News - June 24, 2010

Digging for water

Who?Jaïrus Brandsma, student of International Water Management VHL Velp
What? Exploring a hydrological system
Where? Kenya
Why? You can make a difference in developing countries

'Sorry I didn't pick up the phone, but I'm in Malawi and my phone wasn't working. I like working overseas best. At least here you can really do something for people. In the Netherlands there are nice projects too, but everything has already been done there. Here in developing countries I can make a difference.
'I did my previous internship in Kenya, between Nairobi and the coast. A fellow student and I researched the way sand storage dams work in the river bed in the Kitui area. We can use that knowledge to improve drinking water supplies. We explored the hydrological system together with two 'buddies', who were local students. We taught them about water management and they helped us with the language. Our buddies were called Benjamin and Dennis. They had Kenyan names as well, but I still can't pronounce them.
'We were in a dry area, and we inventoried  a water system there, drilling for water at several points. We found out that people walk two hours a day to a dried-up well, when there was groundwater near the village. It is great to be able to help people like that. I still remember when we started digging a well. We came back a day later and found the locals going at it with shovels and picks. They were so happy with their new well, and the whole village came to life. People even started to sell the water, which made everyone better off. That's a great thing to see. I am convinced that development aid really can work.
'Kenyans are very nice, but sometimes a little bit subservient. Electricity was rationed, and we could use it every other day, to use the internet for example. But sometimes it was the internet that was down.'
'Kenya is sometimes described as unsafe. The former landlord of the house we stayed in had apparently been murdered because he happened to be rich. Personally, I wasn't afraid for a moment. Well, I am tall, so people can't intimidate me that easily. Here in Malawi there is a curfew, but I don't keep it. Anyway, I'm going to hang up now. I'm phoning from a car and I don't know if that's allowed.'