Lower Allentown, Sierra Leone is a growing community just outside of the capital, Freetown. This project involves the community’s school, the LemonAid Fund Dele Village Learning Center. Currently, the school captures rainwater for indoor plumbing, though it is unfit for drinking. The school is forced to purchase drinking water, taking away from an already limited budget. The goal of this project is to provide the school (over 700 students, faculty and staff) with clean water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.
The Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002) hit the community of Lower Allentown especially hard. Rebels destroyed schools, killed teachers, cut electrical, phone, and water lines, and burned most of the businesses. In 2004, the government of Sierra Leone was forced to pass the Local Government Act, under which all localities in Sierra Leone became responsible for providing their own water, electricity, and other utilities. Freetown, the capital, had a pipeline bring in water from the distant Guma Dam. Though this pipeline ran through Lower Allentown, it was inaccessible to its residents other than by means of illegally tapping the pipeline with garden hoses. Eventually, this pipeline was replaced with a buried ductile iron pipeline, which could not be tapped by the community of Lower Allentown. Now, drinking water must be purchased privately or retrieved from a distant spring, which necessitates crossing a dangerous highway.
In an effort to rebuild their society, Lower Allentown built a school to educate their children and community members. Francess Brown, the founder, contacted The LemonAid Fund to help construct the school, and The LemonAid Fund in turn contacted EWB-USA, NCSU to help provide clean water and renewable energy.
In 2011, a team from EWB-USA, NCSU traveled to Lower Allentown, Sierra Leone to gather data and build relationships with the community in an assessment trip. Two years later, in 2013, the EWB-USA, NCSU chapter president spent the summer volunteering as a teacher at the LemonAid School. During this time, she was able to network with NGOs, government officials, and community members, providing a detailed window into their lives while obtaining beneficial information for our projects at the school. In 2015, the travel for the project was slowed due to the Ebola outbreak, but a design for a well was decided on and the team prepared to travel when the Ebola outbreak had subsided.
Phase 1 Implementation: 2016-2017
In December of 2016 the project took a huge leap forward with an implementation trip to the Lower Allentown community. A team of five students and two mentors traveled to the Dele International Learning Center and oversaw the digging of a borehole well. The well reached a depth of 62 meters and at the time of the team’s return was equipped with an India Mark II hand pump. The pump was functioning beautifully and the water was available to the school for sanitation purposes as the heart of the dry season began. The team also spent considerable time assessing the school grounds for the future distribution system to be implemented in the winter of 2017. After meeting with local NGOs in Sierra Leone, the project was prepared to move on to the implementation of a distribution system in the next year.
Phase 2 Implementation: 2018
After 18 months of project planning and an extensive technical approval process through EWB-USA, a new team of students traveled in May 2018 to implement the water treatment, storage, and distribution system. The hand pump was replaced with a submersible, electric pump that uses solar power to move water from the borehole, through a three-phase water treatment system and into a pair of elevated water tanks. From these tanks, the water then flows downhill into spigots, handwashing stations, and flush toilets around the school compound. During this implementation trip, team members led operations and maintenance trainings, and gave a presentation to the high school students about the process of engineering the school’s water system.
The water system has been fully constructed, so our partnership with the Dele International Learning Center is winding down. Long-term project sustainability has been a core value of this project since the beginning, however, in May 2019 the team will conduct a final monitoring and evaluation trip to ensure that all the systems are properly in place and functioning properly. Simultaneously, the team is working on sharing the results of the project to the NC State and Raleigh communities through travel books and a documentary with the hopes of inspiring students and raising funds for future projects.