “Makongeni,” over the project’s leadership. This chaos led to mismanagement of the water system and resulted in an accumulated water bill of almost 3M Kenyan Shillings (~$30,000 USD) which the residents could not pay. The water was subsequently cut off, and New Canaan was then forced to travel 1 km to fetch free water or buy water at a cost of 5 shillings from the nearest vendor (which is an hour walk roundtrip). After that, not only was water difficult to come by and unaffordable, but the community in New Canaan did not typically treat or boil their water.

This all ended a few years ago when Well Aware drilled a new clean water well for New Canaan in early 2019, and the start of a new era began.

Not only do they now have access to clean, reliable water, but they also have ownership of this project and will finally have a say in the management of their own water, unlike what happened with the previous government water project.

As we drilled the new well, our team talked with many community members about water’s effect on their lives.

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One of them was a woman named Anne who was 27 years old with two children (including Esther pictured here). She had a very hard life before coming to live in New Canaan and still struggles every day to feed her children and keep them healthy. Anne was always the first one at the drill site watching and the last one to leave at the end of the day. She knows the clean water from the new well will be a turning point in life for her and her children, and she was not shy in expressing her gratitude to the Well Aware team.

Since then, Anne and New Canaan have begun to thrive.

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When asked what water means to him, John, a father of two and a member of the community since 2005, shared:

“My whole life and livelihood is dependent on water, without water everything stands still. Furthermore, I am a mason hence without water I have no job. But, this well has helped me fetch more water, have more time to rest after coming from work, and has improved the sanitation level in my home.”

As John mentioned, in addition to having access to a reliable water supply to drink from, a great improvement in the hygiene and sanitation of the community was found during Well Aware’s impact measurement survey in 2021. 

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Kids laugh and walk though runoff from well drill

There has been a 40% increase in the number of households owning and using latrines for excreta disposal. Further, 79% of households now treat their water and store it separately, a practice that was uncommon before the water well. Diseases rates have decreased by 23% with fewer people experiencing waterborne diseases. This could be attributed to more homes practicing hand washing and having a form of handwashing technique in their homes, in addition to the reduction of waterborne disease.

Thanks to all of the positive changes surrounding the well, New Canaan’s population has grown, with people from surrounding towns moving in because of the water. Local leadership is now looking to expand its current water system to accommodate the growing community.

This new water system will continue to help New Canaan thrive in more ways than the community could have imagined before, and we cannot wait to watch this transformation continue to unfold.

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