Public Washrooms Project
On our visit to Kenya in January 2020 our local partners presented us with an idea to build a much-needed public washrooms building (showers and latrines) in the Kibera slum. They had already established themselves as a Community Based Organisation (CBO) to manage the micro-enterprise loan scheme and were looking to expand what they could do to improve living standards for the slum community.
Given an initially tentative green light, there followed a huge amount of hard work by our local partners in exploring options and checking legalities plus a number of generous donations from the UK and beyond, some of which were donated via Living Waters Social Enterprises charity whom we partner with. Then in November 2020, our local committee was able to buy a suitable piece of land, build a caretaker's house, and secure the site with fencing to keep it safe so the building work could begin.
Since then, progress has not always been easy, with a number of local and cultural challenges to overcome, and not a little opposition, but we're delighted to report progress.
"Can you help us build a washrooms, with a library/community room on top, and a children's daycare centre?"
Purchase of a piece of land on the slum. 27' x 63', enough for a washroom and a childcare centre.
Initial plans drawn up. Four shower and six toilet cubicles, plus handwashing and clothes washing facilities.
The site has been cleared, the boundary re-secured (some of the fence panels were stolen) and the caretaker's house built.
Work on the washrooms building begins on the ground.
Concrete and stone foundations to provide a secure basis for the stone walls and reinforced concrete roof to come.
All building materials need to be carried to the site by hand. There are no access roads, just narrow, uneven passageways between the shacks.
The concrete floor is down and the walls and re-inforced pillars are under way to give an impression of how the layout will work. Separate sides for male and female.
Not everyone wants to see the project succeed. Opposition has been delivered more than once through personal threats and even malicious vandalism of our foreman's own business.
The ground floor walls are in place and preparations complete in readiness for the concrete for the roof / first floor.
Laying the concrete in one day was no mean feat. Everything needed to be mixed by hand and then carried (by hand) up to the roof level to be poured and vibrated.
With the roof slab set and the temporary shuttering removed the next step was to secure the structure from occupation by squatters. Now attention will turn to internal fitting-out.
A great deal of attention is paid to the rendering of the indoor spaces so they will be hard-wearing and practical. They need to withstand high volumes of traffic and at the same time be easy to clean and maintain.
Despite seasonal rains, work has continued on the external finish of the washrooms building.
Clearing the site
Engaging local children to help clear debris from the site while the internal decoration continues. They are happy to work for a good meal each.
Finding an appropriate route through the slum for the sewer pipe and "negotiating" with the local "youth" was not without its challenges.
The inconsistency of water supply means that the washrooms require a 10,000 litre tank to operate on a daily basis. Its purchase was relatively straightforward, but getting it to site was a whole lot more problematic.
Even though the washrooms aren't (quite) ready to open, the space is already becoming a focus for the local community, with a few casual traders selling their wares (avocados and shoes).
This month has mainly been about addressing outstanding problems like power supply issues, intermittent water pressure, and fly-tipping around the perimeter. One by one they have been resolved and ticked off the list.
Open for business
It has been a rollercoaster of a journey, with highs and lows and many challenges along the way, but with our new manager (Mary) in place, the washrooms are now open for use by the local community.
Levelling the courtyard
Kicking off the next phase of development by clearing and leveling the remainder of the site in preparation for a perimeter wall and gates. Not only will this make the facility more secure, but the walls will in time provide the basis of further rooms for community activities.
The perimeter wall and the gates are now in place securing the space for future development. Accessible when the washrooms are open, it already provides a relatively safe place in which neighbouring children play.