Class in Session: Safe Water Training in Kenya and Mali

World Vision’s Community Leaders train local water operators on how to use the SE200 Chlorine Maker.

Last April, members of our MSR team traveled to Kenya and Mali in East and West Africa to join World Vision, one of our key on-the-ground partners and a lead humanitarian organization, in conducting training in the use of the SE200 Community Chlorine Maker. The SE200 Chlorine Maker is a small device that generates chlorine to make water safe for drinking.

Two billion people in the world don’t have reliable access to safe water. Improving access to chlorine, a treatment solution for waterborne bacteria and viruses, could help reduce this staggering number. MSR Global Health and PATH, a Seattle-based global health nonprofit and innovation leader, co-developed the SE200 Community Chlorine Maker to do just that—help communities, even in very remote locations, treat their water.

In April 2015, World Vision launched the SE200 pilot program in two African countries to identify the best ways to use this new technology, as well as to trial a training program, and to make a sustainable impact. Jane Mauser, marketing director at MSR, Ashley Labat, program management specialist of World Vision, and Laura McLaughlin, MSR director of Global Health packed their bags and headed from Seattle to the other side of the globe.

Jane’s suitcase was so packed with SE200 chlorine makers and other gear that she had little room to spare.

East Africa

Our team held their first training with highly skilled WASH experts at the World Vision country office in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. World Vision invited WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) experts from their Sudan and Somalia offices to learn the basics of making chlorine with the SE200.

“You can use any salt and any water to make your stock of brine solution,” Laura McLaughlin told the WASH experts during the training. “Push this button to make enough chlorine to treat 200 liters of water.”

Laura introduces the technology to World Vision executives in the Nairobi office.

Highly engaged during the training, the WASH experts were also preparing to train their own teams out in the field. One Kenya WASH expert, Titus Wakeru, subsequently led some of our team from Seattle and Nairobi out to Yatta, an Area Development Program (ADP) about three hours outside of the capital.

ADPs are World Vision’s 10-15 year community development programs that cover distinct geographical areas, typically reaching thousands of people. World Vision uses an integrated approach working with local stakeholders to support the particular needs of communities. Support may take the form of investment in health, economic development, education, or child protection—depending on what the community needs and wants. Recently, World Vision invested in 30 SE200 devices to improve the health of communities in Kenya and Mali. Our mission on this trip was to help them train their teams how to use these devices. 

Titus Wakeru demonstrates his new SE200 operating skills before other community leaders in Yatta.

Training the Trainers

In Yatta, Titus sat down with Methusela Kipruto, Yatta’s WASH Facilitator, and five local community leaders to try out his new SE200 operating skills. He trained his small class on how, why, and where to use the SE200 so they could, in turn, train other community water operators, using a cascading training approach. During this time, our Seattle team observed and listened. It was amazing how much Titus had gotten out of their 45-minute training back at the capital.

Titus talked about the range of water treatment options available. “How many of you have used chlorine before?” he asked. The five community leaders nodded—they had used it before. Together they went on to discuss the benefits and challenges using chlorine to treat water. Titus explained how chlorine is a great, low-cost water treatment option, but it’s important to get the dose correct. He then showed the trainees how to operate the SE200 device using locally gathered water, salt and a car battery to produce chlorine. He demonstrated how to test the solution with chlorine test strips to confirm that the treated water was safe. Then the trainees broke out into pairs and practiced training each other on SE200 operation.

Later SE200 training sessions were equally impressive, and it became clear that the SE200 fit easily into World Vision’s successful training regimen.

Beatriz Kilonzo, a community leader, always seemed to have the most fun while learning, and even more while sharing her knowledge with her community.

Visiting the communities

Our team, still playing the role of observers, visited five different sites in Yatta. They soaked up the different training styles from each community leader and ensured that the key messages made it through. The cascading training model worked very well in Kenya. The MSR team took a lot of photos and awarded each trainee an official certificate, highlighting their new role as an SE200 operator. After we departed, Methusela continued the SE200 trainings with the five community leaders at 10 more sites.

All in all, our team was surprised at how little training they needed to do, thanks to the SE200 product and marketing teams for their simple design and easy-to-follow instructions, as well as World Vision Kenya’s talented trainers.

On to West Africa

Their next stop was Mali, a landlocked West African country that was colonized by France for about half of the 20th century. The team brushed up on their “survival French” on the 5-hour flight to Bamako, the capital of Mali. Less crowded than Kenya, Mali does not have the heavy NGO presence, the traffic, or the British influence that Kenya does.

World Vision chose to do the pilot program in Mali because the culture, language, and even the climate are all very different compared to Kenya. (At 107 degrees Fahrenheit, water is always on the mind in Bamako.) The Malian team was also very aware of the benefits of chlorine following the recent Ebola outbreak, and had strong interest in the operation.

In Mali, Maiga Mahamadou explains to water operators how the chlorine test strips indicate whether the water is safe to drink.

With the help of Maiga Mahamadou, the team’s lead contact in Mali, and Jacques Poudiougou, their trusty translator, the team was able to conduct the first training in the country office in Bamako. The structure had a similar cascading training style. In Mali, leaders from the country office and WASH facilitators from the communities all traveled to Bamako for one large introductory training. This was a highly motivated and educated group of trainees.

Left: The SE200 is plugged into a 12 volt car battery, which can provide enough power on one charge to make enough chlorine to treat 40,000 liters. Right: A community leader demonstrates the chlorine test strips to her community.

“What if the water is cloudy? What if I don’t have electricity in my community?” were two frequently asked questions, and good segues into our chlorine test strip protocol and the use of a car battery to power the device.

Visiting the Communities

Over the following 2 days, the Bamako team drove out to visit the WASH facilitators whom the team had trained the day before. They visited four sites, each with a training led by the WASH facilitator. Once again, the team was amazed at how well the training transferred and how nicely it fit within World Vision’s WASH protocols. Out in the communities, MSR was free to listen and observe as the facilitators eloquently took the lead. And of course, we awarded new operators with official SE200 Operator certificates.

Beatriz presents a training certificate to one of her newly trained water entrepreneurs. David, a World Vision student intern, supports the presentation.

Gauging Impact

After a successful implementation and training trip last April, and months of SE200 use in the communities, the team followed up with a monitoring and evaluation trip in July. During this trip they gathered water quality and survey data to show the SE200’s impact. Keep a lookout for our next blog on that return trip to Africa.