Intern Returns to His Roots and Faces the Shocking Reality of Rural Sanitation
Boke (pronounced Bow-kay) just completed his summer internship with Nuru-Kenya. A lot of Boke’s classmates did their internships in Nairobi near their university, but Boke chose to forgo city life for a few months and make the 8-hour journey to Kuria to do his internship with Nuru-Kenya, which is led by his father Philip Masero Mohochi. Boke quickly adjusted to the rural lifestyle of Kurialand and was an instant hit with the Nuru staff. He rotated through all of Nuru’s five program areas during his time in Kuria and learned a lot, but he told me he was shocked most by what he learned from our water and sanitation program team…
My name is Boke Beatus. I was born in Nairobi and raised in city life but my parents moved out to the country side in Isibania, Kuria. Two years ago I would not accept to work in the countryside or live in the countryside either. Later on my perception in life changed and I started liking the country life. Although the countryside lacks some facilities and infrastructure when compared to a city like Nairobi, the people are so friendly and you get to know your relatives and culture too. The environment here is not polluted as such and the landscape is marvelous. Life in Isibania is relatively cheap compared to life in Nairobi. The countryside also lacks the hustle of dealing with traffic jams every day. All these benefits of Isibania, when compared to Nairobi, sums it up that I was comfortable living in Isibania and working in Nuru International as an intern.
I worked for Nuru International in various departments such as community economic development, healthcare, water and sanitation, agriculture and education for two and a half months. I am going to concentrate on my experience in the water and sanitation department.
Before I worked in the water and sanitation department, I was really curious what goes on in this department. I got to understand that this department teaches the Kuria community on importance of washing hands with soap especially before eating and after using a sanitation facility [toilet]. I come from Nairobi and I thought everyone would know the importance of washing hands but I was surprised to know that in the remote areas in Kuria people do not wash hands that often.
Speaking of sanitation, not so many people have latrines in the remote areas in Kuria. So I wondered how they disposed of feces if they do not have latrines. I was shocked to be told by the two field managers of water and sanitation that some people defecate on the river. I was so quick to judge by saying that it is silly to defecate on the river. Nelson Mandela once said do not judge before you understand, so I sought to understand the reason as to why one would defecate on the river. One of the field managers called Elizabeth told me that she has even busted one of the villagers defecating on the river; she asked that villager why he would such a thing. The villager informed Elizabeth that there was nothing wrong doing so because by the time the feces moves downstream it will have dissolved and the water would be clean again. And I understood that the problem in the remote villages is lack of knowledge, that is to say few people are educated. No wonder that villager would have such a unique attitude on sanitation.
In addition, I even got to learn that some people use rocks as tissue paper after defecating. I was shocked because I could not imagine how a rock would be effective. I was shocked though to be informed that some use their own hand in wiping themselves after defecating and some even do not wash their hands after such an act. This information made to really fear shaking hands with people but I came to the conclusion that washing my hands regularly is the only assurance that my hands would be always clean.
I also attended one of the meetings of all field officers of water and sanitation department. The meeting was run by using technique facilitation. The program manager of water and sanitation who is called Nicole is the one who told me about facilitation technique. It is a technique that the program manager uses in her department which is all about letting the people decide for themselves what they want to do but with a supervisor who only gives the direction. In this way the subordinates would be comfortable working because they are working and implementing their own agreed ideas instead of the ideas their leader imposed on them. That is why I realized the water and sanitation department works in team work as one. I would say facilitation is a very effective technique.
Boke didn’t only learn from the water and sanitation program team: he also taught our field managers and field officers a few key principles about marketing. And, Boke did a splendid job using the facilitation technique he witnessed at work in our program. During his marketing discussion with our staff he asked great questions which sparked rich discussions about how we might continue to improve our handwashing station sales (and set up a successful latrine building service). Boke graduated from United States International University of Africa in Nairobi, Kenya with an International Relations degree on August 20th. Congratulations, Boke! We miss you already!