We Recently Completed an Epic Journey Across the U.S. to Raise Money for Clean Water for Kids in Homabay, Kenya
The project will drill borehole wells at Rawinji and St Charles Kauko Primary Schools to serve the students and the surrounding communities and improve sanitation in the two schools by providing new toilets and hand wash areas.
On May 21, 2022, we left our very comfortable home in Alameda CA and set out on what for us would be a multi-month, epic adventure. Our plan was for me, Phil Holt, to pedal my bike more than 4,000 miles from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. My incredibly wonderful wife, Cynthia, would drive a small motor home to support me.
One purpose of this challenging endeavor would be to satisfy our continuing need, which had lay dormant for too long, for an occasional, more than average, adventure.
A more important purpose would be to raise money for a project sponsored by a credible nonprofit organization that would help solve a crucial community service need – a survival need — in a region where the resources for dealing with the need were not readily available. All money raised would go toward the specific project (and none to us or the nonprofit itself).
As a former Navy SEAL (BUD/S Training Class 47E: UDT 22), I knew I had the mental fortitude for this ride. But would my 76-year-old body, with its arthritic joints, endure? There was only one way to find out. Cynthia and I decided that if we were going to do this, we needed to do it while we are still young!
And so, after considerable research, planning and preparation, the journey began.
The General Problem
“Water is Life”. Obviously, this is not a hyperbolic statement. More and more places in the world are experiencing crisis-level forms of clean water poverty. It is estimated that 1.1 billion people do not have reasonable access to consumable water, free of harmful contaminants. A much more disturbing fact is that more than ten million people die annually from water borne illnesses. Ninety percent of these preventable deaths are children less than 5 years old. In addition to this tragic outcome, another element to this problem is that millions of people miss education and other opportunities because they have to spend so much time each day searching for and hauling water, often from distant sources. And in many places this lost opportunity falls primarily on women and girls because they are often tasked with keeping their families supplied with water.
The Specific Problem
After considerable research Cynthia and I have decided to support a clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project in Africa. It has all the elements we were looking for: a very experienced, highly credible nonprofit sponsor (Rotary Club); local input, buy-in and ongoing support; a realistic, well-thought-out, cost-effective plan and budget; accountability; transparency; and sustainability.
The project location is at two primary schools with a total student body of about 1,400 boys & girls (about 650 girls & 750 boys) in the village of Homabay, Kenya. The schools have only 4 crude pit toilets and no nearby handwashing facilities. Besides benefitting the schools the project will also make clean water available for the surrounding communities of several thousand residents. See Project Summary (PDF)
There are several viable solutions to water contamination problems, such as: filtration (membrane, ceramic, bio-sand, personal water straws, etc.); chlorination; rain water harvesting; desalination; waste water recycling, well-drilling, etc., depending on the local conditions.
Project specific solution:
After diligent research, including geological testing and local input it has been decided that, for this specific project, borehole drilling and the construction of several improved toilet facilities and hand washing stations would be the optimal solution, plus ongoing training regarding sanitation and hygiene.
Our planned route took us zig-zagging across the mostly rural parts of the northern states. The plan included taking about 2 days off per week for us to spend some time together and for me to try to keep up with my business back home (thank you to my team for helping to keep things on an even keel). We reached our final destination of Portland, Maine, in about four months. I pedaled my bike 4,331 miles (standard bike – no electric assist for this kid!). I had 30 mile days and 100+ days (average 58) depending on many factors.