Davenport students will provide water to thousands in Kenya

Davenport students will provide water to thousands in Kenya
Davenport students will provide water to thousands in Kenya(MGN)
Published: Nov. 6, 2022 at 10:56 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Though an impactful player in Davenport West High School’s storybook 2022 football season, senior Duro Johnson also aims to make an impact overseas.

Johnson and three of his peers will travel to the eastern Kenya village of Muamba in January to implement a student-designed water filtration system — which will impact roughly 22,000 people.

“My family is from Africa, so it interested me,” Johnson said, adding that he has grandparents and cousins currently living in Nigeria.

Through an ongoing partnership with Fishers of Men Ministries Inc., West students taking the engineering, design and development capstone class have worked on the project for roughly six years.

Fishers of Men is an international non-profit 501( c)(3) Christian missionary organization, headquartered in Davenport, that works to provide water wells, churches, schools and homes for children and families throughout Kenya.

“We’re blessed to have this partnership,” founder Joshua Ngao told the Quad-City Times. “We have 19 water wells in Kenya, but we have have thousands of people who are dying right now because there’s no water or because of water contamination.”

Growing up in Kenya, Ngao said he walked almost 50 miles for drinking water — something many take for granted.

“If you ask people here where their drinking water comes from, many don’t know. Everyone in Kenya knows exactly where their water comes from,” he said. “I think when students come here, they’re going to start to approach life with a lot of thankfulness. They’re going to see those needs, but also find themselves meeting those needs by giving people water.”

After brainstorming a few different project ideas, students chose to embark on designing, building and implementing a water filtration system to be placed in villages in throughout Kenya.

“The plan was to implement it within a year or two, but we fell a little behind schedule in 2020. I took a student to Kenya to get data, then COVID happened and slowed the process since then,” said Greg Smith, who teaches the course and will accompany the students to Kenya.

Students finished the fully functioning water filtration system last year, though Smith said the one built in Kenya will be roughly five times the size of the school’s model.

Johnson, who also helped in the construction phase, was tasked to lead the design of a building to house the system.

“... No. 1, to protect the system. But the biggest thing using natural materials so they don’t have to get things from outside their country,” Smith said. “We can get rock, sand and gravel pretty much anywhere in the world, so it lends itself naturally to what we’re doing. The only thing that’s not natural are the piping and storage containers, but that stuff is readily available and we can adapt. We gave Duro some design parameters, he came up with the idea and then Joshua would come give feedback.”

Adaptation was part of the learning experience for Johnson and his small team’s design process.

“Some of these places don’t have the type of technology and resources that we do here, so we had to consider those needs and work around them,” he said.

The building’s construction began in late September.

“When we sent the plan to Kenya, I explained it to the people in Swahili so they were able to understand what the students came up with,” Ngao said. “So, it’s almost like we’re building together in everything that we’re doing.”

Johnson said he was surprised that him and his group’s design was chosen, but excited nonetheless.

“These places don’t have the same type of resources and technology we have, so we had to “I just want that real life experience, actually going over there to build something that will help people throughout their communities,” he said.

Though they’ll begin implementing first systems in eastern Kenya, Ngao doesn’t intend to stop there.

“We’re starting there because it goes a long time without raining, so that’s where we’ve done more work with deep water wells,” he said, adding the goal of implementing the system in all 42 counties in Kenya.

Ngao is looking to have this initiative government-licensed, also noting how the systems will feature a plaque notifying users of its origins at West.

Smith said the curriculum his class follows focuses on project-based learning, opening opportunities for students to make an impact.

“You might do something for a class and just take it apart when you’re done. This is something that’ll change people’s lives — maybe not directly here — but around the world,” he said. “Looking at some of those things we take for granted or issues we don’t typically have to deal with, it’ll definitely open students eyes, seeing that ‘Maybe I can do good.’

Smith and Ngao agree that offering different cultural experiences, namely at the high school level, helps brings a perspective to students that may prompt change — both locally and globally.

“Twenty-five percent of people are dying because of water-born diseases in that county, and the students are starting something that can lower the percentage,” he said. “It’s going to be life changing for everyone.”

Nagao said Fishers of Men has served close to 50,000 families around Kenya to date, and hopes the West partnership prompts other people of entities to get involved. The organization plans to host a garage sale at West on Nov. 19 to gather donations and raise funds for other outreach projects and trips.

Johnson hasn’t decided on a college yet, but plans to study engineering.