Tuesday, 27 January 2015

#justwater January

So, its been a long time since my last post and I thought it was high time for an update on my post Uganda activities.
Since my last post I have been on the radio with one of my fellow supporters. The interview was with the legendary Danny Pike on BBC Sussex on 22nd December. The link has been taken down from BBC's website now but I'm working on making this available to listen to. 

On 15th January we had a debriefing day in London, it was so good to catch up with most of the gang from the trip and it bought so many memories flooding back, it also made me more determined than ever to make a difference.

For the whole of January I have given up all drinks except for water, thats been particularly hard as a fiend for coffee, and I have really struggled, especially in the mornings, I only have 5 days left now but I am still going strong, and to dat I have raised £227 for WaterAid (exc giftaid).

What has amazed me most about this challenge is just how much water you drink during a day. It made me think back to being back in uganda in the heat of the sun, while I was there, despite drinking loads of water myself, I cant actually recall seeing a single villager or school shild drinking water. The children are sent to school without water, and here I am making a big deal about only drinking water for a month. But at least I have helped 15 people get access to water that wouldnt have otherwise.
I've also signed up to the London to Brighton on 21st June, and the WatrAid mountain challenge on the 5th of June. Me and a team of 7 others will be climbing Dove Crag in the Lake District

The last update I have is a short video. The team at Southern Water niftly edited WaterAids footage in to this fantastic video which I wanted to share with you.
Thanks for continuing to read, if you want to donate then you can do so via my Just Giving page.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

More media coverage.

Hi all.

Its not going to be a long blog but I wanted to keep you updated with the media outputs from the trip, The media team at WaterAid have done a great job producing Videos and photos to sell into local media and they have been really successful getting these picked up. Not just for me but for all the supporters. This is brilliant news and helps to get WaterAids message to an even bigger audience. So well done (and a massive thank you) Lisa, Tadg and Eliza at WaterAid!

Below is a link to see the peice that ITV in my region did about Sophie and I in Uganda. Many people have seen it and I got some great feedback,I've also put below a link to the full VNR, I just wanted to share my interviews, although I look awful and I'm not great at thinking on my feet, there are some honest real interviews with me while I am in Uganda, which it is useful seeing and adds another perspective. Hope you enjoy

ITV footage

WaterAid VNR

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Newspaper print

Well.... for anyone still reading my blog you are probably wondering why I'm still writing it. The answer...I want to keep it updated because although the trip has finished, WaterAids work hasn't, and neither has my contribution. I want to keep people updated with what I am doing and also use it to track what I have done. 

So since I last posted Southern Water had their xmas ball which raised money for three charities, one of which was WaterAid. All of th money raised for WaterAid is going direct to Uganda, so for me it was amazing to think that £25,666 (give or take) will go directly to the country programme team that we visited and will help them help some of the communities we spent time in.... Amazing. Hopefully Aguti Agnes and her family are one step closer to that much needed water supply! Ojalai village is school is one step closer to some new toilets, etc etc. My colleagues who arranged the ball did a fantastic job but for me, as an attendee, it was difficult sitting there, eating amazing food with an endless supply of water, (and wine) trying to think back to just two weeks before when I walked through the Kampala Slums. What a different world! But well done Laura and Anita for arranging it, fantastic!

Today I had an article published in the Littlehampton Gazette....massive news I know haha, but even if a few people in Littlehampton read about the trip and read this blog, they may not have otherwise thought about WaterAid, so that will be success indeed. Even more exciting, myself and Sophie from the Environment Agency have been invited to talk to Danny Pike (ironically he was compere at the ball) on BBC Sussex on 22 December. I'm really excited about this, and I am sure Sophie is too.

So that's it really from me, I just wanted to share a few more pictures from the trip I didn't have before. I still have some plans to raise money and awareness next year, which is a big reason why I want to keep this blog going.

Thanks for reading, and don't forget if you want to get involved or you want to hear more about my trip, please get in touch with me.


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Back Home

"While the years are still on my side, my back is strong, my eyes are wide, 
I want the work I do to be a bigger point of pride."

So.... I've been back from Uganda for over a week now and I thought that its high time I wrote a blog entry. I had been thinking about letting the blog go but my press officer reminded me to today that travelling to Uganda was really only the start of the trip. 

See the thing is, travelling to Uganda was such a great experience, not just meeting the communities who are helped by Water Aids work, but seeing the hard work the WaterAid Uganda team, and their partners put in every day to make Uganda a safer and healthier country. Coming home and thinking that that is the end of the trip and the end of the blog is wrong. I have seen how WaterAid work and its fantastic, this needs to be shared with others to inspire and motivate. 

I had so many nice comments from people reading my blog, and so loads of people wanting to get involved, so I am going to use this blog to share what I WaterAid are up to, and how I am going to help raise money and awareness. Infact, if I didn't have to worry about looking after my family and paying off  a mortgage then I would probably ditch work and do something I can be proud of. 

Coming home has been a bit of a struggle, its great to see loved ones again but I have been at a bit of a loss, questioning lots. I wrote this in two blog posts that I ended up deleting because they sounded like mine was a high horse, thats not what I intended. But in honesty with people fighting over TV's on Black Friday (they probably already have 3 anyway), and hearing people moan about trains being late and missing their favorite programme, Brighton losing etc, I cant help but think we have out priorities wrong. Since I've been back I've become acutely aware of the things I have as opposed to the things I havent. In realitiy we have everything we need. A safe place to live, clean water, a toilet and access to free healthcare. Everything other than that is a bonus. 

So...what are my plans... well, the Southern Water xmas ball is on Thursday and I recorded a video while I was in Uganda to share at the ball, I really hope that this makes people dig really deep and raises loads of money for WaterAid. Other than that I have shared my trip with so many people, each person I speak to is another person who wouldn't have necessarily supported/heard of WaterAid before. 

Myself and a couple of colleagues are going to arrange a fundraising event next year so if you want to be involved then please get in touch. 

Other than that I don't have a lot to say.... If you have any feedback/questions/you want to hear more about my trip then let me know. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Kampala Urban Slums

A private water connection
Morning all, as I sit here in the hotel writing my blog its difficult to put myself back in the slums yesterday morning. It was such a hard hitting experience in more ways that one.

We started our day visiting Kampala City Centre Authority (KCCA) where we had a presentation from local officials and a manager from National Water and Sewage Corporation (NWSC). What a brilliant presentation to give us an overview of the challenges they are facing in the urban slums and the solutions that they are putting in to try and address the lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

Kampala has a population of roughly 1.6 million people over 200m2, 60% of these live in the urban slums, which make up only a small area of the city. To give you an idea the urban slums in Kampala have a population density of 400/hectare, the rest of Kampala is 73/hectare. To put that in perspective according to 2011 census data London has a population density of 52 per hectare.

Ironic Sign
NWSC has four water tariffs, a domestic tariff (roughly 47 pence per cubic meter) commercial tariff (71 pence a cubic meter), a government tariff and most interestingly a Pro-poor tariff (30 pence per cubic meter). Unfortunatly most don't have personal water connections, instead buying from personal vendors at inflated prices. The urban poor in Kampala survive on less than 85 pence a day. Sanitation coverage in Kampala is 84% with 560 community toilets, only 15 of which are free.

A shower in Kwampe slum
With a great presentation finished we left the KCCA offices and headed to our first stop the Kwampe slums. There is so much to describe here that I will have to rely on the few pictures i took to try and get across the true extent of the poverty here. It had rained a huge amount the night before we went and most of the narrow streets (more like paths) had water running through them, and more dangerously stagnant water in places. The paths are not tarmac-ed as we are used to but are just dirt and with the amount of rain this had turned into mud. One problem in a lot of slums is drainage, often peoples properties are flooded throughout due to a combination of draining and the hills in Kampala. Evidence could be seen throughout the slums with doors half way up a wall so that water cannot easily enter the properties. Throughout the streets rubbish was strewn and I even saw a razor blade, with children walking around bare feet this was a shock to me. Buildings are shoddily put up and seems to be no order or arrangement, ducks chickens and goats roam the streets. Surprisingly to me the residents were welcoming, but we did not see what life was like in the houses and I understand disease is rife.

The condemned water supply in Kwampe Slums
These guys didn't want to leave me.
The toilet facilities are specific to certain communities and locked and are nothing more than a pit, which easily fill up. Residents who don't have access to a toilet use a technique called the flying toilet, this involves defecating in a bag and throwing it. Some local residents have paid to have a water connection installed and sell water to other residents at over inflated prices. Residents will charge more depending on demand. In order to save money a lot of the community will fill up Jerry cans from a supply running through the slum. This supply was condemned 14 years ago due to the fact it is not safe to drink, but for a lot they have no option.

Flooding in the slums
Having spent some time in the slums we got back in our cars. I had to bid farewell to my new friends, two children who wanted to hold my hand and had been for around half an hour. I couldn't help but wonder what the rest of their life may have in store for them and trying to push thoughts from my head about the infant mortality rates,

Flooding in the slums
We then headed over to a Bwaise slums to see their newly installed pre-pay meters. On the way we drove through a flooded area, a result of the heavy rain last night, some shops and homes flooded throughout. Arriving in Bwaise we were told that the storm drain had been so high that a lady and her child had been swept away that morning, the child survived but unfortunately the lady was not not so lucky, a reminder that even the newly built drains, built to protect the slums from flooding, have their own dangers.

The storm drain where a lady was swept away.
The NWSC showing us a pre-pay meter
In these slums there have been improvements, NWSC have been installing prepaid meters, villagers who meet the criteria are able to apply for a prepay meter to be installed. A local caretaker is assigned houses nearby are provided with a token which they can use to access the water supply. Water is charged at the pro poor tariff rate meaning it will cost around 1p to fill a 20 litre Jerry can. To try and encourage residents to use the token they come pre-loaded with over £1. You can load credit on to your token by finding a local vendor, vendors are given 11% commission on all their sales, providing the community with a vital income.

The problem with these improvements in the poorer areas is that it encourages the more affluent of the poor to move in to the region, displacing the poorer either to another slum, or to set up a new slum. This fact really hit it home as to how difficult it is to find a solution to the issues in the slums. Its a massive task to get people access to water and toilet facilities in these area, I think it is the most challenging concept I have come across. In the rural villages the standard of living is really high compared to the slums and the solutions are clear and visible. The slums are a real challenge, the solutions are not clear and the residents are not necessarily engaged. A lot are not willing to adapt to solutions if it effects their everyday life, having no appreciation of the long term benefits the upheaval will bring. 

Its been a long blog and I'm sure I have missed so much, but one last thing I want to write about is the advocacy work that WaterAid do. You will notice that I have made no reference in this blog to WaterAid schemes, a lot of the work they do in these communities are with partners and the communities. Its really important to deliver sustainable solutions and there is no point investing if the government and the local communities are not going to maintain any improvements. Its really clear the relationship and the awareness that WaterAid Uganda staff have tirelessly built up. It is this that has surprised me most from the trip. Its easy to sit at home in the UK and think that WaterAid is a British charity, but the country staff are so passionate they have been a true inspiration to me, so just quickly want to thank (sorry if I miss anyone), Spera, Peter, Caroline, Antonio, Rosemary and James who have really motivated me to get more and more involved in WaterAid's work. 

Last night was our last night and we went to a fantastic Ugandan dancing show, a great way to end the trip with a great group of supporters. Thanks all for making it so special, especially Caroline and her WaterAid UK team. 

Although we fly home today this won't be my last post. I will make sure I post a recap when I am home. Thanks all for reading. 


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

World Toilet Day

Today is world toilet day, a huge day in the WaterAid calender to do another part of their work. As well as practically helping the communities through providing water supplies and educating they also work with governments and local councils to raise awareness of the importance of water and sanitation, today was a perfect example of that! The minister for health and the local Mp were both in attendance at the World Toilet Day celebrations in Amuria. 

We began the day meeting the chairperson for the Amuria District and his government team, they were very welcoming and gave us a summary of their achievements in improving sanitation, despite the challenges of having more sub county's than any other region yet the same amount of funding. 

We then went to the local hospital. I dont think I can put into words my feelings in the health center but I'm sure as hell going to try. I dont have pictures out of respect for the patients, so although it was a small part of the day I will probably spend most time on this. 

The health center serves a community of 55,000 people, given that you would expect quite a large establishment, but this is not so. There are a total of 45 beds in the hospital, yet last year they saw 24,-58 patients. 

Imagine in your head how you picture a hospital? A clean ward, food being served regularly, many toilets and bathing facilities for patients. Then push that from your mind, this is not at all what it was like. Walking into the maternity ward was a huge shock, there were so many women in the ward they were laying on the floor between the beds. There were chickens roaming the ward and broken windows and only one Doctor and one nurse. 

How does this relate to water and sanitation I hear you ask? Well, the toilet has only outdoor pit latrines which only allow for 75% of the hospital population, the latrines are close to the ward and staff housing and the smell travels. In addition some of these latrines are close to full. I felt ill just walking into the toilet, imagine you are ill already and you need to use the toilet, there is no comfort at all. On top of this there is a no kitchen for safe and hygienic cooking and no laundry facilities, this means that patients have to bring their own food and the sheets are washed and dried outside free to collect bacteria. 

One key thing to remember is that health and water are linked closely, a lot of the illness they treat are preventable with access to clean water and hygiene education for the villages. With improvements to water and waste water the demand on the hospitals would be a lot less. 

In the afternoon we went to a local school and spent time with the children, there was also a fantastic presentation from local government officials. Its great to see how many people are firmly behind WaterAid's great work. 

Dancing with the pupils was a great experience and I was  enjoying it so much I didnt take many photos, fortunately the official photographer was on hand, so photos will be available when I return home. In the mean time here is a photo collage of our day. 

As it is world Toilet Day please take some time to visit wateraid.org to see how you can get involved. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bobol Village and Wera School

Thanks for reading my blog again! Im amazed by the amount of views that it has had, the more views the more people are aware of WaterAids work, which is essentially what this trip is all about. 

Today we visited Bobol Village, in 2011 Bobol Village was a WaterAid project and as a result was given a fresh water supply and hygiene education. We were in the village to witness firsthand the effect this had had on the villagers way of life. Bobol Village has 83 houses and 76 Latrines.

Today I spent time with Osoman Galacio and Glaia Lucy, father and mother to eight children, the eldest being 26 and the youngest ten, they also have two grandchildren living with them and their mother and father, meaning the total people in their family unit is 14.

I learnt a lot from the family about their way of life but the primary bits I want to share is about how the installation of a bore hole changed their lives. There used to be a lot of diseases and diarrhoea when they had to use well water, since the installation of a pump this has vastly reduced. Robin and Mary (two of the elder children in the house) used to have to travel for 2 hours six times a day to fetch water, now their trip takes less than half an hour.

In addition to the water supply WaterAid educated them in hygienic practice, they now have a clean toilet, handwashing facilities, and dish drying areas away from the animals. Such a stark contrast from the community we spent time with yesterday, they seemed so much healthier, and happier, the atmosphere in the community was so positive. Everywhere we went we were being thanked for our support, what an inspiration these people are!

This afternoon we visited a school, another stark contrast from yesterdays school, government funded, it has many painted messages around the school about the importance of water and hygiene. They have new latrines installed in 2011 as well and now pupils can use the toilet safely and discreetly, they have hand washing facilities and even a changing room for girls. We sat with pupils who were making sanitary towels, this vital piece of education means that girls do not have to miss school during their period. It not only provides them the tools to manage their cycle but also the awareness among the school.

Although there is so much to say pictures speak louder than words so I have shared some pictures for you below. In Uganda there are still 8.5 million people living without safe water and 22.1 million without sanitation. I cannot get over the amazing work that WaterAid is doing not just in this village, not just in this region, not even just in this country, but in 26 countries throughout the world.

It seems crazy that just £6,080 could pay for a borehole in Uganda which can change an entire communities life.