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Author Archive | Colleen Leithren

Kuku Well is officially open!

Joyce and Veronicah and the water tank.

Joyce Tannian, Founder and executive director and Veronicah show the new 10,000 liter tank.

The Kuku well is the most productive of the deep well projects Water is Life Kenya has dug to date.

Before the well, women in the community walked many hours every day to dig in a dry river bed to access barely potable water. Poor water often resulted in serious health issues for their families.  In a community with hundreds of women, and each woman needing several cans of water to take care of her family, the water lines were long. The women were often forced to come at night in a group, with warriors to protect them from the elephants, hyenas, and lions that gather around the watering holes to drink.

The 1,700 people in the community live in a remote area. No one had ever reached out to help them with their water struggles.  That changed when Water is Life Kenya came on the scene.

 cows enjoying fresh water.The two year Kuku well project involved digging a 570 foot (175 meter) well through hard volcanic rock to access reliable clean water. Water is Life Kenya raised over $60,000 for the deep well, a special pump and power source, and water storage facilities. The well will succeed because the organization trained local operators to maintain the pumps and monitor the facility.

Joyce Tannian, Founder of Water is Life Kenya, noted that now that the well is complete, community leaders call the area Nalepo which means “place that is flowing with good things.”

Helen Laster - WILK intern from Delaware

Helen Laster – WILK intern from Delaware

New sign Women drawing water from the new pump


Thirst Reverse V a success!

Water is Life Kenya Honored by Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant

board members, Joyce and her father

Board members, Mary Woods, Carol Boncelet, Linda Stapleford, Founder, Joyce Tannian, and Board President, Francis Tannian.

Water is Life Kenya partnered with the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant in Newark for our fifth annual “Thirst Reverse” fund raising event. Twenty percent of all Iron Hill’s revenue on food sales on October 3rd and $1 for every pint or mug sold of Kenyan Quench beer until the beer runs out will go to Water is Life Kenya.

 In an email to Iron Hill customers, Alex Vanderlek, Lead Brewer for Iron Hill, called Water is Life “an exceptional charity that helps dig accessible wells to serve as a clean and reliable water supply in rural Kenya.” Justin Sproul, their brew master, created a special Kenyan Quench beer especially for the event.

Water is Life Kenya helps bring water and livestock training to the communities living on the northern fringes of Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. In the last 10 years, we have completed 17 major water projects including deep and shallow wells, rainwater harvesting on schools, and pipeline connections that provide water to 50,000 people on a daily basis. In addition to clean water projects,  we run a livestock-as -a-business program and sponsors a Fair Trade Federation listed handicrafts division that provides much needed income for the families in the region.


Game Scouts protecting elephants have urgent need

picture of ElephantsMessage from the Executive Director: Joyce Tannian

Urgent Need:

$7,500 to help preserve one of the greatest populations of elephants left in East Africa by helping the game scouts that protect them.

Donate: GoFundMe Campaign

Overview – Game Scouts:

We received an urgent request to help 67 Maasai Game Scouts.  These scouts, who serve like rangers, prevent the poaching of elephants and other wildlife. They work within the Water is Life Kenya  area of operation on the Kenya  / Tanzania border just north of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Game Scouts getting ready to go out and inspect the bush.

Maasai Game Scouts are critical to stopping the poaching of elephant tusks and slaughter of wild animals in East Africa.

The valuable protection Game Scouts in our area provide for elephants, lions, giraffes, leopards, and gazelles, is at risk. Recently, the Scouts lost their funding. Suddenly, their partner pulled out, taking everything: including pots, pans, radios, and mattresses.  Most noteworthy, they took the life-giving water tanks critical to survival in the long dry months between the rainy seasons.


Thus the Scout Leaders begged our help.  As a trusted community partner, they asked us to find food and 10,000-liter water tanks until a long-term solution can be found.
Shout out text of the problem
Most importantly, Maasai Game Scouts are critical in stopping poaching and catching criminals. The Scouts patrol the area on foot looking for intruders and animal carcasses.  Once observed they report suspicious behavior to Kenya Wildlife Service, the government authority in charge of protecting wildlife.

As a result, supplies are running out. The 67 Game Scouts work out of 6 remote ranger posts in the deep bush. The Scouts are stranded without food and water and the minimal supplies needed to do their work. If they have no water and no food supply, how will they be able to patrol and protect, trekking through the wilderness every day? Without help, they are forced to leave their camps and return home.  Resulting in the wildlife, our treasure, in the hands of poachers and criminals.

Consequently, we have already taken funds from our existing programs to keep the Scout program in place for a few weeks. Thus, money raised in this GoFundMe Campaign replaces the funds we took from our existing programs. Because the need to continue the Game Scout program while a long-term partner is found is vital.

Also, now is a critical time. The Great Migration is underway. Millions of zebras and wildebeest are on the move to find water as the dry season begins.

Hear from someone local who was there when Joyce learned about the need:


sample of water tanks the game scouts need.

The tanks we will be installing look similar to these ones that we installed at one of our projects located in Enkongu Narok.

First, $3,000 – One month of interim food and supplies for 67 Game Scouts ($ 1.50 per Scout per day)
Second, $4,500 – Four  10,000-liter water tanks, concrete platforms, transportation and installation at remote ranger sites.

About our Organization:

Water is Life Kenya  is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to bring clean, accessible drinking water to communities in semi-arid regions. Our focus area is north of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak.  This  area also located north of the vast plains of the Serengeti, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We are proud that our clean water projects provide clean water to over 50,000 people every day. But water is not our only focus. In addition, we have a successful Livestock as a Business program.  We train willing, committed and interested Maasai in the skills needed to improve the one resource they depend on – livestock.


Get involved. We can use the help.

Joyce, Larasha, Dorcas, PJ and Colleen

Joyce Tannian, Joseph Larasha, Dorcas Mutero, PJ Simmon and Colleen Leithren

We are a small but mighty team with a very worthwhile mission. We’ve accomplished a lot since we began. Your gifts of time and money help us continue to provide life giving clean water and more.

This year’s budget is $293,000. The more money we raise, the more good we can do. By becoming a sustaining donor  you can help us have a revenue stream we can count on which reduces our fundraising costs. It’s simple. Choose the amount you want to give each month. You can increase, decrease or stop your gift at any time. Become a Water is Life Kenya sustaining donor today.

Looking to donate your time?  We are looking for volunteers to help in the office and help staff events and more. We need you. We want you on our team. We can’t wait to hear from you.       — Colleen Leithren, US Program Director





Preparing for the next drought: a success story

Oloirien Chairlady, Margrate Lesinko, proudly showed off her hay bales Oloirien Chairlady, Margrate Lesinko, proudly showed off her hay bales to Water is Life Kenya Program Assistant, Veronica Simaloi, in May. Veronica visited her when she was monitoring the condition of the Oloirien Group Cows. Margrate has been working together with her husband to conserve and store pastures, just as they had been instructed during Water is Life Kenya LAB trainings back in October.

Margrate Lesinko's husband helps her with her hay bales.Margrate is providing an important example of drought preparedness for her group members and for her neighbors in Imbirikani. We are proud of her.  She is leading by example.



A great day for a water walk

Larasha sharing his story with this year's Water Walk attendees.

Larasha sharing his story with this year’s Water Walk attendees with Joyce Tannian and Dorcas Mutero.

At our annual Water Walk people of all shapes and sizes came out on a glorious day to support the millions of women and girls who walk everyday for water.

This year we were honored to have Joseph Larasha and Dorcas Mutero join us from Kenya. Participants had the opportunity to meet and talk with them and hear their stories.   Hearing from Dorcas about the daily struggles she faced getting water before her community got their well was heart wrenching.

Larasha and Dorcas walking with 5-gal water on their shoulder.This year we are raising money for Phase II of our Kuku water project.  Now that the rains have ended we have started the work and everything will be completed by our next newsletter.

The people of Kuku are so excited to start having easy access to clean water the women and men themselves moved stones and improved the road so delivery trucks can reach the site easily.

We are close to reaching our $25,000 goal.  Please donate so we can call the 2018 Water Walk another success.


A season to cheer about

Report: Livestock as a Business (LAB)

Livestock as a Business keepers with their cows.Finally.  Southern Kenya had ample rain during the past long rainy season and our LAB Livestock Farmer Groups profited nicely. Nine groups took the $2000 livestock loan we offer through our Livestock as a Business program and bought an average of 10 cattle each for fattening.  Abundant pastures, Water is Life Kenya sponsored water points, indigenous livestock rearing knowledge, plus the skills learned in our LAB program equipped Maasai farmers with what they needed to have fat, healthy, market-ready cattle. Farmers surveyed the livestock market in advance, budgeted how to use the loan money, controlled expenses, and attempted to prevent livestock diseases, applying what they learned.

Then, each group sold their cows and repaid their loans.  One of the goals of the August loan review seminar will be to have the full records compiled showing the net profit earned by each group. We are anticipating between 30% – 45% net profit. The groups will also have the opportunity to recognize successes and address challenges they may have faced. We will all learn from each other.

– Joyce Tannian and Joseph Larasha



Training for Sustainability

Report: Water Management Committees

Members of the nine water management committees met as a group to discuss setting fair and appropriate prices and how they can collect enough revenue to maintain the wells and avoid service interruptions. 

Members of the nine water management committees met as a group to discuss setting fair and appropriate prices and how they can collect enough revenue to maintain the wells and avoid service interruptions. 

This spring we invested time and money to train the management committees of our nine deep well projects.

We covered topics like setting water prices, budgeting, record keeping,  and conflict resolution.

We then moved out of the classroom into the field for a hands-on diesel generator operation maintenance and troubleshooting session. The Lenkiloriti borehole committee hosted us and proudly showed off their well-maintained, clean generator and generator house.

The water committees participating in some onsite training at Lenkiloriti Water Borehole.

When Water is Life Kenya hands over projects to the community after completing the drilling, equipping and construction works, we train our water management committees.  As projects evolve, however, committee members move on, so there is need to train again. In addition, our new projects committees needed review of key lessons.

 — Joseph Larasha and Joyce Tannian



Through the eyes of those we’ve helped

Joseph Larasha, co-founder of Water is Life Kenya, and Dorcas Mutero, a school teacher from Kenya

Dorcas Mutero giving  her TEDx talk “Education has no age.”

Dorcas Mutero giving her TEDx talk “Education has no age.”

and one of the first to benefit from a well we dug, spent 5 weeks with us this Spring. Larasha and Dorcas came to the US to give a TEDx (Ideas Worth Spreading) talk and to support us on our annual Water Walk and other events.  Larasha’s talk, “How I learned confidence from a lion” is amazing. Dorcas’ story, “Education has no age” is inspiring.

A 7th grade Sanford student described the impact of their visit as follows.  “I didn’t get it until I heard Dorcas’ story. That women can spend every day from dawn to dark doing one thing, getting water. We need to help them have water.”

Donate today to make a difference!

Larasha and Dorcas Trip Highlights

What they loved most about the US:  green grass everywhere and imagining how happy and full their livestock would be in such a place.

Surprising observations: The US is  not just big cities, it has vast areas of countryside and  people eat a lot of sweets.

Larasha’s favorite things: pancakes, the rodeo, The White House, the “Singing Water” fountain show at Longwood Gardens, hamburgers, and chicken fajitas.

Dorcas’ favorite things: bread, french fries, the “Singing Water” show, cute baby clothes, taps with hot and cold water, and the friendliness of people.

Did you  meet Dorcas or Larsha?  Please consider making a donation in their honor. www.waterislifekenya.com

Francis, Tannian, Joseph Larasha, Dorcas Mutero, Fabienne Daniels, Joyce Tannian and Colleen Leithren

Asante Sana!
(Thank you very much in Swahili)




Imurtot Primary School Rainwater Catchment System

Imurtot Primary School Rainwater Catchment System in Place and Running

Thanks to the time and unique skills of members of the Newark Delaware Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), clean water for the children at Kenya’s Imurtot Primary School is now a reality.

EWB Newark Prof. Chapter team members take a much desired break.

The EWB team takes a well deserved break. Andrew, Ranjit, Kim, Tad and John.

This past Spring five EWB members made the second trip to Kenya. Working with Water is Life Kenya, the engineers installed a rainwater harvesting system on two school buildings, including gutters, downspouts, and six water storage tanks.

Just after the team returned to the US, rains began at Imurtot and in only a few weeks, all six tanks (approx. 19,000 liters) were full and being used by the students.

Water is Life Kenya’s 11 years of experience working in the area allowed trust between EWB and the community to be established easily.

The EWB team working to put the gutters in place.

Challenges abound as they worked to get the gutters in place.

In addition, work moved quickly because of our long term relationships with crafts people and suppliers. We are grateful for the strength of our partnership with EWB, which has brought forth the Imurtot Primary School rainwater harvesting system. Now Imurtot Primary School students can focus on their education without wondering where they’ll get clean drinking water.