CAWST in the News: Olivier Mills on Global News Morning Calgary

In observance of Global Handwashing Day, CAWST Senior Director, Olivier Mills, appeared on Global News Morning Calgary to share facts, barriers, and opportunities to achieving handwashing globally, and even in our own households in Calgary.

In observance of Global Handwashing Day, CAWST Senior Director, Olivier Mills, appeared on Global News Morning Calgary to share facts, barriers, and opportunities to achieving handwashing globally, and even in our own households in Calgary. Handwashing is a disease-preventing action, and crucial to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s not straightforward. Because often it’s not done well,” Olivier explains. Reporter Jodi Hughes asks, “So, how can we make a difference if [kids, family, or coworkers] aren’t listening by now?” Olivier shares ideas to make handwashing more desirable, such as enjoyable soap, well-placed nudges, and singing songs, which can motivate the behaviour. Jodi and Olivier also touch on the hot topic of soap and water versus sanitizer.

After 19 years of working on water, sanitation, and hygiene, CAWST is grateful that handwashing is getting such attention today. CAWST is collaborating with London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Wash’Em partners on the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub, a free service to help practitioners working in low- and middle-income countries share, design, and adapt evidence-based hygiene solutions to combat COVID-19. The Hub works around the world and around the clock to provide up-to-date resources and technical advice, and connect organizations responding to COVID-19. Today, they shared 10 lessons learned and actions on changing handwashing behaviour, effective program design, and strengthening the hygiene sector.

To learn more about handwashing, behaviour change, and global collaboration in the face of COVID-19, join our upcoming CAWST Live with Marike van Kuyper, CAWST Global Learning Advisor, and Sian White, LSHTM Research Fellow, on Monday, October 19. You can register here.

From earthquake to pandemic: building resilience in Nepal

When COVID-19 hit, everything changed for everyone. For our partners in Nepal, it felt a bit like another earthquake. But ENPHO quickly adapted to new realities, shifting programming with a consistent focus on building resilience.

When COVID-19 hit, everything changed for everyone.

For our partners in Nepal, it felt a bit like another earthquake. Everyone was locked down at home with fear, confusion, and dilemma around what to do and what not to do. But our partners had clarity on the next steps and quickly sprung into action.

“After couple days of lockdown, we realized that we had to do something to make people aware of COVID-19 and preventive measures to stop transmission,” recalls Ash Kumar Khaitu, Training Centre Manager of Environment and Public Health Organization Nepal (ENPHO), a partner in CAWST’s Water Expertise and Training Centre program. “We called an urgent online meeting and decided to start something. Within a week, we compiled information and prepared an online package on COVID-19 & Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) for frontline workers and started to deliver information sessions to ENPHO staff and local organizations. It was so popular that we opened it up to all the interested people.”

Mr. Khaitu added, “Most people were stuck at home, confused, but our team was intensely engaged in developing the packages and delivering them. We had this sense of ‘let’s fight COVID-19 together’ reaching new audiences with updated information. Appreciation and requests from those who used the info packs energized us to do more and more.”

In the early days of the pandemic, the ENPHO team developed information packages, including COVID-19 & WASH for Officers, COVID-19 & WASH for Quarantine and Isolation Centres, WASH Preventative Measures for Office Reopening, and COVID-19 & Handwashing Campaign Implementation. They shared the packages along with introductory sessions held on online platforms, like Zoom. Poring over World Health Organization and Centres for Disease Control websites, they extracted new information to share in short, digestible formats with teachers, health workers, and community groups.

Our quick adaptation in the lockdown helped many organizations and people become aware of COVID-19 and WASH preventative measures, reflects Ash Kumar.

“Because Ash Kumar is an incredible manager, the WET Centre team is so strong, and ENPHO is well-known all over the country, they were able to quickly shift their focus. Further to that, I can’t emphasize enough how flexible Global Affairs Canada was in allowing us to pivot the project. We completely changed the activities and budget lines and they’ve been with us each step of the way in doing so,” reflects Lena Bunzenmeyer, PEng, Senior WASH Advisor and WET Centre Program Manager.

Since 2017, CAWST and ENPHO have focused on household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS), and safely managed basic sanitation, to support in the recovery of the earthquake that devastated Nepal. Together, with the support of Global Affairs Canada Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund, we set our targets on an ambitious rate of adoption of water and sanitation technologies, and equally, behaviour change. We’re working to ensure technologies, such as water filters and latrines, are used all day, every day, by everyone in the household.

Hygiene was new, but the fundamentals we had been working on remained. ENPHO and their local partners were in a unique position to respond because of their earlier work on this project.

“Fundamentally, our work has been focused on building resilience and wellbeing through behaviour change. That remains true, but now the behaviour we are trying to influence has changed because of the pandemic. We’re trying to influence handwashing with soap, mask use, physical distancing, and proper use of chlorine for cleaning, as well as continuing to focus on proper use and cleaning of latrines,” explains Melinda Foran, MSPH, Director of Global Services at CAWST.

Originally, ENPHO worked to build the capacity of “triggerers” – community facilitators who convened big community events to inform and inspire water and sanitation behaviour change. They visited households and communities to troubleshoot and monitor progress on adopting technology and practices for better health and wellbeing.

Of course, with the onset of the pandemic and physical distancing, big events were no longer possible. ENPHO started to look at possible communication channels.

They created a new Facebook page called WASH for Healthy Life. They engaged all the local municipalities and their pages to push targeted messaging together. But not everyone has access to reliable internet, especially in rural areas. So, they designed their content for radio too.

The content is clever and compelling: they create a bi-weekly, six-minute segment called The COVID Show. The show is part content, part Q&A, and part call to action. Each show focuses on a theme, often starting with information about COVID-19 in the world, then zooming into Nepal. For example, early episodes focused on transmission and how to protect the people we love from COVID-19. Later episodes focus on how to keep yourself safe doing everyday activities, such as going to the market or going to the water source to fetch water. Viewers and listeners appreciate that the show includes real people asking questions and receiving answers from a trusted source, such as a doctor. Each episode elicits a call to action to “take no chances with COVID.” Viewers are asked to build handwashing stations at home, make soap or masks, and practice handwashing with soap regularly.

Community triggerer shares knowledge and motivates community members to wash their hands

Sharing the information in a way that is trustworthy and engaging fulfills a demonstrated desire for information about COVID-19 symptoms, health issues, transmission, and the status in Nepal (Johns Hopkins, 2020). The campaign has been designed using behaviour change principles to increase the likelihood that people will practice behaviours to keep themselves and their families safe from COVID-19. Feedback indicates that the show is influencing behaviour change, with listeners sharing comments such as, “I had various queries regarding this virus for which I had sent questions; after listening, the program not only answered my questions, but  other related questions. This was very helpful to make me understand more about COVID-19.” Shanti Chepang, Benighat, Rorang, Dhading. Usha Tamang in Mandan Deupur, Kavre also shared, “There was an episode of the radio program with a doctor talking about mask use and physical distancing. I am well convinced hearing his logic. Still, I am using mask and maintaining physical distance while going to market.”

Furthermore, ENPHO has continued to engage with triggerers, leveraging their skills to engage with communities. These key community activators now make regular phone calls to check in on households. The phone calls also support monitoring efforts to understand household hygiene behaviour, provide feedback on The COVID Show, and share learnings and results with ENPHO. With that feedback, ENPHO and the creative team developed the final four episodes to include the perspective of a person who recovered from COVID-19 and the Nepal government’s perspective on the pandemic.

Woman washes her hands in Nepal at a handwashing station

So far, we’ve found 37,772 households have been reached, exceeding the original target of 29,000. As of September 11, this includes more than 18,000 households who have constructed a handwashing station since the campaign began.

Though the world has changed everywhere for everyone as a result of COVID-19, in Nepal, ENPHO is changing the world for the better. They’re building the knowledge, skills, and motivation of people to practice hand hygiene now and in service of a more resilient society in the future.

Learn more at our upcoming poster presentation at the Canadian Conference on Global Health.


Johns Hopkins. 2020. KAP COVID Dashboard.

Calgary charity joins Global Handwashing Partnership in time for Global Handwashing Day

In time for Global Handwashing Day on October 15, and especially timely for COVID-19 responses and the second waves we are seeing in parts of the country, the world-renowned Global Handwashing Partnership is releasing its Handwashing Handbook. Calgary-based charity, the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST), is a newly appointed member of the Partnership and contributor of the Handbook. Compiled by a coalition of international stakeholders, the Handbook is a comprehensive guide, presenting best practices and new concepts to improve the adoption of handwashing.




Calgary charity joins Global Handwashing Partnership to share Handwashing Handbook in time for Global Handwashing Day

Calgary, October 13, 2020 – In time for Global Handwashing Day on October 15, and especially timely for COVID-19 responses and the second waves we are seeing in parts of the country, the world-renowned Global Handwashing Partnership is releasing its Handwashing Handbook.


Calgary-based charity, the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST), is a newly appointed member of the Partnership and contributor of the Handbook. Compiled by a coalition of international stakeholders, the Handbook is a comprehensive guide, presenting best practices and new concepts to improve the adoption of handwashing.


“Handwashing is a simple, effective, disease-preventing action. Yet, it’s an action not everyone can or will take. Collaborations are contributing to a growing body of evidence on how to best influence handwashing behaviour,” said Shauna Curry, CEO of CAWST. “CAWST is proud to support the promotion of worldwide hygiene efforts through the Handwashing Handbook, as well as other partnerships we’re engaged in, such as the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub.”


The Global Handwashing Partnership is led by experts from multiple sectors. The steering committee and strategic partners include FHI 360, the US Agency for International Development, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, UNICEF, the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, Colgate-Palmolive, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Essity, and the World Bank Group. CAWST is honoured to become a member of the Partnership, and to be a contributor to the Handbook.


“We share a warm welcome to CAWST and many thanks for their contribution. Partnership is fundamental for universal hand hygiene. For Global Handwashing Day, each of us has a role to play. We call on everyone—no matter what your work is, how old you are, or where you live—to join us as we collectively move forward in advancing handwashing with soap and all of its benefits for health and wellbeing. We can all be handwashing heroes to promote handwashing at home, schools, health care facilities, workplaces, and throughout our communities,” said Ron Clemmer, Secretariat Director, Global Handwashing Partnership.


The Handbook makes the case for handwashing; shares best practices for designing handwashing programs at the global, national and local levels; and provides insights for improving handwashing in schools, healthcare facilities, workplaces and public settings. The Handbook aims to catalyze the widespread increase of handwashing and sustain its benefits beyond any one outbreak or pandemic.



The Centre for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology (CAWST) is a Canadian charity and licensed not-for-profit professional engineering consultancy. CAWST teaches people how to access safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in their homes, schools and clinics, using simple, affordable technologies. To do so, CAWST transfers knowledge and skills to organizations and individuals in low- and middle-income countries offering workshops, open content training resources and consulting services. To learn more about CAWST and its work towards making water, sanitation and hygiene a reality for all, visit


About the Global Handwashing Partnership

The Global Handwashing Partnership is a coalition of international stakeholders who work explicitly to promote handwashing with soap and recognize hygiene as a pillar of international development and public health. Steering Committee and Strategic Partners include: FHI 360, the US Agency for International Development, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, UNICEF, the Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council, Colgate-Palmolive, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Essity, and the World Bank. To learn more about the Global Handwashing Partnership and to download the Handwashing Handbook, visit

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Media contacts

CAWST, Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology
Hailey Carnegie
Public Relations Lead

Find the CAWST logo here.

Global Handwashing Partnership


Biosand Filter Construction Video Series

The Biosand Filter (BSF) Construction Video series is designed to show step by step how to build and install a concrete biosand filter.

The Biosand Filter (BSF) Construction Video series is designed to show step by step how to build and install a concrete biosand filter. The instructional video series covers all topics associated with concrete filter construction from preparing materials prior to production, inspecting and preparing the steel filter mold, mixing and pouring the right concrete mixture, demolding, checking the quality, and correctly installing the BSF at the household level.

The videos are broken into manageable segments that can be used to refresh technicians on specific aspects of concrete BSF construction, used by trainers in BSF instruction workshops or to inform implementers on correct procedures and quality control.

  1. Preparing Construction Materials
  2. Mechanical Sand Screening
  3. Steel Mold Properties
  4. Preparing the Mold
  5. Mixing the Concrete
  6. Pouring the Concrete Filter
  7. Pouring the Filter with Wet and Dry Concrete Mixes
  8. Demolding the Filter
  9. Quality Check and Curing the Concrete Filter
  10. Demold and Check Wet and Dry Concrete Mix Filters
  11. Wash that Sand
  12. Wash Separation and Drainage Gravel
  13. Installing a Concrete Container
  14. Installing Alternate Container

We’d like to hear from you! Let us know how you are using the videos, what is working well for you, and how we can improve.  You can also suggest ideas for future videos that you are interested in, such as how to build the lids, diffuser, etc.

If you have any questions or need additional support please do not hesitate to contact  our team through our communication chat. We will be glad to support you!

Equality Fund

The Equality Fund is an international feminist fund based in Canada, providing resources to women’s rights and feminist organizations that work from the grassroots level to the regional and global stage.

General funding priorities include organizations that:

  • are led by women, youth, girls, and non-binary people most at the margins and facing multiple forms of discrimination
  • address issues that are under-funded or contested

Equality Fund grant sizes range from $10,000 CAD/year to $100,000 CAD/year for larger organizations. The application process takes place in two stages. In stage one, organizations must complete the eligibility quiz, and then submit an organizational profile. In stage two, qualifying organizations will be invited to submit an advanced application. Organizations based in Africa should apply to Equality Fund’s partner organization, African Women’s Development Fund directly.

IRONMAN Foundation: IRONAID COVID-19 Support Fund

The IRONAID COVID-19 Support Fund supports health-related nonprofit organizations around the world, with a focus on serving communities in the wake of COVID-19.

Potential projects to be considered for grant funds include:

  • Providing personal, protective equipment (PPE) and for supplies such as ventilators, CT/x-ray machines, etc.
  • Supporting programs in the areas of housing/homelessness, healthcare, nutrition/food support, mental health, domestic violence, care for seniors, etc.
  • Finding ways to support quarantined individuals.
  • Funding organizations that are working in areas with poor access to regular medical services.
  • Supporting groups that are focused on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene).
  • Supporting the research into SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

Grants must be used within one year.

CAWST in the News: Avenue Magazine recognizes Global Handwashing Day & CAWST

CAWST is honoured to have Calgary’s premier lifestyle magazine, Avenue Magazine, recognize Global Handwashing Day and CAWST in its latest issue.

October marks the month the world celebrates Global Handwashing Day. On October 15th, it’s a day dedicated to increasing hand hygiene awareness and emphasizing the important role of washing your hands with soap for health. As the world continues navigate the pandemic, the relevance of this day is top-of-mind.

This month, we’re honoured to have Calgary’s premier lifestyle magazine, Avenue Magazine, recognize Global Handwashing Day, encouraging Calgarians to become informed about its importance with a feature on CAWST. Senior director, Olivier Mills, shared his hopes for October 15th with Avenue and his appreciation for the opportunity to amplify our collaboration with the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub and CAWST’s work.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

CAWST has worked with the Hygiene Hub to create an online platform that brings together practical information, case studies, technologies, and access to long-term support for agencies that work within developing countries.

“The idea is that any organization or agency that is doing COVID-response work in any country could reach out to the Hygiene Hub and we could direct them to any resource or service they require to help them achieve their goal and keep people safe,” says Mills.

To read the full article, pick up the October issue of Avenue Magazine or find it online here.


Avenue Magazine is Calgary’s premier, city lifestyle magazine. Every issue of Avenue brings readers the best of the city from civic topics and local profiles, to events, store openings and getaways.

Photograph in the article shows children at the International Peace Initiatives in Meru, Kenya using the Well Beyond Sanitation and Hygiene training app to learn how to make and use ‘tippy-tap’ handwashing stations to protect against the spread of coronavirus in their community.

Coffee with CAWST: Andrea Roach

From chemical engineer to Translations Coordinator, Andy Roach is bringing people together through language. Thomas Coldwell sat down with Andy for an interview over coffee to learn more about her life and love of translation, and honour the crucial work of translators for International Translation Day.

From Chemical Engineer to Translations Coordinator: Bringing People Together Through Language

Translators work behind the scenes to facilitate communication and connection in a multitude of settings. Today, on International Translation Day, we want to bring professional translators to the forefront and honour their efforts to bridge differences and build understanding across cultures, communities, and countries.

Andrea Roach—or Andy, as we like to call her—is CAWST’s only Translations Coordinator on staff. But that doesn’t mean she works alone. Andy is surrounded by a team of language professionals based around the world. Translating CAWST’s resources makes it possible to provide water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) knowledge in four main languages: Arabic, French, Spanish, and English.

I asked Andy several questions to better understand what it’s like to be CAWST’s Translations Coordinator, and why she’s so passionate about her line of work. You can read the full interview that follows:

Tell us a bit about yourself. Why did you get into language services/translation work?

I wanted to be a translator ever since I was a kid, studying in a French immersion program in an English-speaking part of Canada. I’ve always been fascinated by languages and how they work. I started learning Italian at the local college when I was 11, then Spanish when I was in university, then Portuguese when I was about 25. I even learned Haitian Creole before I went on my first trip as a CAWST staff to Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 2004. In my spare time, I often listen to language- or linguistics-themed podcasts (like The History of English and Lexicon Valley), read books about language (especially etymology), and sometimes I’ll even study bits of other languages. When I was working in other countries for CAWST, I loved seeing how different things were said in different countries, or even different regions. I learned a lot of different varieties of Spanish and Portuguese that way.

Andy teaches a CAWST course
Andy delivers a workshop in Brazil.

Like a lot of translators, I have a varied background—I have a degree in Chemical Engineering, and I worked as an engineer in different fields and in different countries. My most interesting position was as a Global WASH Advisor for CAWST in Latin America, from 2004 to 2008, delivering workshops in Spanish, Portuguese, and French. This was often tiring because it involved not only translating newly-produced material the night before a workshop, but also working in all the different varieties of those languages. Despite that, it was so rewarding, and these experiences definitely led me to become a better translator.

Throughout my life, I’ve always had a passion for languages and for translating, and all of my previous experience informs the work I do every day now as a freelance translator, and as CAWST’s Translations Coordinator.

How did you come to work with CAWST? Why do you choose to support an organization like CAWST in your translation work?

Back in 2003, I came back to Canada after working with the Red Cross in El Salvador on a rural water project, I was looking for an organization that worked in water where I could contribute my field experience, my engineering knowledge, and my language skills. CAWST was the perfect fit. I spent four years as a Global WASH Advisor, and then I came back to CAWST in 2011 as Translations Coordinator.

How has translation changed for CAWST over the years?

In the early days of being a Global WASH Advisor, those of us who worked in Spanish or French all did our own translations. I personally loved this, but I admit it was exhausting to have to do on top of my “regular” work. And not all the other Global WASH Advisors loved it as much as I did. At some point, we started outsourcing translations to volunteers. By the time I took over as Translations Coordinator, we had a roster of about 50 amazing volunteer translators. It was wonderful working with them—the volunteers were all dedicated and loved CAWST’s work. But it took a lot of effort to coordinate so many people, and especially to keep the quality and terminology consistent. Later, we decided to start paying for all of our translations, so that we could concentrate the work among just a few people. This made things go a lot faster, and also increased our quality and consistency. A few years after I took over the role, we decided to implement a computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool. Note that CAT tools are not to be confused with machine translation, such as Google Translate. Rather, a CAT tool stores every sentence we  ever translate, so we never have to translate the same thing twice and making it easy to reference things. It also stores a glossary, which we are constantly adding to. The CAT tool we use is called XTM; it’s cloud-based so all of our translators have access to it, and they can see each other’s work and add entries to the glossary on the fly. That has been a game changer for us. It has improved our efficiency, quality, and consistency.

We translate all of our training materials into French and Spanish as a matter of course, but this year we also translated a good portion of our materials into Arabic, and some into Portuguese. With the addition of Arabic, we have been able to reach new clients in the Middle East, including NGOs working in Syrian refugee camps.

How has COVID-19 changed CAWST’s translation requirements?

When COVID-19 hit, all of our international trainers were grounded. They started working on developing new training materials for online platforms, which needed to be translated as quickly as possible. CAWST also entered into a partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to develop the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub, which was to be translated into French, Spanish, and Arabic. Because of the nature of the content, it all needed to be translated urgently, and we also needed to respond nimbly to changing recommendations. During that fast-paced time, the hours I worked for CAWST went from about ten a month to ninety. Our translators also sprang into action to translate all the new material that was being developed, much quicker than we would normally ask for it. I’m so thankful for how responsive and engaged they were then, and continue to be today.

How do you select your translators?

Andy takes a sip of water from a biosand filter
Andy takes a sip of water from a biosand filter in Bolivia.

One thing I would like to emphasize is that we don’t see translations as a “commodity”—it’s not just “here’s your translation and the invoice, thank you very much.” Rather, we have built up relationships with our translators over the years, and we’ll sometimes go back and forth on something to make sure the translator understands the source text, and can convey it in a way that our clients will understand. Some people think that anyone who speaks two languages can be a translator, but that’s not true in all cases. You can usually tell the difference between a translation done by an experienced translator, and one done by a novice—the one done by the experienced translator will sound natural, as though it had been written in that language right from the start, whereas translations done by someone who doesn’t have a vocation for translation might not sound “quite right.”

All of the translators we work with at CAWST not only have impeccable language skills, but they also understand and love our work. I know I can always count on them if we have something urgent; if something is really tight, they’ll work together to see who is available to take the job on.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize our translators and the amazing work they have done for us over the years. I truly love working with them. They are: Mayra Cavilla and Cecilia Perretta (who both live in Argentina); Thibaut Demaegdt, Dominique Philippe-Suzon, and Michèle Mahler (who all live in France); and Ahmed Youssef, who does Arabic translations for us through Immigrant Services Calgary. Although our translators may work behind the scenes, we all collaborate together as a team.

What advice would you give someone planning to become a translator someday?

Be curious. Never assume your language skills are as good as you think they are—challenge that by learning from other translators; going to conferences; and taking webinars, courses, and exams. Read a lot and listen to music in your A, B, and C languages. It took me several years to become a certified translator. I studied, took practice exams, and learned from more experienced translators. I actually often say that it was harder to become a translator than it was to become a chemical engineer.


Andy and the translations team work closely with CAWST Global Services staff and partners, two of whom shared their perspective on why translation work is so valuable:

Translations are an essential piece for the work we do in Latin America. Our resources are generally created in English, but thanks to the passion and commitment of the team of translators that supports us in Spanish, CAWST significantly grows the potential reach to more than 400 million people. —Eva Manzano, Senior Global WASH Advisor, CAWST


CAWST’s translation team has provided rapid translations from English to Spanish, French, and Arabic across all the Hygiene Hub resources. Having these diverse resources available in all of these languages has regularly been cited by COVID-19 response actors as one of the main selling points of our work. At the beginning of the pandemic, our users faced numerous challenges because of the “English Infodemic” around COVID-19—CAWST’s translation work helped break down this barrier.
—Sian White, Research Fellow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Today and every day, we are grateful for the passion, curiosity, and professionalism of our translators. The impact of translation cannot be overstated, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the support of translators, we are able to share WASH and COVID-19 resources with more people in more languages and more diverse contexts, to improve hygiene and health in the long run.

Thank you, Andy and all the translators, for your crucial efforts in sharing information, improving communication, and fostering relationships to make our interconnected world a better place.

Coffee with CAWST is a blog series, where we have coffee and conversation to connect our readers with some of the outstanding people behind CAWST. Please let us know what you think, ask questions and stay tuned for more!

Changemaker: Emma Chepkoech

Emma is working to break the cycle of poverty by growing the capacity of community water, sanitation, and hygiene promoters, and in turn, their communities. By developing confidence, knowledge, and access to technology, Emma contributes to happier, healthier communities in Kenya.

Emma Chepkoech is a changemaker who grows capacity for community empowerment in Kenya.


We work with Emma through our longstanding partnership with Aqua Clara Kenya (ACK), newly a partner in our Water Expertise and Training Centre program. One of the most seasoned ACK team members, Emma started as a Community Health Promoter in 2012. She ran hygiene clubs in schools and visited households to ensure biosand filters were being used correctly, consistently, and continuously. Now, Emma manages all the Community Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Promoters in ACK’s community health club program. Between then and now, Emma has worked in most of ACK’s programs. For example, engaging entrepreneurs in the South Rift Region, Emma worked to ensure tea farmers could access safe water through the use of membrane filters.

Regardless of the program, Emma stays focused on developing the capacity of the communities in which she works. Emma has trained hundreds of community WASH promoters in multiple counties. Community WASH promoters engage communities to share knowledge on water, sanitation, hygiene, and health. They improve community health by informing and influencing families to adopt healthy WASH practices and appropriate technologies, and then being available to troubleshoot and monitor progress. Emma is committed to facilitating their success.

It starts with the community WASH promoter. When I lead training sessions, they are not only about the learning objectives, but also about growing confidence. People who come into the session shy grow their confidence to stand in front of others and share knowledge.

They come to understand themselves better, and realize they are capable. They motivate themselves and then they motivate others. My only problem is when they do so well in the communities, they progress to new opportunities with the government.”

It is a good problem to have in that it is a sign of capacity growth. Emma has been a trailblazer in designing and coordinating the community health club program, facilitated by community WASH promoters. The program is called WASHiriki, which, in Kiswahili, means coming together for a common goal. Communities convene to form clubs and work through a carefully crafted curriculum, from identifying the key challenges they face as a community, to learning about accessing safe water, and finding appropriate solutions.

“After learning with Africa Manzi Centre (CAWST Water Expertise and Training Centre in Zambia) on their community health club program, I sat down with John, CEO of ACK, to design how and who would facilitate the sessions. We wanted to merge the market-based approaches (selling our filters) with our awareness approaches (the work of community WASH promoters and training).

For us, this program is about sharing knowledge and direct access to ACK products, like biosand filters. Furthermore, we realized that financial literacy would play a key role in adoption of WASH products and other economic activities. We made an initial plan for the curriculum and CAWST helped us refine it and integrate participatory approaches. I knew from the beginning that through songs, pictures, and role-playing dramas, our clubs would be engaged in learning.”

And she was right.

“I can testify that people come to the sessions, engaged and willing to adopt new practices. Even if they cannot afford the water filter yet, they are willing to do what they can to improve their health. At the end of sessions, people ask me – when are you coming back for another training?”

Tirelessly, Emma is working to break the cycle of poverty by growing the capacity of community WASH promoters, and in turn, their communities.

“I’m someone who doesn’t sleep until I attain my target. That comes from my mother. She has driven me to follow my heart. From her, I learned when you want to do something, do it to the best of your ability.”

I will not stop until I’m happy. I’ll be happy when community members are happy. They’ll be happier when they can prevent disease, putting in place measures to avoid diseases. Most people are spending their money to react and get better when they get sick. I want to flip this, so that they can prevent it. The programs we facilitate are catalysts – it’s my prayer that communities will come together for WASH, and continue to empower themselves financially and in other ways going forward.


Changemakers Impact Report

Changemakers is an impact report produced quarterly for members of the Water Circle. Members of the Water Circle are donors who make a contribution each month to support changemakers, such as Emma. For more information, visit

Connecting water and hygiene expertise with need in a smaller world

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Olivier Mills, senior director at CAWST, knew a response needed to be quick to support organizations working in low- and middle-income countries. Working closely with friends and colleagues around the world, the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub was created. He shared his experience and his article was featured in Western Canada Water Magazine’s fall issue on public health. Read the full story here.

In late March 2020, the world suddenly got smaller. Unprecedented, is how the world would define our new reality as we all reacted to the very same threat. I received an online message from a friend and colleague based in London, UK. Sian White, an expert in hygiene behaviour, sits next to some of the world’s leading researchers in virology, epidemiology and hygiene. She is a research fellow on WASH and behaviour change at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

“We need to do something about this,” Sian messaged. As the outbreak became a pandemic, we both knew that people in low- and middle-income countries we worked in would be hit much harder, since they lack the systems and resources that so-called “developed countries” have. Along with the disease, misinformation about the coronavirus had started spreading already. It was important to act quickly.

Both of our organizations, the Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) in Calgary, Alberta, and the LSHTM, work to alleviate poverty through safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. We do this through practical research and building people’s knowledge and skills. LSHTM has researchers and experts; we have practitioners, reach and online technology. So in less than a week we built the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub, an online space that connect experts with practitioners to share scientifically-backed information about COVID-19 and how to fight it.

Homepage of the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub
Screenshot of the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub.

Within a month, we had hundreds of organizations, governments, water professionals and individuals accessing the technical resources and expertise. The World Health Organization, UNICEF and half a dozen leading global agencies chipped in with their expertise and guidance. We witnessed engineers, scientists, researchers, community health leaders and academics come together for one common cause. As the evidence-based knowledge on COVID-19 grew, the Hygiene Hub’s informational resources did too. We translated everything into French, Spanish and Arabic, to maximize our reach and ensure resources were available for people who needed them the most. In our first three months, over 14,000 users from 180 countries accessed the Hub.

The power of human adaptability

As a water organization based in Western Canada, our staff could no longer travel to provide the in-person training and consulting services, as we had for the past 19 years. To stay connected with our clients globally during the pandemic, we redoubled our service delivery and resources into the online space. Water and hygiene knowledge has been crucial to building solutions. But what works in some places, doesn’t in others. For example, clean water and soap are in short supply in some parts of the world. With handwashing being key to prevent the spread of COVID-19, how can people wash their hands well if water and soap are scarce? Is handwashing with grey water effective or does water have to be treated first? How can we build low-cost touch-free hygiene stations for public spaces? If internet connectivity is poor, what other means are proving effective to reach communities with hygiene messaging? In a pandemic, when individuals have to choose between using water to drink, bathe or wash their hands, these are time sensitive, life-and-death questions. We realized that people in low-resource countries needed guidance on how to respond quickly to COVID-19 in their communities. They were looking for a source of reliable information about hygiene program behaviour change, hygiene kits, personal protective equipment and effective communication. Knowledge about what’s working in similar settings, what isn’t, and how to make the best of what resources they had. The online space was the fastest, safest and easiest way to reach them with this information. So we brought together local and global technical experts to provide and share answers.

Person uses a tippy tap handwashing station. Photo courtesy of Well Beyond
Child uses a handwashing station at the International Peace Initiatives in Meru, Kenya. Photo courtesy of Well Beyond.

If there is one thing I have learned through this initiative, it is the power of human adaptability and ingenuity. As a water engineer trained in both the technical aspects of water supply and the social aspects of sustainable water access in low-income contexts, it has become clear to me that when the right people get together for the right purpose, we can quickly find solutions that work. This initiative was one great example of that. The wide range of disciplines, from virus research to web development to hygiene programming, created a positive tension in the design process. While we were struggling at home here in Canada, figuring out who was going to take care of the kids or disinfect the groceries, we were also thinking about the organizations we support overseas. People who weren’t getting any science-based information or technical support in their country, yet were motivated to take action in their communities. As they started sharing their COVID-19 response initiatives, we were blown away by the resourcefulness emerging from places with scarce financial means. Innovations rich in creativity: attention-grabbing messages, low-cost handwashing station designs and inclusive community engagement approaches. So far, our online map has captured over 211 different initiatives in 65 countries, ranging from a response app in Kenya, to working with faith leaders in Afghanistan and with sports celebrities in Tanzania.

As the world continues to shrink, and the future stays uncertain, one thing we can be sure of is that we all play a role in each other’s future. While we need to keep physically distant from each other, working closely online to find solutions is essential to collective public health, not just for ourselves, but for those around us. The water sector builds more than infrastructure or knowledge. We build motivation, resilience, hope, and a sense of togetherness. Because it is by coming together in new ways, that we all grow.


Headshot of Olivier Mills

Olivier Mills, MEng, MSc is a senior director at CAWST. He has spent over 15 years in the water sector working in Uganda, Burkina Faso, Mali, Congo, India, Tunisia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zambia, Cameroon and Haiti. Calgary has been home for Olivier and his family since 2008. Passionate about most things water and web, he leads the Virtual Services team at CAWST, Wash’Em, and the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub. Connect with Olivier on LinkedIn at



Western Canada Water Magazine - Public Health Issue

This article was first published in Western Canada Water Magazine Public Health Issue, Fall 2020, pages 50-51. With written permission from publisher, Craig Kelman & Associates Ltd., we reprinted it here on the CAWST Blog.

India: a tale of two partners

India is one of the greatest economic success stories of our time. Yet, it is home to the highest number of people in the world without access to safe water. How do we achieve sustainable access to safe drinking water and safely managed sanitation at such immense scale?

India is one of the greatest economic development success stories of our time. With a healthy economy, came broader health improvements: From 1947 to 2011, life expectancy doubled (UN India, 2017). Yet, with 18% of the world’s population, only 4% of global water resources (World Bank, 2019), and the highest number of people in the world without access to safe water (UNICEF & WHO, 2019), how do we achieve sustainable access to safe drinking water and safely managed sanitation at scale?


In CAWST’s approach, we start by building on the success, capacity, and talent of organizations across the country. Working together with a partner based in Gurugram in the north, Sehgal Foundation, and a partner based in Bengaluru in the south, Consortium for DEWATS Dissemination (CDD) Society, each with a distinct technical expertise, we believe that reaching everyone with safe water and sanitation is possible.

Back in 2005, Shauna Curry, PEng, CAWST CEO now, Technical Advisor then, presented on household water treatment and safe storage solutions, such as the biosand filter and rainwater harvesting, in India. Following the presentation, Lalit Mohan Sharma, MTech, Director of Adaptive Technologies invited her to the Sehgal Foundation office to explore the feasibility of implementing these types of solutions. Many cups of tea and several hours later, a relationship was germinating.

“Immediately, when I saw Shauna’s presentation, I recognized we could reach the most vulnerable populations with these simple, affordable technologies,” recounts Lalit. But as Sehgal Foundation started implementing technologies like the concrete biosand filter, they discovered unique challenges. “One day I saw a concrete biosand filter being transported on a motorcycle with a child on the back holding on. I asked myself, if this biosand filter cracks on the way to the household, who is responsible for this?”

Lalit felt the weight of the responsibility and started to test alternatives. Reinforced plastic and galvanized iron were among the prototypes, but Lalit found that a stainless steel biosand filter was the ticket to a more context-appropriate solution. This version was improved for weight and transportability. Plus, in some communities, the material is a symbol of status, motivating more people to own and use the filter. “Lalit’s engineering brilliance and creativity doesn’t need much input, but CAWST was able to help along the way with encouragement, moral support, and some technical advice,” explains Suneel Rajavaram, MEng, PGDRM, IPMP, Senior Global WASH Advisor with CAWST.

Building on a friendly relationship, in 2016, CAWST proposed that Sehgal Foundation could begin to host CAWST training. Lalit readily agreed.

Thanks to CAWST, we established our credibility as a training organization in the sector. Together, we have delivered ten training workshops in the last four years; and on our own, we have delivered ten more training workshops.

Sehgal Foundation has trained 80 organizations, resulting in ten organizations and two entrepreneurs implementing biosand filter projects, which have benefitted about 10,000 families to access safe water, and 200,000 families to receive education on safe water.

Lalit presents the concept of healthy homes to a community where Sehgal Foundation is currently implementing a biosand filter project
Lalit (centre, arm extended) presents the concept of healthy homes to a community where Sehgal Foundation is currently implementing a biosand filter project. Healthy homes would extend the program from a focus on drinking water, to an integrated approach to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene practices in households.


Inextricably connected to safe drinking water, safely managed sanitation is also an area of promise. Progress has been achieved through the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission), an initiative to provide toilets and end open defecation. 2019 marked the fifth anniversary of this national initiative, with more than 110 million toilets built and 600 million people with access to them (Regan & Suri, 2019). But access to the technology and sustained use of it are two separate issues.

What happens beyond the toilet? Capacity and technical knowledge are mandatory for fecal sludge management, solid waste management, and wastewater treatment. That’s where CDD Society comes in.

Leanne and Roopa in a small group coaching session on communication skills at CDD SocietyLeanne (second from right) with Roopa (right), in a small group coaching session on communication skills at CDD Society. Coaching like this helps to boost the confidence of CDD Society trainers to deliver sessions at events with high-level officials.

In 2016, CAWST met CDD Society working on a common project to develop capacity of the National Institute of Urban Affairs on decentralized sanitation solutions. CDD is a pioneer in implementation of decentralized wastewater treatment systems (DEWATS) and in fecal sludge management.

“We appreciate the support provided by CAWST to CDD in developing a training package on waterbody rejuvenation. Because of this  support, the training module was developed in a very systematic way. When we delivered the workshop, we got excellent feedback from our trainees,” says Roopa Bernardiner, PhD, Senior Manager of Centre for Advanced Sanitation Solutions, with CDD Society.

The CAWST training support complements CDD Society’s advanced technical knowledge on sanitation, which has far-reaching potential for achieving universal sanitation in India.

We can’t do this alone. We have reached many people, but from our learning experiences on the ground, we want to be able to consolidate it, develop content, and build the capacity of stakeholders in the sanitation sector, from toilet builders to government decision-makers.

Plus, CAWST and CDD Society co-delivered introductory training on fecal sludge management in Bengaluru, “allowing us one more opportunity to observe and practice the participatory techniques in sanitation trainings.” As they see it, by having more capable and confident trainers, they will reach higher-level participants and an international audience to enable action across the country.


Partnerships built on the strengths of CDD Society and Sehgal Foundation are creating synergy to scale up solutions for those in need across the country. Through non-networked solutions and local capacity, we hope that through partnerships such as this, the tale will be one where India becomes one of the world’s greatest water and sanitation success stories.



UN India. 2017. Health, Water and Sanitation. United Nations in India.

Ghoshal, D. 2019. World Bank. Helping India Overcome its Water Woes. World Bank News.

World Bank. 2019. Helping India Manage its Complex Water Resources. World Bank News.

World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund. 2015. Joint Monitoring Program for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. 

Regan, H & Suri, M. 2019. Half of India couldn’t access a toilet 5 years ago. Modi built 110M latrines – but will people use them? CNN Asia.

This story of impact is part of our 2019 Annual Report. To read the full report, click here.

Bridging islands of excellence: non-networked sanitation

Projections show that by 2050 close to 7 billion people will live in urban areas (Ritchie, 2018). With great, rapid urbanization, comes great responsibility. That includes providing adequate and inclusive sanitation services that meet the needs of the whole population. To do so, coordination and capacity in non-networked sanitation are key. CAWST is building partnerships that bridge islands of excellence to fulfill these needs.

Currently, more than four billion people live in urban areas. And counting. Projections show that by 2050 close to 7 billion of us will live in urban areas (Ritchie, 2018). With great, rapid urbanization, comes great responsibility. This includes providing adequate and inclusive sanitation services that meet the needs of the whole population.


Nearly 57% of people who live in cities lack safely managed sanitation, and 16% don’t have access to even basic sanitation (UNICEF & WHO, 2019). Imagine what this shortfall implies for public and environmental health. Fecal matter that is mismanaged or unmanaged contaminates water bodies, proliferates disease, and ultimately affects the livelihoods of people all over the world.

A fecal sludge treatment facility in Naruku, Kenya.
A fecal sludge treatment facility in Naruku, Kenya. A sanitation system deals with human excreta from the time it is generated until it is used or disposed of safely. Fecal sludge management includes emptying, transportation, treatment, and use or disposal of fecal sludge from an on-site sanitation technology (like a pit latrine or septic tank). It addresses the last three components of a non-sewered sanitation system.

Addressing this challenge requires a mix of solutions, people, and organizations converging across sectors to develop and enact sanitation strategies. A range of sanitation solutions, from traditional toilets and sewers to less-accepted non-networked solutions such as latrines and fecal sludge management, must all be used and integrated to achieve universal sanitation. Mayors, municipalities, or utilities lead policy development, and plan and regulate sanitation services. Businesses, such as emptiers, often provide those services, including emptying and transporting fecal sludge from latrines to be safely treated. Technical and academic institutions also have a role in providing training opportunities to support the skills development necessary to enable sanitation systems.

Coordination is key. And so is capacity. Timely and targeted capacity development services can reinforce the coordination of these organizations.

Focusing on the less accepted, but absolutely necessary non-networked solutions, in 2018 CAWST conducted a study of the existing services, knowledge, and skills available to sanitation service providers in ten African and South Asian countries.

“What we observed out of the study were ‘islands of excellence’—strong, one-off training workshops or courses, but a disconnect between the offerings and the needs of learners,” explains Laura Kohler, PhD, Senior Knowledge and Research Advisor. “Many of the opportunities were expert-led lectures, which lend themselves to knowledge transfer, but which do not necessarily translate to participants taking action based on their learning.

Moreover, CAWST discovered that although there were many people and organizations working towards inclusive sanitation, they lacked the support they needed to succeed.

So we asked ourselves, how do we develop capacity at both the organizational and individual levels to better support sanitation service delivery for all?”

The answer: strategic partnerships.

Working alongside the organizations best equipped to reach and serve sanitation professionals who were delivering the services, CAWST engaged in three strategic partnerships:

  • With emptying professionals, through the Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors (PASA)
  • With the African Water Association (AfWA), to actualize their mentorship and training program for African municipalities and utilities for implementing citywide inclusive sanitation
  • With ITN-BUET in Bangladesh, to develop and deliver citywide inclusive sanitation through fecal sludge management training for municipalities.

Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors launch at Fecal Sludge Management 5 conference
Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors launches at Fecal Sludge Management 5 conference. With members from over 19 countries across Africa, the association convenes emptying professionals to advance their rights and reputation through networking, peer-to-peer learning, and advocacy.

Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors

Emptying professionals are responsible for the safe collection and transport of fecal sludge, from latrines and septic tanks to disposal sites. Despite providing services that are essential to public health, the work of Emptiers is usually misunderstood and underappreciated. Facing common challenges and stigma, emptying professionals convened to form an association for advancing their rights and reputation.

The Pan African Association of Sanitation Actors (PASA) was officially launched in 2019 at Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) 5, a biennial international conference that advances sanitation policy and practice. “Emptiers were previously underrepresented in conversations about sanitation policy. Bringing together the secretariat from across the continent for the official launch of PASA at the FSM 5 conference was an exciting occasion, as this was one of the first times they were well-represented at this type of high level event,” explains Kelly James, MSc, CAWST Knowledge and Research Advisor.

Comprised of representatives of municipal and national emptying associations from 19 countries across Africa, PASA facilitates networking, peer-to-peer learning, and capacity development. They advocate and ensure that Emptiers are present in all conversations about sanitation service delivery and expand the ways in which Emptiers engage in fecal sludge management.

CAWST worked with PASA even before their official launch. Together, CAWST and PASA have hosted workshops amongst Emptiers from across the continent, and designed capacity development tools to structure training and services for Emptiers. Collaboratively, we also began thinking about PASA’s capacity development strategy, with a vision to expand PASA’s network and support all members through peer-to-peer learning and sharing.


African Water Association meets to evaluate the first phase of their program that engages 30 cities across the continent to plan and implement inclusive sanitation strategies
African Water Association meets to evaluate the first phase of their program that engages 30 cities across the continent to plan and implement inclusive sanitation strategies to reach the growing need of cities. The next phase of the program will scale training, mentoring, and training-of-trainers in support of citywide sanitation planning.

African Water Association

While many of our efforts started with members from the emptying community, supporting them without strengthening the contexts in which they work would nullify their achievements.

Strengthening said contexts meant exploring opportunities to support African municipalities and utilities, which are the authorities typically delegated to manage water and sanitation services in cities. The African Water Association aims to strengthen the capabilities that underpin access to sustainable water and sanitation for all, and has been doing so since its inception in 1980. AfWA now also operates as a platform that facilitates knowledge sharing, networking, collaboration, and advocacy across Africa.

Through 2019, CAWST and AfWA’s relationship centred on supporting PASA. In doing so, new opportunities for collaboration emerged.

Under one of their many programs, AfWA aims to build the capacity of 30 African cities to implement citywide inclusive sanitation. As AfWA concluded and evaluated the first phase of their program, CAWST supported in defining criteria to select participating countries and cities going forward. We also collaborated on designing questionnaires to assess sanitation in participating cities and the strengths of AfWA’s five regional implementing partners. This included documenting municipal and utility competencies to inform training and mentorship, and Citywide Sanitation Planning training-of-trainers.

AfWA’s program is a great example of how capacity development can contribute to the enabling environment for inclusive sanitation solutions. It is multimodal, growing both capacity and coordination among key stakeholders to improve the coverage of sanitation options and the management of urban fecal sludge, wastewater, and more.


International Training Network - Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology trainers Dr Lona Robertson, CAWST Global Learning Advisor (centre), with participants and trainers of a sanitation workshop, developed in collaboration with International Training Network – Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

International Training Network – Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

Non-networked sanitation programs in urban contexts are unlikely to succeed without participatory, action-oriented courses on citywide inclusive sanitation. Fortunately, with International Training Network – Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (ITN-BUET), we have co-developed exactly that type of curriculum. Together, our goal is to develop a national-level capacity building platform that will support municipalities in Bangladesh to implement non-networked sanitation. This shifts away from the typical model of expert lectures. Instead, we’re aiming for modular learning, where each module addresses one step in the planning process. The goal is for participants to emerge from the course with an action plan for applying what they learned into their own municipalities.

“We transformed the course, Fecal Sludge Management in Cities: An Element of Citywide Inclusive Sanitation. The most rewarding part for me was supporting ITN-BUET to develop something that was truly theirs and truly participatory. And they were pumped when they saw the results,” explains Lona Robertson, PhD, Global Learning Advisor. Lona supported the instructional redesign of the course, and led its evaluation.

The results of a more participatory approach were astounding. Following the first course, every paurashava (municipality) in attendance reported that they created action plans within two weeks to share their learning with stakeholders and increase public awareness. Moving forward, CAWST and ITN-BUET are exploring ways to work together. Our mutual goal is to increase and strengthen capacity development opportunities and resources to support the scale-up of non-networked sanitation services.


Strategic partnerships like these, which span continents and engage stakeholders across sectors, are indispensable to achieving safely managed sanitation, which so much of the world still lacks. “No one actor or solution is sufficient to serve an entire city; it takes collaboration and innovation, which AfWA, PASA, and ITN-BUET aim to foster,” Laura explains.



Ritchie, H. 2018. Urbanization.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization. 2019. Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000-2017: Special focus on inequalities.

This story of impact is part of our 2019 Annual Report. To read the full report, click here.

Crafting livelihoods: ceramic pot filter course

In a world gone plastic, potters’ livelihoods are threatened by decreasing demand for their ceramic products. Many also live without safe water. In partnership with Potters for Peace, CAWST clients are helping them craft a solution that honours tradition and improves economic opportunity.

In a world gone plastic, potters’ livelihoods are threatened by decreasing demand for their ceramic products. Lalit Sharma, MTech, who hails from our training partner, Sehgal Foundation, has worked extensively with traditional potters in northern India. Potters and their fellow villagers live in challenging conditions, often without safe drinking water. But Lalit saw a way for potters to shape a solution.


Ceramic filters have been used for hundreds of years in multiple geographies. In these filters, water passes through a porous ceramic pot, trapping particles and pathogens, then producing water that only needs disinfection (like chlorine) before drinking.

Lalit Sharma inspects ceramic pot filters in his lab. He has worked closely with local potters in India, and Potters for Peace to mesh traditional practices with technical specifications.Lalit Sharma inspects ceramic pot filters in his lab. He has worked closely with local potters in India, and Potters for Peace to mesh traditional practices with technical specifications.

In many places, ceramic pot filters have brought new purpose and prosperity for artisanal potters. Potters for Peace, a US-based charity, arose from supporting potters in Nicaragua. Within their mission, potters from the US exchange learning and do voluntary trips to help potters from Nicaragua build kilns and advance their business capabilities. This enables potters to preserve their traditions, while becoming more economically independent. As an extension of their craftsmanship skills, Potters for Peace are also leading experts on the subject of ceramic pot filters.

CAWST’s relationship with Potters for Peace dates to 2004, when they provided a workshop at a CAWST learning exchange to introduce the technology. Unlike the biosand filter, the ceramic pot filter does not have a simple, straightforward recipe. As engineers, we tend to see technology as a science. The ceramic filter challenges us to approach it as an art, too. Keeping in touch over the years, when Potters for Peace requested help to develop a training on producing high-quality ceramic filters, a decision to partner on developing the training came easily.

The nature of the true partnership combined our strengths. With Potters for Peace as the subject matter experts, and CAWST on instructional design, “We grew knowledgeable on the technology, while Potters for Peace staff grew into instructional designers in their own right, building engaging lesson plans on the ceramic filter,” reflects Lisa Mitchell, MES, CAWST Director, Learning.

The course was piloted in the USA. After this first round, the resounding reflections of course participants included the complexity of the filter, and the determination required to follow through with ceramic pot filter production. The production requires multiple clay samples and ample patience to get the right results. Yet, for those who persist in their efforts, the rewards and impact are well worth it.

Darrell Nelson steps out of the kiln with a ceramic pot filter in the Clean Water International production facility in Davao City, Philippines

Darrell Nelson, Executive Director and Founder of Clean Water International, is exceptionally persistent, with the results to show for it. A client of CAWST from the very beginning, Darrell leads a well-established biosand filter factory and projects across the Philippines.

“In the Philippines, there are people in extreme poverty and there are people who are extremely wealthy. And in the middle, you have a massive amount of people who would be doing a lot better with safe water. They have kids and dreams, but they never get a hand up.  After learning about ceramic pot filters, I saw the need and potential of helping that middle group of people.”

Following the first course, CAWST and Potters for Peace continued to support course alumni like Darrell in the Philippines, as well as a factory in Indonesia. In 2019, CAWST and Potters for Peace hosted the course for the second time, bringing together participants from all over the world. Four people from Kenya. A woman from Nigeria. Two people from Haiti. One man from India (Lalit Sharma). Three people from the US. Some participants were seeking to improve manufacturing at their existing factories, and others were at the early stages of the manufacturing journey.


Since then, Potters for Peace staff have visited the Philippines, Indonesia, and India to provide hands-on consulting support. As Darrell shares,

Potters for Peace started consulting with us right out of the course. They were guiding us as we figured out what kiln to get, finding a press, experimenting with clay. Kilns are like an oven, and everyone’s oven is different. The right oven was difficult to find, and then we needed to learn to use it. It made a huge difference when they came to visit. Our local staff learned directly from them, but using our equipment: it was very hands-on and rich with learning.

Ceramic pot filters are carefully inspected for flaws as they are removed from the kiln at the Clean Water International production facility in the Philippines. The ceramic pot filter course co-developed by Potters for Peace and CAWST focuses on maintaining production practices that contribute to high-quality filters.Ceramic pot filters are carefully inspected for flaws as they are removed from the kiln at the Clean Water International production facility in the Philippines. The ceramic pot filter course co-developed by Potters for Peace and CAWST focuses on maintaining production practices that contribute to high-quality filters.

While finding a kiln was challenging for the Philippines factory, Lalit faced a different challenge in India: using the traditional square kiln that has been used for generations in the region, to suit ceramic pot filters. “I think what’s really unique about the work of Lalit and the Sehgal Foundation is how they will have to mesh the best technical recommendations with the tradition to find something that works and honours both,” explained Lisa.

Both Darrell and Lalit are bringing this solution to scale, but in two different ways. Darrell’s factory will be large and centralized, with many workers and an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get involved in distribution. Whereas Lalit is engaging with hundreds of family-run pottery businesses to add this product and skill to their offering. Each remains on track to distribute filters in the 2020 calendar year, even with the setbacks of COVID-19.

The partnership between CAWST and Potters for Peace doesn’t end with the course. Going forward, they will bring their complementary skill sets to offer consulting services to filter factories. Potters for Peace will continue to support factory start-up and quality improvement, while CAWST will support ceramic filter users and distributors with education and follow-up. Indeed, ceramic filters remind us that art, science, tradition, and teamwork all have a place in crafting and implementing safe water solutions.


Are you crafting a new interest in ceramic pot filters? Learn more:


This story of impact is part of our 2019 Annual Report. To read the full report, click here.

CAWST in the News: Western Canada Water Magazine

Olivier Mills, CAWST Senior Director of Global Services, takes pen to paper to share his experience of the early moments of the pandemic and getting the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub off the ground. His article was featured in Western Canada Water Magazine’s Fall issue on public health.

Olivier Mills, CAWST Senior Director of Global Services, recently took pen to paper to share his experience of the early moments of the pandemic and getting the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub off the ground. His article (see pages 50-51) was featured in Western Canada Water Magazine‘s Fall issue on public health, which covers the full spectrum of water issues. The magazine is distributed to the biggest water and wastewater membership in Canada with over 5,400 members throughout the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

Child uses a handwashing station at the International Peace Initiatives in Meru, Kenya

The photograph featured here and in the article is courtesy of Well Beyond. It shows a child at the International Peace Initiatives in Meru, Kenya using the Well Beyond Sanitation and Hygiene training app to learn how to use a handwashing station, called a ‘tippy-tap.’ This app reaches remote populations with knowledge of how to protect against the spread of coronavirus in their communities. To learn more about this project and other COVID-19 responses worldwide, you can read the case study featured on the Hygiene Hub.

With the magazine’s permission, the article has been reprinted on our blog for your reading pleasure. Click here to read the full article.

A refreshing approach to wastewater

When we found out that Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets, Xylem Inc., and Village Brewery teamed up to craft a beer out of wastewater, we put it to the test. The taste test, that is. Laura Kohler, PhD, Senior Technical Advisor shares her review and perspective on how we can innovate to achieve safe sanitation for all.

Image Credit: Riley Brandt, University of Calgary.
Alberta’s first beer made with treated wastewater was brewed as a collaboration between UCalgary’s Advancing Canadian Water Assets (ACWA), Village Brewery and Xylem Inc. The limited batch of Village Blonde is on sale now.


For the last four years with CAWST, I have been working as a technical advisor on sanitation. In Canada, we commonly refer to wastewater when discussing issues around the sanitation system. However, sanitation encompasses much more than the water that flows in our sewers, including: solid waste, stormwater, wastewater, and in the majority of countries around the world, fecal sludge, which is collected from non-networked systems such as latrines and septic tanks. 

Though my work often surprises me with interesting challenges and tasks, last week one request took the cake. I was asked to taste beer. But it wasn’t just any beer. This beer was special, and I like to believe it was specially crafted for me 🙂 Why?  Because it was brewed with treated wastewater. 

Some of our Calgary friends and partners worked together on this experimental beer. Xylem Inc., a corporate partner who has supported us with many volunteers, and Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets (ACWA) at the University of Calgary, who has supported our past World Water Day events, teamed up with Calgary-based Village Brewery on this limited edition Village Blonde. 

As Christine O’Grady, longtime friend of CAWST and coordinator of ACWA explains, “Ensuring sustainable water solutions for all requires collaboration and knowledge mobilization. The ACWA, Village and Xylem partnership demonstrated that water reuse is possible. ACWA was honoured to work with CAWST on past World Water Day initiatives to foster understanding and enhance awareness of water security challenges.”


What was my review of this limited edition Blonde Ale?
It tasted like beer! Refreshing. Cold. And no hint of wastewater. 

When we think about wastewater, we don’t typically think of drinking it.
But here’s the reality: Every drop of water, whether it’s from a river or the effluent of a wastewater treatment plant, has been in someone’s or something’s body at some point. After all, there’s a finite source of clean water available to us on the planet. So it comes down to perception. At the end of the day, treated wastewater is just… water. 

Where resources such as water or nutrients are stressed, we need to flip the paradigm on its head and consider different waste streams as opportunities for resource recovery and energy generation. For example, we can recover waste for the production of useful byproducts such as compost or biofuels. For Village beer, the opportunity was something a bit more familiar: water. The only difference was its source: the wastewater treatment plant.

This paradigm shift is happening globally.
More and more cities employ innovative sanitation solutions to conserve and recover resources, enabling them to provide and sustain sanitation to their citizens. 

But this is no small challenge.
To reach everyone with safely managed sanitation services, a range of options are required. Furthermore, the human capabilities to design and deliver these options underpin their feasibility. Therefore, the innovations to design and deliver learning opportunities at scale are as important as the technological innovations to reach everyone with sanitation. This is where CAWST comes in. Capacity development must evolve to be more than just an output (i.e., a training workshop or webinar delivered), which means we must continue to build our own capacity, within capacity development.

At the end of the day, to be most effective, learning opportunities should consider the needs of the professionals delivering these sanitation services as well as how they prefer to learn.

At the end of the day, to be most effective, learning opportunities should consider the needs of the professionals delivering these sanitation services as well as how they prefer to learn. Working with organizations such as African Water Association, the Pan-African Sanitation Actors Association, and International Training Network Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (ITN-BUET), we’re exploring innovative approaches to capacity building. For example, with ITN-BUET, we co-designed a training guide for Bangladeshi municipalities to conceptualize, plan, and implement non-sewered technologies and services to reach their constituents with safe and sustainable sanitation. 

In Calgary, our friends at Xylem, ACWA, and Village Brewery are challenging our perceptions on waste, by making a beer made from it. Cheers to our partners, from Calgary to Bangladesh and beyond. I’m excited for the future of sanitation, and appreciative of all those who are leading the way.


Read more

Coming Soon! Resources on:

  • Emptier Service Competency Framework
  • Citywide Sanitation Planning training
  • Demand Creation Training for Mayors
  • Citywide Sanitation Planning Guide for Municipalities
  • Citywide Inclusive Sanitation through Fecal Sludge Management Training 

Aqua for All

Water for all is a not-for-profit organisation working towards facilitating access to clean water and good sanitation for all (SDG 6). In order to be considered for financial support, projects must be inclusive to vulnerable groups and focus on one of Aqua for All’s core themes: 

  • Drinking water: Safe water enterprises, household water treatment and safe storage, water operation and maintenance service.
  • Sanitation: toilet economy, circular economy and the reuse of human waste.
  • Water resource management: recharge, retention and reuse, water use efficiency.

Water for all focuses on the following priority regions and countries: East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda), Western Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal) and South Asia (Bangladesh). Applications for funding for projects in other countries will also be considered.

CISCO Product Grant Program

Cisco makes social investments in areas where they believe they can make the biggest impact and help people overcome barriers of poverty and inequality, and make a lasting difference by fostering strong global communities. Cisco donates networking technology to qualified non-profit organizations to help them realize significant gains in productivity, scalability, and cost-efficiency. The Product Grant Program focuses on the same social investment areas as their cash grants: 

  • Access to education,
  • Economic empowerment, 
  • Critical human needs (Programs that increase access to clean water, food, shelter, or disaster relief).  

The maximum request amount for first-time Customized Connectivity Grant recipients is US$50,000 (list price) of equipment. Product grants to small organizations with one to several sites or requests under US$25,000 list price are reviewed and fulfilled by Cisco’s partner TechSoup.

CISCO Global Impact Cash Grants

Cisco makes social investments in areas where they believe they can make the biggest impact and help people overcome barriers of poverty and inequality, and make a lasting difference by fostering strong global communities. Cisco welcomes applications for Global Impact Cash Grants from community partners around the world who share our vision and offer an innovative approach to a critical social challenge. Applicants’ programs must focus on at least one of Cisco’s social investment areas:

  • Access to education
  • Economic empowerment
  • Critical human needs (Programs that increase access to clean water, food, shelter, or disaster relief).

Maximum request amount for first-time grant recipients is US$75,000.

Coca Cola Foundation

The Coca Cola Foundation awards grants and sponsorships in three priority areas:

  • Empowering women: economic empowerment and entrepreneurship
  • Protecting the environment: access to clean water, water conservation and recycling
  • Enhancing communities: education, youth development and other community and civic initiatives

In addition, the Foundation supports many local community programs such as arts and culture, community and economic development programs in the United States, as well as HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness programs in Africa and Latin America.

Welcome to the WET-Net, Aqua Clara Kenya

Aqua Clara Kenya and CAWST are pleased to announce the advancement and deepening of their partnership; Aqua Clara Kenya is becoming a partner in CAWST’s Water Expertise and Training (WET) Centre program.

CAWST welcomes Aqua Clara Kenya to the Water Expertise and Training Centre Network

Aqua Clara Kenya and CAWST are pleased to announce the advancement and deepening of their partnership; Aqua Clara Kenya is becoming a partner in CAWST’s Water Expertise and Training (WET) Centre program.

With a relationship of over a decade, ACK and CAWST have developed trust built on a foundation of learning from each other. John Nyagwencha, ACK’s CEO and Acumen Fellow, recalls his first training with CAWST, led by Melinda Foran as an instructor on the biosand filter. “I remember being struck immediately by how different the training was from anything I had ever participated in. Both the mastery of the content on the technical aspects of the biosand filter, and the participatory techniques were so unique.” That was back in 2011. Since then, CAWST provided regular training and consulting support to ACK. In 2017, they signed a training partnership agreement, to start co-delivering training and enhance the capacity of training staff.

Entering into an agreement as part of the Water Expertise and Training Centre program means both parties commit to provide training and ongoing consulting support to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practitioners on affordable technologies and practices that people can implement in households or small institutions, such as schools and clinics. The ultimate goal of a WET Centre is to train and motivate organizations, empowering people in their communities to use WASH technologies and services correctly, consistently, and continuously. “We’ve been dreaming of this day for a very long time. You give us many more reasons to smile,” says John.

We’re the ones smiling. “This is an exciting and important milestone for CAWST, ACK, and our WET Centre Network. We have a long standing relationship with ACK and under John Nyagwecha’s leadership, ACK has proven their capability and commitment to continuously learn and adapt. ACK has already made great contributions to our other WET Centre partners and to CAWST. We share a common vision to accelerate reach and impact in Kenya and East Africa,” observes Shauna Curry, CAWST CEO.

As a certified B Corporation, ACK approaches the challenge of safe water, sanitation and hygiene using business principles. Founded in 2009 by Aqua Clara International, ACK has grown steadily to become an autonomous Kenyan organization with a staff of 20 employees and a reach of over 300,000 people who have improved WASH products and training.

What is a Certified B Corp?
Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.

Aqua Clara Kenya’s vision is an Africa where everyone has access to safe drinking water. To achieve it, they focus their efforts on three main programs:

H2OPE (Water Products and Expertise) Accelerator: Providing capacity development services to water, sanitation and hygiene implementers in East Africa, including entrepreneurs and organizations. ACK helps to accelerate their implementation and unlock their full potential.

Household WASH: Using a market-based approach to distribute WASH products and interventions to reach populations living in poverty in rural Kenya and East Africa. Engaging with micro finance institutions, ACK helps households attain and own their WASH technologies for the long term.

School WASH: Supporting schools through WASH training and technology. When schools have access to safe drinking water, and students and teachers understand the benefits of having it, the vicious cycle of poverty can be broken.

CAWST’s Chairman, David O’Brien recollects, “I had the privilege of visiting John and his staff in 2017. We visited a school where ACK had installed biosand filters and saw the children come into the dining hall for lunch and line up for safe water. The school Director explained how significant this was to the health and school attendance of the children; and how a once full infirmary due to unclean water is now empty. The moment stands out as an example of what is possible—a dining hall full of life, energy and enthusiastic students—and the potential for what ACK can do. I’m proud and pleased to welcome ACK as a WET Centre.”

John builds on David’s story, explaining, “students have been good agents of change—they carry messages about WASH to their homes. They make parents feel guilty if they don’t provide safe water or have a well-maintained latrine. Those of us who are parents know how strong a motivator our children can be. Schools are a launch pad for impact within the communities we serve.”

Under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, the strength of ACK’s programs has enabled them to pivot their programming to respond to the most urgent needs. Engaging groups like WASHiriki clubs, community groups that collaborate to advance on shared water, sanitation and hygiene goals, ACK redeployed resources to support communities on how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by practicing physical distancing, hand hygiene, and more.

We look forward to working together to accelerate access to safe WASH in Kenya and East Africa in the years to come.

About the Water Expertise and Training Centre Program

CAWST started the Water Expertise and Training Centre program in 2008, with an intention to reach more people with access to safe drinking water and sanitation through integrated,  long-term local partnerships. Building upon the capacity of partner organizations around the world, CAWST forms integrated, long-term partnerships with select in-country organizations that provide training and consulting services locally, as CAWST does globally. The program has grown to a network of seven partners, with Aqua Clara Kenya being the most recent. WET Centre program partnerships are currently based in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Honduras, Kenya, Nepal, and Zambia.

Read more about our partnerships in our Countries of Focus brochure.

Learn about the young ACK changemaker, Jeremiah Ouko, who manages the H2OPE Accelerator.

And stay tuned for more great stories of our partnership! Sign up here to receive updates from CAWST, and here to receive the ACK newsletter.