In the densely populated Soweto slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya, more than 10,000 people live in an area one-fourth of the size of New York City’s Central Park (just 0.36 square miles). Water has always been scarce, and safe water even more so. Fights frequently break out at the community’s overcrowded water points, and diseases like diarrhea, malaria, and typhoid run rampant.
“[Collecting water] takes up to three hours because I have to wait in the queue. Sometimes I give up along the way and go without water.”
– resident of Soweto slum, 2017
Until recently, thirst and waterborne illness prevented students at Soweto’s Hope and Bright Future School from concentrating and excelling in school. Still, the dedicated educators worked determinedly to help students succeed.
Meanwhile, 7,500 miles away in Maryland, philanthropist Abbe Levin was also working to help students. Through the Margaret & Charles Levin Family Foundation (where she serves as president) and Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center (which she manages with her family), she consistently invests in global education.
One initiative Abbe spearheaded through the music center is the distribution of musical instruments to schools in need around the world, including the Hope and Bright Future School. Chuck Levin’s also provides instruments to U.S. schools in need, including Roberto Clemente Middle School in Maryland. When Roberto Clemente music teacher Randi Levy learned what Abbe was doing for the Hope and Bright Future School through Chuck Levin’s, she and her students wanted to get involved. They began raising funds to send instruments to Soweto.
Thrilled to see that students in Soweto were enjoying their musical instruments as much as students in Maryland did, Randi’s classes wanted to do more. So, they started holding Rock the World concerts, raising thousands of dollars for the Hope and Bright Future School.
“The opportunity to step up and help other people has [to] be the best thing that could ever happen in my life. [Our concerts are] not just about playing the music… it’s all about being able to reach out to the kids in Nairobi, Kenya, and being able to help them in any way.”
– Zachery, student at Roberto Clemente Middle School
Abbe and Randi then connected with Water Mission, in the hopes of providing access to life-changing safe water in addition to musical instruments. With a generous contribution from the Margaret & Charles Levin Family Foundation along with the thousands that Randi’s students raised, Water Mission began work in Soweto.
Moses Ngania (Water Mission Kenya Director) assessed the community, determining that the best solution for a water source was to drill a well within the school itself. The new well provides enough water for the students and surrounding families. Soweto community members worked tirelessly alongside Doug Lawson (Kenya & Malawi Regional Director) and our Kenya team to install a sustainable, solar-powered safe water system.
Today, thanks to the availability of safe water, students at Soweto’s Hope and Bright Future School are able to learn and grow healthily as they enjoy their musical instruments. Community health has significantly improved as well. According to one student, “Having safe water helps us avoid a lot of waterborne diseases and thus we become healthy and productive.”
“We feel lucky to have a [safe water] project very close to us. It brings a certain kind of relief for everyone.”
– Pauline, trader in Soweto
Through continued staff support, the community is learning to price water fairly, manage the safe water system efficiently, and maintain sufficient inventory. The follow-up phase of our community development approach is critical to ensuring sustainable solutions that will last for generations to come!
Learn more about how you and your community can get involved with Water Mission today.