Gabon

Sam Elementary School Bathroom Projects - Gabon

Sam Elementary School Bathroom Projects - Gabon

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This project is made possible through the partnership of WATER CHARITY and the NATIONAL PEACE CORPS ASSOCIATION.

John Dickson - Encore de la Paix - Gabon -  Sam Elementary BathroomsLocation
Sam, Gabon

Community Description
The village of Sam is located in the province of Woleu-Ntem in the northeast of Gabon. With roughly 500 inhabitants, the village lies at a crossroads heading to three larger towns, the closest of which is over an hour away on a poorly maintained dirt roads. Another road at the intersection, now overgrown, used to lead to Equatorial Guinea which is only 10 kilometers away. Sam lies in the full tropical rain forest with two rainy seasons from September – December and from February to May.

There are two elementary schools in the village, one in the center and another on the outskirts that serves a neighboring village as well. The small town center has 3-4 shops that sell sundries, 3 bars, a police station and a soccer field. Sam is the seat for a sous-prefeture (county district) and has a cell phone tower with a generator that runs in the evenings. There is a stream running through the village and two wells where people walk to get their water every day.

Peace Corps volunteers originally built the school on the outskirts of town in 1965, and eight Encore de la Paix (Encore) volunteers returned in 2016 to rehabilitate the Sam school on the outskirts of the village, working side-by-side with villagers to put on a new roof, add new windows and refurbish the three vacant teachers’ houses. There were three successive Peace Corps volunteers in the 1990s who completed fisheries projects, but the fish ponds are now neglected.

Sam Elementary School Bathroom Projects - GabonProblem Addressed
Water and sanitation remain a challenge for community residents in Sam. They spend an inordinate amount of time and effort procuring adequate clean water, and waterborne pathogens are endemic.

The two schools are in dire need of sanitary facilities. What the students and teachers use now are shockingly inadequate and unhygienic, and have no privacy. Teachers are reluctant to serve in villages where these health conditions exist. Girls drop out of school because of inadequate facilities, and parents look to send their children to larger towns because, despite the breaking up of the family, they have more reliable educational opportunities.

Few families have outdoor latrines for their houses. Most simply make use of clearings in the forest or tall grass. In the center of town, where there are stores and bars and a soccer field adjacent to one of the schools, there likewise are no common use facilities. This situation leads to exposed areas for human waste, with runoff reaching the streams where people wash and collect water for drinking and cooking.

In the six weeks Encore worked in Sam in 2016, they were made aware of illness from unsanitary conditions among the workers and their families. They took workers and their families to the nearby hospital for treatment of malaria and other diseases.

Sam Elementary School Bathroom Projects - GabonProject Description
This project is to construct two latrine blocks (collocated girls and boys) in the village of Sam.

The first, with two stalls will be adjacent to the larger primary school Encore repaired on the outskirts of Sam, a facility that also draws students from an adjacent village.

The second latrine will be located at a smaller school in the center of Sam, near the crossroads where market, restaurants, bars and a soccer field are located. This latrine will have three stalls as it will be accessible to the broad community.

Each facility is designed as a VIP (Ventilation Improved Pit) latrine, with separate stalls and entries. The design will incorporate a rain catchment system to provide water for a hand-cleaning station during the rainy season.

Based on previous experience in Gabon, Encore developed a design this year that will use local materials and labor to construct the two latrine blocks.

For each latrine, a pit two meters deep will be dug, taking advantage of the hard clay soil for pit walls. The two-stall latrine will be 2 x 2 meters, and the three stall latrine will measure 2 x 3.5 meters. A reinforced cement slab will be used to seal each pit that will have drop holes and foot rests designed to minimize fecal contamination. A second hole in the rear of the slab will house the VIP ventilation pipe that provides fly and odor control.

Shelter walls will be built on top of the slab using locally produced plank and beams, some of which remain from their 2016 school renovation project. A simple sloped aluminum roof will cap the shelter, with gutters attached to capture rainwater for the handwashing station. From the size of the pit, the materials of construction, and the number of students using the latrines, the lifetime is expected to exceed 20 years.

Encore volunteers from the U.S. will work side by side with the villagers.

In 2016, with the help of Water Charity, Encore returned to construct latrines in a village near Sam where they had the year prior renovated another school built by Peace Corps in 1965. As they discovered, returning to the same village with follow-on activities allows them to reconnect with members of the community who had become project partners and friends. It also enables them to check on progress and provide sustained support. For example, they found that the school and teacher house renovation efforts had resulted in an additional teacher assigned to the school and higher student attendance.

In March 2018, a group of 6-8 volunteers from Encore will return to Gabon to complete three projects. The first is to build the latrines, the second is to undertake a mosquito net distribution, and the third is to paint a world map mural on the wall of one school. The three of these combine their goals to engage the communities where they have already worked, to attend to issues of importance as they themselves have identified (education and health), and the third is to continue in tangible ways to give back to the country and its people who changed their lives when they were Peace Corps volunteers.

Encore is working closely with a returned volunteer who lives in the capitol and has extensive contacts in this region. He will be procuring the materials ahead of their arrival and contracting with the skilled labor. He is also the on-the-ground liaison with the village association, called Sam D’Abord (Sam First,) a civic association that consists of people living in Sam as well as a Sam diaspora that has moved away for work reasons. This group is instrumental in identifying local workers and volunteers as well as home hospitality for the Encore volunteers who pay their own way over to Gabon. They have been active in promoting a number of charitable projects for their community.

In addition, the principal Gabonese contact is a retired regional director for the Ministry of Health; he grew up in a nearby village where he owns a home and makes regular visits between the capital and Sam. In this way, he provides feedback on the projects we have completed and, at the same time, motivates and encourages the village residents to maintain and provide upkeep for the projects.

Project Impact
500 people will benefit from the project.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Directing Project
John Dickson, RPCV Gabon ('76-'79). John previously completed the Doumandzou Primary School Bathroom Project - Gabon

Monitoring and Maintenance
The schools will be responsible for maintaining the facilities, ensuring that there is sufficient water, and making repairs as necessary.

The school principals will coordinate with the local health staff to evaluate the impact of the facility on the health and attendance of the students.

Let Girls Learn
This project overlaps with the goals of the former Peace Corps Let Girls Learn program. Importantly, providing female students with a clean, comfortable place to meet their sanitary needs has proven effective in helping them to stay in school.

School ages vary widely in Gabon, as students enter formal education late, interrupt their schooling for a year or two before returning. This results in a wide range of students enrolled at these primary schools. There are girls who have already reached puberty sitting alongside others who are about to enter puberty and others who are far from that stage. The older girls who have lost school years face several obstacles in continuing. Not only are they embarrassed to be sitting side by side the younger girls, but the lack of facilities causes them to lose even more school.

However, new sanitary facilities can make it easier on them to continue, and they can even be enlisted to discuss sanitary practices with the younger girls. The privacy that female students currently lack, and the sanitary wash station will enable the girls who sometimes have to walk up to 2 kilometers to reach school to stay at school all day long.

Project Funding
This project has been funded by an anonymous donor. If you wish to contribute to future projects such as this in Gabon, please use the Donate button below.

 

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Doumandzou Primary School Bathroom Project - Gabon

Doumandzou Primary School Bathroom Project - Gabon

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This project is made possible through the partnership of WATER CHARITY and the NATIONAL PEACE CORPS ASSOCIATION.

Water Charity is pleased to have this be our very first project in Gabon!

Location
Doumandzou, Woleu-Ntem Province, Gabon, Central Africa

Community Description
Doumandzou is a small village of about 250 people in the Woleu-Ntem province in northwestern Gabon, about 10 miles from the border with Equatorial Guinea.  Themen at the well nearest large town is only about 45 miles away, but conditions of the road turn that distance into a 90-minute drive.  Doumandzou is in the full tropical rain forest with two rainy seasons from September to December and from February to May. The community has a self-sufficient agricultural base, with a few farmers able to sell their products to a larger market.  There is a working well and pump to provide water to the village. 

Several wealthier residents operate generators in the evenings that help power the growing use of cell phones across the entire village.  Within the past five years, a new health clinic has opened with a full-time nurse.  There are no stores to speak of in the village, but there are two small bars that operate out of two residents’ homes. 

In 1965, Peace Corps volunteers constructed a three-classroom primary school and three teachers’ houses, with two latrines, one for the teachers and one for the students.      

A group of five volunteers (including three RPCVs) lived in Doumandzou for six weeks in early 2015 as they set about repairing the primary school.  The villagers lived up to the reputation in the region for hospitality and were extremely generous and welcoming over that period.  Two residents in cement block homes provided lodging.  Villagers shared food from their gardens, and provided volunteer labor for the repair of the school. The school, along with the new-staffed health clinic, will reverse the trend of population loss.

schoolProblem Addressed
Several issues dominate the village, including isolation and economic opportunity, but two stand out for this project.  First is its loss of population.  In the past three decades, population has moved away from the village in search of jobs, but also for closer access to basic health and educational facilities. With the deteriorating condition of the school and the teachers’ houses, it was difficult to recruit and maintain teachers, and the school had been closed for as long as a year on several occasions over the past 20 years.  Parents sent their children to neighboring communities to stay with relatives in order to ensure prolonged schooling.  With the school renovations completed in February, 2015, the village was already at the start of the new school year in September.  There was an increase in the number of students, and a full-time teacher with clean, solid housing.  

The second issue is sanitation, particularly for the school.  During the 2015 school renovation, the volunteers recovered two latrines that Peace Corps Volunteers had built in 1965 that had been taken over by forest growth, one for the students and one for the teachers.  Both were structurally sound, but only the latrine for the teachers appeared to be still in use by residents, since there was a path through the forest to the doors.  The student latrine with two stalls was full and unused.   

There are no facilities at all for students.  With a couple of notable exceptions, most residents have makeshift outdoor latrines with little provision for healthy sanitation practices. 


Project Description
This project comprises the construction of two latrines for the students of Doumandzou’s newly renovated primary school, plus integrated sanitary handwashingold latrine stations. Taking advantage of simple and proven designs, the project will create latrines that are safe, convenient, easily cleaned, and odor-free. These toilets, in conjunction with the handwashing stations, will enhance and promote personal hygiene in the school and surrounding village. The two components of the project are detailed below.

Latrines: The selected technology is the well-known Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrine with construction details borrowed from a CARE design proven during the building of 1,400 latrines in Zambia. In order to assure an appropriate environment for girls and boys, two single-stall latrines will be built.  They will be separated from each other and from the school by approximately 20 meters.  For each latrine, a pit 3 m deep will be dug and lined with 10 cm cement blocks. The reinforced cement slab used to seal the pit will have a drop hole and foot rests designed to minimize fecal contamination.

A second hole in the rear of the slab will house the VIP ventilation pipe that provides fly and odor control. Shelter walls will be built on top of the slab using 10 cm block, and will include a labyrinth-style, no-hands entryway. A simple sloped aluminum roof will cap the shelter, with gutters attached to capture rainwater for the handwashing station. Based on the size of the pit, the materials of construction, and the number of students using the latrines, the facility should last 20 years.

Encore de la Paix, a social action arm for the Friends of Gabon, an affiliategroup of the National Peace Corps Association will work with the villagers to complete the project.

The villagers of Doumandzou have committed to digging the two latrine pits and making the required cement blocks prior to the arrival of the Encore de la Paix volunteers. The latrines will be sited north of the school building near the edge of the cleared school terrain.

Handwashing station: A simple station for hand washing will be constructed for each latrine. The selected technology mimics the Tippy-Tap, a simple design allowing hands-free washing. A several-liter reservoir suspended from wooden poles is tipped by foot lever to slowly dispense washing water. Bar soap is tied to the poles. School teachers will assign the task of filling the reservoir daily, and providing soap monthly, to a rotating list of students. During the rainy season, roof runoff will supply the needed water; at other times of year, assigned students will carry water to the school. While this technology is not particularly durable, the required materials are available locally, so that once the stations are demonstrated, they are likely to be maintained or rebuilt by students or villagers as needed.

Project Impact
This project will  impact 285 people directly, including 35 students yearly (with enrollment growing to 50 at times) and the 250 people of the village, who will have access.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Directing Project
John Dickson, RPCV Gabon ('76-'79)

Corp  de GardeMonitoring and Maintenance
While the school staff will be responsible for daily monitoring and maintenance of the latrines, Encore de la Paix is working closely with a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who lives in the capitol and has extensive contacts in this region.  He will be procuring the materials ahead of their arrival and contracting with the skilled labor.  He is also the on-the-ground liaison with the village association, and the parents' association from the school.  The President of the village association is a retired regional director for the Ministry of Health; he owns a home in the village and makes regular visits between the capital and Doumandzou.

Encore de la Paix will coordinate with the school principal and the health clinic nurse on follow-up activities to ensure re-supply of the water (during the brief time when school is in session during the dry season) and of materials for annual cleansing.  Regular visits by the President of the village association and annual visits by the American coordinator based in Libreville will support on-going monitoring and maintenance. The latrine will be completed before mid-April, when the American volunteers depart.

Comments
The Association of People Of The Village Doumandzou will provide community involvement. 

Encore de la Paix is a group of Gabon RPCVs, a service arm with Friends of Gabon, an affiliate group of National Peace Corps Association. John Dickson reports:

Peace Corps closed its operations in Gabon in 2005, but are The teamnow conducting an assessment with the plan to return in 2016-7.  When the group of five Encore de la Paix volunteers worked with the village of Doumandzou to repair the school earlier in 2015, we were surprised at how the villagers remembered by name the first group of Peace Corps volunteers who had built the school in 1965.  The group of seven young men had only stayed in the village for seven months to complete the school, but they left a lasting impression.  We met several graduates of this school, including the man who went on to become regional director at the Ministry of Health, another who was a parliamentarian, a policeman, as well as several who stayed in the village and recalled their school days fondly. It was not uncommon that, while we were working on the school, villagers would come by to watch, to lend a hand, or to offer produce from their gardens. 

At times, we would glance into the classrooms and catch school-age children sitting at the new desks, admiring and anticipating the day when the classrooms would be ready for use. All this reminded us of the importance of the school, and now the latrine, but also the importance of reconnecting with the Gabonese, of working and living side-by-side with our hosts, and making new friendships.

Let Girls Learn

While this is not an official Let Girls Learn project, it does fall into Water Charity's LGL+ grouping of projects that have a pronounced element involving helping girls go to, and stay in, school. 

Building latrines in Doumandzou lines up precisely with the Let Girls Learn Project in that it will provide all students, but especially girls, with a clean, comfortable place to meet their sanitary needs while continuing to stay in school.  School ages vary widely in Gabon; as students enter formal education late, interrupt their schooling for a year or two before returning.  This results in a wide range of students enrolled at this primary school. 

There are girls who have already reached puberty sitting alongside others who are about to enter puberty and others who are far from that stage.  The older girls who have lost school years face several obstacles in continuing.  Not only are they embarrassed to be sitting side by side the younger girls, but also the lack of facilities causes them to lose even more school.  However, new sanitary facilities can make it easier on them to continue, and they can even be enlisted to discuss sanitary practices with the younger girls. Finally, we hope to work with the nurse at the village clinic to provide basic instruction in sanitary practices for the school-age girls.

This project is being paid for through the support of an anonymous donor.  If you would like to see more projects like this, please donate to our Western Africa Water & Sanitation Program.

This project has been completed. To read about the conclusion CLICK HERE.

Ambassador Akutteh

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