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A day in the life of a Programmes Officer...

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

Our UK Programmes Officer, Joe Hook, is currently in Bomet County, Kenya for a series of important planning workshops with local partners. We asked him to share his reflections on his return to Bomet after two years away and to diarise his work in country alongside our Kenyan colleagues.
Joe (central) alongside school students

I wake up at 7am this morning. An extra half hour's sleep would have been nice but the sun has risen and the noises of Ndanai Town have begun in earnest. Cries of street sellers, children singing, pastors intoning their sermons: time to get up. I need to visit Dig Deep's school projects today.

There's power this morning, which means a warm shower for the first time in a few days. A small feature of the day, but one that makes a big difference when you plan to be outside in the unforgiving sun. We grab a quick breakfast at the office and alongside my fellow Programme Officers, Nicky and Nelly, I set off with Benson, the contractor who's built so many of our school projects.

We've got three projects to visit today: Sosik, Kamugenyet, and Kapchemibei. They're all historic projects where we've installed Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrines and rainwater harvesting tanks. I need to check everything's functioning as it should be, and of particular interest, I want to assess our flood mitigation measures in Kamugenyet Primary school.

Above (in order): Latrines at Sosik Primary school before and after. Construction of latrines at Kapchemibei Primary school.

In December of 2019, Bomet County was hit by historically unprecedented flooding. Towns and areas on the main road tended to hold up well, but in rural areas where there was nothing to drain water off the heavy, clay soils the impact was devastating. Many schools even had to shut down for days or weeks. Ever since then we've introduced a flood assessment procedure for all new school projects. The VIP latrines in Kamugenyet were built in 2021 and I'm curious to see the measures we've put in place first hand: will they be enough?

The other challenge is adapting to Kenyan gastronomy. Wherever we go we're offered a cup of sweet tea and something to eat. I'm hungry having been outside all morning, but I've learned from experience not to finish everything I'm offered. I still want to be able to walk by the afternoon, and also that sweet tea is difficult to handle for someone who lives on black coffee back home, especially after the third cup of it.

The structural integrity of the latrines and rainwater harvesting construction is sound: well done Benson! Latrine collapse is not unheard of in Bomet County, as that aforementioned clay is wont to turn to mud after heavy rainfall, but our reinforced pit design is bearing up well.

At our next stop, we're caught in a rainstorm. We're right next to the rainwater tanks and we can see them filling up next to us. Water pours off the adjacent roof in sheets. This roof has no gutters, and instead of being caught and stored, it flows away into the playing field or is used by the children sticking their arms out of the windows to wash up the lunch dishes. The school has grown since we put tanks and toilets in, and the water supply is starting to be outstripped by the demand of 600 students; it might be time to connect up a new roof and catch that water as well.

When we get to Kamugenyet I'm excited to grill the headteacher. The drainage we've dug looks good as we walk across the field. Any floods? Nothing since 2019, phew! The new road has helped too, diverting most of the floodwater harmlessly away from the school.

Before and after of latrines at Kamugenyet school. We worked with the school as part of our Big Give Christmas Challenge in 2020, you can see their water tanks arriving here thanks to the incredible support we received during the campaign.

I'd been happy with the procedures we put in place but after 2 years away from Ndanai-Abosi, it's good to see those principles working in practice.

One more cup of sweet tea and a thank you to all the staff and kids at the school. It's been a long day, but it's great to see everything that goes into our work making an impact. As we drive back I'm playing spot-the-latrine: There's one in every household in Ndanai-Abosi ward now. Some are more modest than others, but I can see the progress that's being made, and I'm hopeful that when I'm driving down this road in ten years there will be VIP latrines in every backyard, just like the ones we've been to see in Kamugenyet.

Written by Joe Hook, Dig Deep Programmes Officer

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