Alex drove into a village and took away their water. The reason? Tough love.

At Kibo, we work hard all the time to build and repair wells. But sometimes the loving thing to do is to take a well away.

All of Kibo’s programs finished in the village of Kasuleta in 2015. But on the way home from a different village trip three months ago, WASH co-manager Alex Walyomu stopped by Kasuleta on a whim to see how their Kibo well was doing. As he drove up to the borehole site, his heart sank.

The borehole was filthy. Animal droppings were everywhere. Trash filled the drainage hole. He asked those gathered at the well what was wrong. Grateful to see Alex, they told him that the village’s still-active water-user committee had been begging the community to keep it clean, but to no avail.

The problem appeared to be weak leadership and accountability from the village chairman. Alex knows that without strong leadership, a borehole can fall into filth and disrepair with ease. Local leadership is absolutely essential to maintaining a well.

Alex unscrewed the head of the borehole so that nobody in the community could pump water. Far from endangering the community’s wellbeing, this merely meant that community members had to walk a little farther to go to a nearby well. Having a dirty well was a far more dangerous scenario than removing the borehole head. A well is not worth much if it spreads disease.

 
  When Alex removed the borehole head, the village took advantage of the opportunity by giving Alex money to take it to welders in town. They asked to add rings to it so that they could padlock it at night, and Alex fixed some loose bearings as a sign of good faith. Kibo encourages communities to lock their well at night for two main reasons: First, it prevents over-pumping. Second, people get into trouble at night — especially teenagers. Teenagers tell their parents they are going to get water and instead engage in illicit activities like drinking or sex. Locking the well helps parents keep an eye on their teenagers.

When Alex removed the borehole head, the village took advantage of the opportunity by giving Alex money to take it to welders in town. They asked to add rings to it so that they could padlock it at night, and Alex fixed some loose bearings as a sign of good faith. Kibo encourages communities to lock their well at night for two main reasons: First, it prevents over-pumping. Second, people get into trouble at night — especially teenagers. Teenagers tell their parents they are going to get water and instead engage in illicit activities like drinking or sex. Locking the well helps parents keep an eye on their teenagers.

 

Because Kasuleta had gone through the WASH curriculum three years prior, knowledge was not the problem. The problem was leadership and mobilization. It was therefore important for Alex to motivate the chairman and light a fire under the community to keep sanitation standards high.

 
  Every village has a hero. Hassan, the borehole caretaker, took matters into his own hands when people started using the borehole fence as firewood. Hassan stayed up all night for someone to come steal the fencing. He caught one person in the act and convened a village meeting at 1 a.m. to decide how to deal with the situation. The village bylaws dictate that anyone who steals wood from the fence has to build a new fence and pay a fine of 10,000 shillings, or about 3 dollars. Justice never rests with Hassan at the helm.

Every village has a hero. Hassan, the borehole caretaker, took matters into his own hands when people started using the borehole fence as firewood. Hassan stayed up all night for someone to come steal the fencing. He caught one person in the act and convened a village meeting at 1 a.m. to decide how to deal with the situation. The village bylaws dictate that anyone who steals wood from the fence has to build a new fence and pay a fine of 10,000 shillings, or about 3 dollars. Justice never rests with Hassan at the helm.

 

Alex returned to the village to moderate meetings between the disgruntled water-user committee and the chairman, Isabirye Bumaali. The committee was assertive with the chairman, telling him that they needed his help to maintain the well. The chairman verbalized his mistake and committed to stronger leadership in the community.

The chairman explained that he has 15 sons, and that many community members are family. He feared that assertiveness would spread discord in his family, but the committee reminded him that the health and safety of the village are more important — and are a better service to his children and grandchildren.

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Thanks to the village’s newfound commitment to healthy communication and some tough love from Alex, this story has a happy ending. After chairman Bumaali and the water-user committee worked together to raise village sanitation and hygiene standards, Alex reattached the borehole head last week.

It’s not often that a Kibo well falls into disrepair, and when it does, we’ve empowered the community to take action and fix the problem. Kibo is proud that 100 percent of its wells still function. This is largely because the WASH team and the rest of the Kibo staff stay in touch with villages to help communities work through unforeseen issues, even after programs are long finished.

 
  After reattaching the borehole head, Alex attended the funeral of a community member to show his love for the community.

After reattaching the borehole head, Alex attended the funeral of a community member to show his love for the community.

 

Relationship. Accountability. Love. Ever wonder why the Kibo Way is so sustainable? Relationship. Accountability. Love. Even after a long day of working in the village — on the drive home to see his wife and son — Alex keeps tabs on our partner communities, even when it’s above and beyond the call of duty. That’s #TheKiboWay.