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Monroeville Rotary aims to help Kenyan village by addressing most basic need

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
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Children play near the Wambasa Primary School in Kenya. Rotary Clubs in Monroeville and Plum are spearheading a project to pump clean water to the small town.
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A nearby lake is polluted and infested with snakes and crocodiles, which limits access to clean water for residents.

It has been decades since Genevieve Oduor last visited Wambasa, though her roots are tied to the 3,500 people who live there and the Kenyan village has remained in her thoughts throughout the years.

This holiday season, its in the thoughts of local Rotarians, as well. Oduor, 35, is spearheading a project to pump clean water to the small town in Kenya, in hopes that it will thrive for decades to come.

“It gives me chills to think about it,” Oduor, a resident of Plum, said.

As a member of the Monroeville Rotary, Oduor has enlisted the help of Rotarians in Monroeville, Plum and also has reached out to her counterparts in Forest Hills.

“I am so excited to be involved in a project in Kenya where we can actually make a difference,” said Plum Rotarian Mona Costanza.

The project is estimated to cost about $61,000, said Geetika Tandon, a member of the Monroeville Rotary. The fundraising target for local Rotary Clubs is $10,000, assuming a grant is approved by the International Rotary Club, Tandon said. Rotary members in Kenya have agreed to visit the site during construction.

Plum Rotary President Michael Thomas said he backs the project, pointing out that one of the organization's areas of focus is water and sanitation. Once a week, Oduor speaks with relatives in Wambasa, who keep her updated on new cases of illness, as well as recent deaths, that are related to an inadequate water source.

The village — where many of the children are orphaned due to AIDS and waterborne infections — sits atop a hilly landscape on the shores of Lake Victoria. Since the 1980s, the lake has become overrun by the invasive water hyacinth plant, which has wreaked havoc on the ecosystem and made it difficult for villagers to fish and fetch water. The lake also is home to dangerous crocodiles, hippopotomuses and large snakes, Oduor said.

Adults and children are forced to transport water by bicycle, donkey and by foot, risking their lives each time they step in to the lake. In September, two children were mauled to death and eaten by a crocodile, Oduor said.

A contractor has surveyed the land and is prepared to drill a well, which would provide a steady source of clean water. The water would be transported to an Anglican Church that has become the centerpiece of the community.

Oduor said the church was planned and constructed under the leadership her grandfather, who also donated the land for the well. He is in his 90s, so the well could be his last, and greatest contribution to the community, she said. While past efforts to pump clean water have failed, Oduor is determined to get it right this time, backed by the support of fellow Rotarians.

“Some things you can't do on your own,” Oduor said.

The Monroeville Rotary is accepting donations for the clean water project in Wambasa. Checks can be made out to Rotary Club of Monroeville and mailed to PO Box 368, Monroeville, 15146.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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