Since 2004, EWB@ MSU's professional and student volunteers have worked with community members in Khwisero, Kenya to provide water and sanitation infrastructure at the district's 62 primary schools, making it easier for Khwisero's children and community to avoid waterborne disease and to get an education.
In that time, the group has grown from a small club to one of MSU's premier student organizations, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund over 30 water and sanitation project.
It all began with Ronald Omyonga, an architect originally from Khwisero. In 2004 EWB-USA paired the newly formed Montana State University Chapter with Ronald's project application. The original scope of the project was to:
"The project is to help construct 5 pairs of improved toilets in each of the 56 primary schools in Khwisero Division, which currently lack proper sanitation facilities. It will also construct boreholes and fit them with photovoltaic water pumping systems in each of the 56 schools to supply potable water to the surrounding communities and students who now travel over 5 km to the water points. Lack of toilets in schools has resulted in many waterborne diseases and in some cases deaths due to students falling in pit latrines."
In Dectember of 2004 MSU students traveled to Khwisero for the first time, with the purpose of conducting site assessments at Shirali and Munyanza primary school. Upon their return from Khwisero EWB@MSU members began fundraising to implement a borehole well at Shirali primary school. In spring 2006 after many fundraising efforts including a spaghetti fundraiser that earned less than $10, a door to door campaign in Bozeman, and a grant from the Gilhousen foundation this ragtag group of students had raised enough to return to and implement the project at Shirali Primary School.
Around this time the club's membership began to increase dramatically and in turn its scope began to expand. The club began to implement other water and Sanitation projects in the Khwisero region. Also in 2008 EWB@MSU formed a Kenyan board. After completing their initial goal of ranking all schools for receiving projects based off of need, the board became an advisory group to EWB@MSU. In 2008 EWB@MSU also held the first of many Clean Water for Kenya Jubilee's gaining $30,000 in the inaugural year.
2008 also saw the implementation of boreholes at Emwaniro, Ebuhonga, and Ikomero primary schools. In addition, "The Water Carriers," an award winning film chronicalling the implementation of a borehole well in Khwisero, and the interaction of EWB with individuals in the community.
If you are interested in viewing the water carriers it can be viewed on Vimeo in three parts.
2009 brought two significant events for EWB@MSU. Ronald came to Bozeman for an extended visit, and helped the club to successfully host an EWB-USA conference. Additionally the club received EWB-USA's "Premier Chapter Award", a sign of the club's excellence in organization, fundraising efforts, and chapter and regional participation. On the Kenya front EWB@MSU continued to expand their operations as they brought in Jackson Nashitaka as their new program coordinator, implemented a biogas latrine, and conducted their first household surveys to learn more about Khwisero and EWB@MSU's impact on the region.
2010 lead to further expansion on how EWB@MSU would fufill Ronald's vision. Assessment began for the chapter's first distributed water system, the M.E.M. pipeline project. In addition, a borehole well was installed at Elwangale, and large composting latrines were added to Elwangale and Ebushibungo. EWB@MSU further expanded on the bredth of project types available by working with Ebukwala Primary to develop an eyeglass clinic. Partnerships with local NGOs were also formed.
2011 lead to another short film - "Meet Me Katikati" highlighting the work the chapter has done, the partnerships we have created, and the ideology behind our approach. 2011 was a very productive summer for the chapter. The chapter's first rainwater catchment system (RWCS) was installed at Ekatsombero Primary school. This is in addition to four composting latrines being added to Emwiru, Mushikongolo, Mushiangubu and Ebukwala, as well as the construction of the first phase of the M.E.M. Pipeline project.
In 2013, the club took a turn towards more long-term success and community ownership of projects. First, EWB@MSU started working with health and sanitation teachers, hoping to have members of the school teach students and the community the benefits of sanitation and how to properly use our projects. Secondly, the chapter began sending assessment teams one year prior to implementation trips in the hope of better determining the problems communities face, and how to best fix them.
Back in Bozeman, EWB@MSU hosts the EWB Mountain Regional Conference and invites Ronald to be the keynote speaker.
2014 sends assessment teams to Buhili and Emulole to assess for sanitation and water, respectively. EWB@MSU also runs into a hiccup at Munjiti when news spreads that our borehole well did not reach water. In lieu of a well, a rainwater catchment system was implemented at Munjiti in 2015.
2016 proved to be an eventful year in Khwisero. After a change of plans for the sanitation squad, they assessed at Elwangale for a new sanitation project, after their old project was condemned due to structural problems. The other assessment team assessed for water projects at Ebukwala and Ekambuli primary schools, with the latter being the potential recipient of a renovated water distribution system. The implementation teams worked again with Haikal Investments to install two borehole wells at Eshikhungula and Eshibingha primary schools.
The summer trip also lead to another large change in EWB@MSU's relationship with project recipients. The chapter, under the recommendation of EWB-USA, now requires communities to contribute 10% of the construction costs in in cash before implementation begins. This is in the hope of furthering community buy in of projects, and to prove to EWB@MSU that the community will have the funds to cover operation and maintanance expenses in the future.
2020 - 2021 provided a unique set of challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout this time, student leadership worked hard to adapt our club to remote operations. Our communications with M-Koko strengthened significantly over this time due to the prevalence of remote communications. The club did not travel to Khwisero the summer of 2019 or 2020 EWB@MSU was one of the few clubs to maintain numbers and stamina throughout the covid-19 pandemic. Committees continued working on existing projects and sanitation entered an era of project re-evaluation.
Throughout 2022 EWB@MSU began to gain speed coming out of the covid-19 pandemic. We hosted our first 5k and Jubilee since 2019 as well as traveled again over the summer. The club worked hard to re-establish knowledge transfer protocols and re-learn lost knowledge due to the pandemic. The club began actively working to diversify the background of our student members to create a stronger orginaization with non-engineers as well.
EWB@MSU is preparing to implement a structures project, assess for sanitation projects, and continue planning for a water distribution pipeline over the summer of 2023