The group held its fourth annual "Clean Water for Kenya Jubilee" on Friday, Feb. 25, at the Emerson Cultural Center in downtown Bozeman. The event featured silent, live and cake auctions, a raffle and a cash call, where attendees made public donations of support in an auction-like format.
Approximately 200 people paid between $25-$35 each to attend the event, which also included hors d'oeuvres, dinner and live music.
"Everyone who is there is really interested in what we're doing and interested in helping," said Texel Feder, the group's incoming vice president and the lead organizer of the Jubilee. "Seeing that community and everyone coming together in support of our projects is just so great. It's awesome to be part of that."
Feder said some of the most popular auction items included a getaway to Lake Tahoe, a dinner for eight hosted by MSU President Waded Cruzado and 40 hours of gardening and home construction labor provided by EWB members.
The donations from the event will be used to support the group's work in the rural Khwisero District of western Kenya. This summer, EWB at MSU will send 22 students and two professional engineers to Kenya to work on a water distribution pipeline system that will begin at one school and eventually reach three other schools, providing clean water to schoolchildren and, potentially, households located along the pipeline. Summer plans also call for building several composting latrines in the district as well as a system to catch rainwater.
EWB at MSU has been working since 2003 to bring fresh drinking water and sanitary latrines to schools in the Khwisero District. To date, the students have drilled seven wells, built five composting latrines and one bio-gas latrine, installed hand water pumps, implemented hand-washing programs and established a community advisory board. The work has benefited an estimated 3,000 Kenyans, but it is just the beginning of efforts estimated to take 40 to 50 years to complete. The group plans to provide clean water and sanitary latrines to each of the 58 primary schools in the Khwisero District.
Simple hand-pump drinking wells in schoolyards can profoundly improve life for students in the region. Most drinking water in the Khwisero District is collected from shallow surface springs or streams and consumed untreated. As a result, diarrhea is the fourth leading cause of death in Kenya, according to the World Health Organization.
Additionally, water collection falls disproportionately to girls who miss hours of class daily walking to and from water sources, either balancing water containers on their heads or lugging them in their arms.
Feder said EWB at MSU began planning for the Jubilee last December, with approximately 50 students volunteering the day of the event.
"It takes months and months of phone calls, e-mails, and talking to businesses, individuals and others in the community to pull this off," she said. "We couldn't do it without the support of the community and without the commitment of members of the club."
To learn more about the group's work in Kenya, visit www.ewb-msu.org.
For related stories, see:
"MSU students work toward ambitious goal in Kenya," Feb. 7, 2011
"Kenya offers lessons for MSU students," April 15, 2007