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By Kerry-Ann Hamilton
University News
December 28, 2010

Maji uhai – Water is Life

Maji uhai – Water is Life
L-R Mark Kurgat, a Choimim resident, Aleah Holt, a sophomore chemical engineering major, and Kristina Banks, a senior Systems and Computer Science, repair piping on a water tank at the Build the Village orphanage.
A delegation from the Howard University Chapter of Engineers Without Borders recently returned from Choimim, a small village 200 miles from Nairobi, Kenya, where they are helping design a water solution for a community without electricity or running water.

Immediately after their final exams, the four students in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences took the 8,000-mile journey to continue the work they began in 2009. EWB-HU is partnering with Build the Village (BTV), a local organization led by James Esendi, the pastor of the local church and the acting director of the Kenya Build a Village project.

The Kenya student team included three chemical engineering students - Bianca Bailey, a senior and president of EWB-HU; Tena Hunter, a senior and

Kenya team leader, Aleah Holt, a sophomore and Rain Water Storage Analysis leader and Kristina Banks, a senior Systems and Computer Science major who served as Water Alternative Analysis leader.

“At 19, traveling to Kenya was a life changing experience for me,” Holt said. We were able to gain a lot of data from the water samples and keen insight from the people. However, I valued the opportunity to learn and experience a different culture. They made us feel so welcomed and at home.”

The five-year year commitment is a multi-pronged effort to bring solutions to a critical area of need – maji (water in Swahili).The partnership, which is now in year three, will result in the development and implementation of water sourcing solutions in order to help the community become sustainable in all its water needs. Faculty advisor John Tharakan, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and mentor and water expert Kenneth Ludwa, a professional engineer, accompanied the team.

“The EWB-HU students conducted a very successful assessment site visit
to the Choimim community,” Tharakan said. “The students were able to tie together theory and practice in the field to enhance and solidify their learning.”

The focus of the trip was to gather important water samples, analysis and assessments to determine usability and alternative water resources, including river water, well water and rain water storage capture. The team demonstrated to members of the community how to test different water quality factors including pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and E. Coli/Coliform counts.

The Howard contingent also met with community elders, the head pastor of BTV and community members of Nandi Hills to conduct needs assessments and share preliminary findings and recommendations. The team also had the opportunity to interact with Kenyan government officials representing health, safety and education.

When the EWB-HU team returns to campus they plan to finalize designs for the water solution, which tentatively involves enhanced rainwater harvesting.

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