By Lorine Parks, IMAGE Senior Correspondent/Rotary Club of Downey 

(Originally published in Rotary District 5280 December 2016 Newsletter)

As every Southern Californian knows, there is nothing more beautiful than rain water.
For the past five years, The Rotary Club of Downtown Los Angeles has been working to provide a reliable source of clean rainwater to the students at four schools and a medical dispensary at the Osongo Primary School in Migori, Kenya. Up to now the community had gotten water from a nearby creek at the bottom of a small valley.  This water is not clean and in the dry season it is difficult to find. 

Four years ago, the president of the Rotary Club of Downtown Los Angeles, Peter Lattey, received a plea for help from the President of the Rotary Club of Migori, Kenya, which he posted on the club’s Facebook page.  The Migori club was failing and he needed some advice.  After some discussion it was decided that the club should find a service project that would raise their profile in the community. Thus was born this WASH (water and sanitation) project.

Now the power of Rotary clubs, joining forces, is bringing water to schools and a clinic in Kenya.  With Rotary International’s Global Grants of $41,000 in 2013/14 and a $48,000  grant in 2014/15, the project has directly impacted over 1,500 students and hundreds of patients at the clinic. It also affected the families of all the students.  Enrollment jumped.  Absenteeism due to disease fell.. 
This part of Kenya gets plenty of rain twice a year, but the groundwater is often of poor quality.  The best solution to the water issue at the schools is to collect rainwater from the iron roofs of the schools and store it in above ground tanks.  Under the grants, schools receive two, 10,000 liter tanks, a hand wash station and a two door, wheelchair accessible
Rotary provides the tanks, the plumbing and any skilled labor.  The community digs the 25 foot deep latrine and provides the bricks for the latrine.  They also provide materials for the base of the tanks and unskilled labor.  This initial project is the result of a year-long collaboration between Peter Lattey and Ben Onam, the past president of Suna Migori Rotary Club. 
Ten clubs in District 5280, District 5280, the Slinger Allenton Club, District 9212 in Kenya and the Suna-Migori Club all contributed funds.  The Rotary Club of Downtown Los Angeles contributed $1,690, and LA 5 contributed $1,500.
As soon as the tanks were in place, school attendance and enrollment increased, girls were not missing as much school and the students were spending more time in class. At the clinic they will have more water and they will install a shower for the birthing mothers.
Now a Past President of Downtown Los Angeles Club, Peter has made several trips to assist with the construction and to audit the completion of the project.
“An important benefit of this project, “he says, “is the improvement of the educational opportunities for the girls of Osingo.  By having a clean source of water at the schools, the girls will be having a clean source of water at the schools and the girls will be relieved of the task of walking miles every day to get water. They will instead be able to spend that time in school becoming better educated.” 
 “When you educate a girl, you have educated the whole community.” Numerous studies have shown that educating girls and young women is a critical factor in economic and social development.  “This source of clean water will help curb water borne diseases and help eliminate school dropout by girls,” Peter says.  The new toilets will also provide a critical facility for the young women to enable them to attend school during their menses.
“After the success of the first Global Grant,” says Peter, “we decided to expand the project into a four phase program with each phase being a project of about 8 schools in a Rotary year.  Phase 3 and 4 will be in 2016/17 and 2017/18  At the end of this time we will have provided clean water and sanitation facilities to over 15,000 students in 28 rural schools and at least two rural clinics in Migori Kenya.” 

The Suna Migori club is now a vibrant, active club and is recognized as a group that gets things done for the community.  When we started this project, the county government wanted no part of it. Rotary was seen as “just another NGO that was probably corrupt and almost certainly incompetent.” The local Rotarians finished the project in four months and the Grant was closed out two months later.

But this success story is not cut and dried (pun intended) and it does not end here. 
“Phase 2, had an interesting bonus to it,” says Peter.  “The headmaster of one of the schools asked if we could do something to provide sanitary pads for the girls so they wouldn’t have to miss classes every month. We wanted to help but in a sustainable way. We decided to fund a startup, women owned business to manufacture and sell low cost, washable sanitary pads.”
“The pads will last several years,” Peter continues,” but the cost is less than the cost of a six month supply of disposable pads and they won’t clog up the latrines or be thrown into the bushes.” School canteens will get a discount. Once the business is established, there will be permanent jobs for at least a dozen women and a sustainable supply of washable sanitary pads for the girls and women of Kenya.
Phase 3 of the program has involved the Rotary club of Nairobi East as the Host club, working with the Suna Migori Club.  “This grant also includes something extra,” Peter says.  “We will be assisting the Inuka Soccer club.  This club provides training and a focused activity for young men during school holidays.  It keeps them away from drugs and trouble and gives them an opportunity to gain a scholarship at a college or a position at one of the professional soccer teams in Kenya.”
THE CURRENT GRANT - GLOBAL GRANT 1635487- “We are currently in the authorization phase for this grant, “Peter reports.  “We expect it to be funded in December and completed early in 2017.  This is a $54,000 grant for phase 4, to provide clean water and sanitation at 8 rural primary schools with over 4,000 students.”
Can this story get any better?  Let Peter tell it.  “I have traveled to Kenya 4 times to organize this project and have come to know and respect the wonderful Rotarians there.  One of them has even done me the honor of naming his son after me, so now there is a beautiful little boy called Peter Lattey Jr in Kenya.”
Want more?  In order to give Rotarians an opportunity to see the impact of these grants firsthand LA Downtown and District 5280 are arranging a Humanitarian  Safari to Kenya from January 8 to January 19, 2017. This will be an exciting trip and there are still a few spaces available
Please contact Peter Lattey, at 310-968-3252 or if you have any questions.  He is also available to present this project to your club meeting.


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