Scene 4: Laundering an Agreement


Week 2 was an important milestone for the WaSH team. During our first week, our meetings with CORC and the community leaders helped us identify possible projects for our time in Langrug. We were pulled in different directions from planning a new WaSH facility in 3 possible locations to planning a dry sanitation facility in a large area with no sewage. We weighed all options and finally decided to focus on planning for a dry sanitation facility in Zwelitsha, the region at the top of the hill where there is only one working toilet for about five hundred families. Our decision was based on our mission to increase the accessibility of sanitation to the most amounts of people possible. In addition, we decided to make small improvements to the current WaSH facility to attract even more users. We met with CORC, community leaders, caretakers, and our advisors to propose our plan.


Cast of Characters:

Woman with a baby daughter: She was at the WaSH facility while we were having our multi-stakeholder meeting.

Caretakers, CORC, Scott and Lorraine (WPI advisors), Alfred, and Trevor (Langrug community leaders)



The setting is the Langrug WaSH facility for the weekly Tuesday morning meeting among the stakeholders and advisors. This meeting is followed by a revisit to Zwelitsha with Scott and Lorraine to assess possible dry sanitation sites.   Zwelitsha is the upper portion of Langrug, home to about 400-500 families and only has one broken water tap and no toilets to accommodate its inhabitants.


A woman quietly does her laundry as we hold our meeting at the WaSH facility

A woman quietly does her laundry as we hold our meeting at the WaSH facility

It is the first warm day in Langrug. The sun is shining but not scorching. It is beautiful outside. Olwethu drives us and Baraka to the facility. We are nervous to propose our plan to the community.

As we enter the facility, we watch a woman doing her laundry. She wears a damp pink towel wrapped around her lower back to hold her baby daughter. The baby’s squeals fill the room. The woman sets the baby down on the bench beside her. Unlike other washing stations in Langrug, this facility gives community members the ability to bring their small children because there is space and caretakers that can watch them.



Meeting with the stakeholders  Pictured (left to right) Lorraine, Victoria (caretaker, behind Lorraine), Olwethu, Alfred, Scott, Baraka and Mackenzie (sitting)

Meeting with the stakeholders
Pictured (left to right) Lorraine, Victoria (caretaker, behind Lorraine), Olwethu, Alfred, Scott, Baraka and Mackenzie (sitting)

Once Scott and Lorraine arrive, the WaSH team, our sponsors, the caretakers, and Alfred all meet to discuss our project. Morgan announces to the group that our primary focus will be on planning for a dry sanitation facility in Zwelitsha. This can only occur after we complete our assessment on the current WaSH facility and develop an asset management plan. Joe also mentions that the need in Zwelitsha is different than that of the other regions in Langrug because there is no proper sewage. We propose to advance CORC’s plans to build a dry sanitation facility to meet this need. We also discuss how we would like to make improvements to the current facility, such as window coverings to keep out the rain and rainwater collection.

As we look through the fence of the facility, we notice the woman making her second trip up the hill to her home. We assume she is drying her clothes in portions.

Alfred asks if we could think of ways to improve the ablution blocks in the community, and we discuss the possibility of designing wall structures around them and creating business plans which would allow for a caretaker to look after the facilities.

Scott asks the caretakers if they have any suggestions on improvements that could be made to the current facility. He asks if they thought mirrors would be a good addition. They agreed that mirrors would be good, as well as hand drying stations. They also like the idea of an aftercare program for kids, and mentioned possibly having a small plastic pool kids could play in.

After discussing possibilities further, we make sure the group was on the same page about Zwelitsha. Everyone agreed that this is a good idea to move forward with, and Scott makes it clear that this facility would be smaller, most likely have Enviroloo technology, and we would be working on planning the facility and only start construction if necessary. If construction does begin, the facility will most likely not be complete by the time we leave in December.

After everyone in the meeting is on the same page about the dry sanitation facility in Zwelitsha, we visit the potential sites for the facility. We walk out of the facility as the woman with the baby returns to continue working on her laundry.

Measuring the first location.  This spot is more central than the other, but does not have a water tap

Measuring the first location. This spot is more central than the other, but does not have a water tap

Both possible locations are concrete slabs that used to have chemical toilets on them, and we measure the areas with a tape measure. The first spot is a slightly elevated 6.5 meter by 3.2 meter surface. The view from the spot is beautiful with the mountains and hills in the background. The second spot is a 5 meter by 5 meter slab near the only tap in Zwelitsha. The tap is broken and the water was constantly running. Because that tap is the only one in the area, women in Zwelitsha travel to that concrete area to clean their clothes. One woman in Zwelitsha speaks to us about how heavy her clothes are to carry home after washing, and this brings up the idea of having handwringers at the facilities as a small but effective improvement.




The group walks back down the hill, passing by groups of dogs and goats, and returning the facility.  We stay for another hour after our advisors leave to work more on our assessment with the community of the facility.  As we leave for the day, four hours after we arrived, the woman who has been doing laundry all morning is collecting her things and strapping her child to her back for another trip back to her home.


Reflection and Learning:

Confirming our plans to begin designing a dry sanitation facility in Zwelitsha with the Langrug community and our sponsors was a huge relief. While there is still a lot uncertainty in our project, it is comforting to have an end goal, and looking at potential locations for the facility made our project much more real to us. It was also nice to hear suggestions about simple improvements to the current WaSH facility from the community members. We also noted what did and did not work about the previous WPI projects, so that we can make effective improvements and plans for the new facility. For example, the addition of a bench for the laundry basins made it easy for the woman to bring her child with her to the laundry facility. The presence of a caretaker also makes the environment for a child much safer. It was interesting to witness how small features of the facility make a big difference in the social justice of the facility. These features also allow the current facility more than just a place for using toilets, showers, and washbasins.