From Leeds to Lalibela and back again to help with water sanitation

Three of our colleagues have recently returned from a 10-day trip to Ethiopia in support of WaterAid, making time for sightseeing in UNESCO World Heritage Site Lalibela along the way.

The volunteers swapped their normal roles to help local communities better understand the methods behind delivering safe water and sanitation.

Anna Murphy, David Rose and Henry Dixon were all part of a team of volunteers helping to run workshops with representatives from local Ethiopian water companies, schools, hospitals, hotels and more across the 20-town project.

The workshops are part of a five-year partnership between WaterAid and Yorkshire Water to help share the local utility company’s knowledge with other countries.

Following a fact-finding trip to Ethiopia in 2014, which David went on, we have been working closely with engineers from the University of Leeds to develop a process to help locals understand where the main risks are to their health because of issues with sanitation.

The workshops looked at the challenges faced by Ethiopian locals every day with an aim to understand the risks and how to solve them to deliver better sanitation on a local level.

Speaking about his visit, Henry Dixon said: “The perception of Ethiopia and Africa is that it’s this desert-like environment with very little there. Of course, they have less and life is different, but in terms of waste management and sanitation I was actually surprised at what they did have!”

Now back in the UK, the trio have arranged for a monthly update with the locals via Skype to provide support and guidance moving forward. David Rose said that the people who attended the workshops “Were really perceptive… we’re hopefully going to see the biggest changes thanks to those who came to the workshops. The passion can really make a difference.”

The team visited Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city and where the WaterAid Ethiopia office is located; Debre Tabor where they delivered a two-day workshop with various different organisations from the town; Bahir Dar, where they hosted a three-day workshop held for representatives from across the 20 towns project. They were also able to see Lalibela, a UNESCO world heritage site famous for churches built into the rocks and Aksum, an area with early ties to Christianity.