It’s been a few years now since I was doing the final year of my degree and attempting to avoid writing my dissertation by reading an email that had landed in my inbox from ‘Dig Deep’ – a small water charity looking for volunteers to fundraise for and manage projects in Kenya. I liked the charity’s approach to Development – using appropriate technologies and education programmes to help local people transform their own lives – so I sent them a quick email asking for some more info. As it turned out, this 5 minutes of procrastination has had a significant impact on my life.
18 months later - after having persuaded a close friend to take on the challenge with me and juggling countless hours of fundraising with finals/full time work – I found myself living in the Kenyan bush with Dig Deep’s Maasai partners, helping to fund and manage two large scale water projects. It was unforgettable seeing first-hand the complex social and political challenges of operating in the field, as well as experiencing the serious practical obstacles to development in communities with no paved roads, no utilities of any sort and a serious - and at times surreal - wildlife presence (you never really get used to missing a meeting due to a pride of lions blocking the track).
The experience has driven me on to keep the charity growing so that we can support more and better projects. The reason I love my work is summed up in this recent video interview with Jacob. He’s a teacher at Endonyo Rinka Primary School, the school that I first worked with in Kenya over two and a half years ago. Like all of our media posts this video is very simple – we just turned the camera on and asked Jacob to describe in his own words life since the project’s completion.
What comes across is the impact that a small intervention can have. All we did was work with the school to install appropriate water technologies that are simple and cheap to maintain, as well as supporting Jacob and other staff in improving the sanitation and hygiene education available to their pupils.
The result? Students and staff no longer have to walk miles to collect water from contaminated dams shared with livestock and wild animals. This has improved the health of everyone at the school, where previously water borne diseases were taking a serious toll. Also, thanks to the hard work of Jacob and his colleagues, the student’s academic performance has increased and the school has been able to open boarding facilities, so that now over 700 children can reap the benefits of an education. In short it has made a tangible and sustainable difference to their lives.
I’m now looking forward to working with our volunteers, partners and supporters in Kenya, the UK and across the world to help hundreds more schools and communities to achieve the same success.