Quincy Rotary works to bring fresh water to Kenyans

Submitted by Quincy Rotary

Water easily flows from our household taps and hoses into our sinks, our washers and tubs, our pools, hot tubs and gardens. How many gallons of water do we each use per day? With a twist of the wrist, we Americans access water fluidly.

However, in Kenya, water flow is not as efficient; it must be lugged over miles of arid terrain to reach villages. Most water is lugged by young girls. The girls rise early in the morning to fetch firewood to build fires. After they forage for fuel, the girls set out to find water to port back to their village in jugs. The often-putrid water sources are shared with wild animals, tape worms, brain eating amoeba, harmful bacteria and a host of other dangerous entities. The girls must then boil the water before using it to cook, or clean, or drink. The girls in villages are the foragers, fetching wood and water miles from their homes while the boys go to school.  Up until recently, the girls had little time to attend to their education.

Enter Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald, a Ph.D. in Engineering, with a strong background in hydrology. In 2004, Dr. Fitzgerald was leading University of Nevada, Reno graduate students to Kenya to work on water projects. She was looking for sponsors and Quincy Rotary was interested. Eighteen years ago, Quincy Rotary was seeking a meaningful international project to satisfy one of the 7 areas of focus of Rotary International. Those areas are promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and protecting the environment. Dr. Fitzgerald’s project fit the bill.

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Over the past 18 years, Dr. Fitzgerald, with Quincy Rotary’s financial support, has been leading teams to locate suitable drilling sites, drilling water wells by hand, and installing low tech pump systems in Kenyan villages. Typically, well sites are placed in village squares for communal use, school sites and medical facilities. The wells are low tech for simplicity and availability of replacement parts, but also to keep the costs manageable. In 2022, a completed well costs $2750. This year, Quincy Rotary has donated $1,000 towards the well project, seeking additional pledges to cover the full amount.

These wells free Kenyan girls from the burden of foraging for firewood and hauling water for miles, allowing them time to spend in a classroom, becoming educated alongside boys. Dr. Fitzgerald was able to convince village elders that if additional classrooms are built and instructors located, girls will be able to stay in school until they are eighteen, instead of being married off by twelve.

Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Fitzgerald trained a team of local well drillers who could be more self-directed. The team has managed to drill four wells from 2020 to 2021. Two additional wells were drilled this past 2022 summer, with funding coming from Dr. Fitzgerald herself.

How many gallons do Americans use per day? Individually we use roughly 101.5 gallons. We should consider ourselves privileged that we have water at our fingertips. We also might consider giving to others who don’t share our privilege. A simple, low-tech water well in Kenya at $2750 is relatively low-cost and brings innumerable benefits. Quincy Rotary has found a focus by not only providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, but, through Dr. Fitzgerald’s Well Project, our Rotary also is able to fight disease, save mothers and children, support education, grow local economies, protect the environment, all which leads to promoting peace.

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Those who would like more information or to contribute can contact Jim Boland at [email protected]