How coronavirus is affecting the WATSAN team in Uganda

WATSAN’s trustee board is in regular contact with the staff team in Uganda. The country is in lockdown but as providers of key health-related infrastructure, our staff are still working on WATSAN projects.

The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be in its early stages in Uganda, with 55 confirmed cases at the time of writing. The Government introduced social distancing and lockdown measures in late March, and the WATSAN office was temporarily closed before our staff received special permission from the Resident District Commissioner to use the project vehicle to travel within Rukungiri and Kanungu districts to oversee projects, as long as it carries no more than three people.

Masons and engineers are exempt from the lockdown and so can continue to carry out our vital water and sanitation projects, which will support communities to be more resilient against the virus. This includes work on Buhunga gravity flow scheme, Kinyasano High School, and pit latrines at Kihihi Hill. This is on the condition that staff stay on site rather than travelling home in between working days.

Nonetheless, our Field Director Eric Baingana reports that many homes have a shortage of food, prices for domestic necessities have gone up and many people are out of work as businesses have been closed down. The trustees are working with the team to make sure none of WATSAN’s staff is in financial crisis at this time.

Staff have been given hand sanitiser and face masks to protect themselves and others, and will also be provided with some stocks of maize flour and beans to help them at home.

Eric has preached on one of FM radios in Rukungiri town in a Sunday Service on air (meeting in church buildings for worship is currently prohibited), and as part of this shared a coronavirus prayer sent to him by TearFund. He tells us: “According to the listeners of the service and my sermon in particular, we are immensely encouraged according to the messages they sent to me after the service.”

The trustees will be keeping in touch with the team and assisting them in whatever way we can in the current crisis.

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Positive fundraising news for WATSAN from many sources!

Thanks to various fantastic fundraising efforts and generous donations, WATSAN has significantly improved its financial position since the end of 2019.

When we last contacted our supporters with a newsletter in December, WATSAN’s financial situation was looking somewhat bleak. However, we are delighted to be able to share several pieces of good news, thanks to the support of our dedicated donors:

  • Emma Houghton, our WATSAN representative in Bishops Waltham, Hants, acted rapidly just before the Covid-19 lockdown to organise a very popular quiz night, which raised over £1,000 for WATSAN. Perhaps the last fun event for some time, alas…
  • Bishops Waltham Rotary Club also came up with £7,800 to alleviate the stressed water situation at Kinyasano school in Rukungiri.
  • Janet Campbell, who accompanied us on the very first WATSAN supporters’ tour back in 1997, died in late January aged 92. She and her family requested that gifts in her memory should be directed to WATSAN and a substantial sum was raised following her memorial service in March. WATSAN was represented at the memorial service by long-term supporters Tim and Margie Bushell.
  • Another faithful supporter, Joyce Currie, celebrated her 95th birthday this month with 30 birthday cards, and although now very frail, remembered WATSAN with a cheque, as she regularly does.
  • Our Patron, Bishop Andrew, used a favourite WATSAN image of a small girl in Ruhega village drawing water from a newly constructed tapstand for his 2019 Guildford Diocesan Christmas card, and donated to WATSAN the amount he would have spent on commercially produced cards.
  • Another £500 arrived from a family trust who support us from time to time.
  • An anonymous donation of £4,000 appeared from nowhere during March, for which we are extremely grateful!
  • Nykabungo school, where WATSAN has been improving both sanitation and the water supply, will shortly have sufficient water for both the school and the local village community, thanks to a gift of £2,500 from the Mary Wood Trust, initiated by Clare and Oliver Ramsden, who regularly accompany us on the Walk for Water weekends. Clare and Oliver returned recently from a visit to Uganda, which included Nykabungo, sadly cut short by the arrival of Covid 19 in Uganda.

And of course our warmest thanks to our 45 or so regular and committed supporters. Without your financial help WATSAN simply could not continue.

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Good progress on work at Kihihi Hill as project moves to final implementation

Following our fundraising appeal, we are delighted to have started making much-needed sanitation improvements at Kihihi Hill. 

At Christmas we appealed to our generous supporter base to help us get over the line at Kihihi Hill. This community was desperately in need of revived sanitation, with female pupils at the local high school sharing one squalid toilet cubicle between 64 girls. Thanks to the usual spirited response from our supporters, alongside a successful pitch at The Funding Network in London, we were able to send funds to the field and the team has completed much of the work already.

The two six-stance pit latrines that were the fundraising focus have now been constructed – one for the girls in Kihihi High School (pictured above), and one in the neighbourhood church. In their report to trustees for the first quarter of 2020, the team writes:

“This latrine consists of well aerated 6-stances of pit latrine and a changing room for girls. In addition, there is a provision for a ramp for the disabled girls, a provision for emptying the pit latrine once it fills up, a 300-litre rain water harvesting facility (tank) where girls wash their hands immediately after accessing the facility, and a front curtain wall for privacy purposes of the people using the latrine. We are happy to report that the above facility has so far been of a great help, especially in the reduction of congestion for girls accessing latrines within the school.”

Restrictions around the COVID-19 lockdown in Uganda had slowed progress on this project, and in particular this may affect their ability to carry out some of the ‘software’ (education) elements of the project. Whilst the ‘hardware’ (construction) components are still able to go ahead, the coronavirus crisis risks putting the WATSAN staff team and their projects in financial peril, for example because the cost of living is increasing and jobs within families may be very precarious.

We are therefore not resting on our laurels and are continuing to fundraise concertedly to ensure that WATSAN can supply some stability, and crucially continue to deliver water and sanitation to some of the most deprived communities in Uganda – something that will be all the more important in the present context, where awareness of and facilities for hand washing are even more critical than usual.  Our next priority water and sanitation project will therefore be announced soon, for which we will urgently need funds, alongside funding a new truck for the team on the ground.

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Students on Isle of Man advocate for WATSAN

Students from schools on the Isle of Man took part in the One World Charity Challenge, with a team from King William’s College (KWC) making a presentation about WATSAN at the Inter-School Final.

The One World Charity Challenge is an initiative sponsored by AFD Software, giving students the opportunity to speak out for people in the developing world, through creating a presentation examining the work of a charity. WATSAN was invited to be one of the charities featured, and so trustee Kate Parrinder worked with the students from KWC to share information about our work and case studies they could use for their presentation and advocacy project.

The KWC team representing WATSAN was Molly Grint, Adna Salihovic, Laora Tobelaim, Eugenia Chan, Niya Trenkova and Maria Dwyer.

In the build-up to the presentation, the students designed a special wrapper for reusable water bottles they had bought at a reduced rate. They then sold the bottles to their contacts to raise funds for WATSAN, and raise awareness amongst their peers. The label’s QR code links to the WATSAN website.

During the final, the students gave a well received presentation outlining the need, WATSAN’s project methodology and a case study from WATSAN’s project at Bwambara Hill. WATSAN congratulates them in coming fourth in the final, winning prize money of £200 for WATSAN, plus £33 raised through the sales of the bottles.

In their presentation the students argued: “Water is a life-changing resource vital to all of humanity. Without it, we become non-autonomous; no education, disease, and no dignity. Water is the difference between life and death. It is the difference between an education and being unemployed. It is everything.” We couldn’t agree more! A huge thank you to the students for their efforts on behalf of WATSAN.

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Success at The Funding Network London with nearly £10k raised for Kihihi Hill

WATSAN trustee Kate Parrinder pitched at live crowdfunding event The Funding Network in central London on 22nd January, and succeeded in raising £9,735 to help us complete the project at Kihihi Hill.

The Funding Network is the chance for four charities to deliver a timed pitch to an audience of philanthropists who are ready to give substantial sums if convinced of a project’s merits. The presenter is given a strict six-minute time limit, with a further six minutes for questions from the floor.

Alongside the three other shortlisted charities, Kate pitched for funding to finish off WATSAN’s project at Kihihi Hill, where toilet facilities were yet to be funded. The audience responded well to the pitch and during the pledging session the target for the presentation (£5,000) was smashed, with over £8,000 pledged on the night and further funds coming following the event.

Kate was ably supported by fellow trustee Graham Piper who gave a decisive two-minute sponsor’s pitch and kicked off the donations.

You can watch a video of Kate’s pitch below!