Dear Friends of St James, this is an Urgent Appeal for St James.
As you know a few months ago during a massive storm a big mango tree fell down and smashed through the school latrine block. Fortunately no one was inside at the time but the building is in ruins. As the pit had been used by hundreds during school time it needed filling and re-siting anyway and that is what we intended to do, re-using the bricks and roof sheets in the new one.
James had already chosen two possible sites for the rebuild but unfortunately we are now unable to use either for pit latrines. When investigating one site it was noticed that the water level was too high and was in close proximity to our borehole which could easily be contaminated. As the school is on a slope there is also the possibility that the swamp down from St James would also be at high risk. The only other site was on an ant hill right next to the track which leads from the main Jinja to Kamuli Road up to the trading centre and beyond to the lake where heavy trucks bring down sand for the building trade in the district. So a pit latrine there would be in constant threat of damage. Much of the other spare land at the school is too swampy.
So we have had to look at alternatives and seek professional advice from experts on sanitation. The traditional latrine, unchanged for hundreds of years, only lasts until it is full then as I said previously, you have to dig another one but this is just not possible now as we have run out of suitable places and the school is still growing! Rather than sink more money into yet another temporary latrine even if we had the space, we have decided to build a modern ‘eco’ latrine block which will last many, many years. On average the pit-latrines only have a life-span of 2-3 years.
The particular design we plan to use is permanent as the waste is extracted when the levels rise. The tanks are emptied either by a special vehicle or what is more usual in poor areas, by men who do it by hand – not a job I would fancy! The waste is then used on the land as fertiliser. There is also a micro-organism that can be added initially which helps to break down the waste more efficiently.
The project is designed as a septic tank and that is what makes it permanent and will most importantly protect our only safe water source, the borehole, from infection. Previously we have not been catering for the disabled so we are making sure they have appropriate facilities too. There will be 8 latrines, two of them, at opposite ends of the block will be specially adapted for the disabled, something we could never have provided with the traditional pit latrines.
This project is more expensive than the traditional pit latrines but it will save the school a lot of money in the future since its a permanent project, treatable and reusable.
In a similar way to how we started the classrooms with a basic thatched structure, improving to ones with corrugated roofs then eventually to permanent buildings like the block of four classrooms, Hambridge Hall. I believe this is the way to move forward with this essential facility and thinking ahead to the opening of Joy Clinic we have to provide healthy sanitation for the community too.
The new latrines have to take priority over every other building project as we shouldn’t reopen the school at the start of the new school year unless we have them in place or have at least started on the project. The children could use my ‘bathroom’ for a short time but it is impractical as it is nowhere near the school. Fortunately with the Ugandan General Elections coming up very soon the schools don’t open until the end of February whereas they are usually opened by now.
The engineer has drawn up the plans and we estimate that we need to raise over £5000 to build the new latrines. We have already bought in some lake sand, taking advantage before the site is used up and we would have to go further afield costing more money in transport. We have also started buying good quality, locally made bricks as soon as they have been made and baked.
For all of you reading my news I thank you for your interest and of course your vital support since 2008 and I am once again asking for you to dig deep and help me provide healthy sanitation for the children and all who come to St James, including me! Please get in touch with me if you need more information or of course, you wish to donate which I’m really hoping you will do.
Love and gratitude