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 is 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 training on an Introduction to 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 a tale of two partners is 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.

Weaving Opportunity in Colombia

In honour of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, we share the story of Amalfi Romero and her community of Los Cabritos in La Guajira, Colombia. With knowledge and skills on the biosand filter, they are weaving opportunity and wellbeing through water.

When asked about her role in the community, Amalfi Romero’s answer is straightforward, “I’m the leader; I lead my community.” But the realities she faces as the leader of the community of Los Cabritos in Colombia are anything but that.

“Los Cabritos is well-organized. We are a vulnerable population, living in one of the most remote parts of Colombia, La Guajira. At times, it feels like we are abandoned. As community leader, my job is to work for the wellbeing of this community.”

Indigenous Wayuu communities face persistent inequality with challenges to safe water and community wellbeing. They live in the desert region of La Guajira. Rivers are rare. Wells are often salty. Rainwater is commonly collected, but easily contaminated. It seems an impossible feat to survive in these conditions, yet Wayuu communities have been doing so for centuries.

Beyond the water conditions, barriers also exist for communities to access support from government and non-governmental organizations. “I visited a community in the vicinity of Los Cabritos for the first time in 2016. Seeing the hardship the children were living in broke my heart. At that point, I committed to their teacher that I would help them find a solution to treat their water,” reflects Eva Manzano, BEng, MA, CAWST Senior Global WASH Advisor. “At the time, the funding to work with them was insufficient, and so was our connection to the community. Trust and understanding of power dynamics is essential with Wayuu communities. Often, literacy level of community members, particularly women, is limited and most communities in the region speak only Wayuunaiki, which presents a language barrier for us who speak Spanish.”

Man overlooks a Jagüeye, which is a traditional rainwater collection method and technology that the Wayuu people have been using for centuries. Although effective, jagüeyes are often contaminated by competing needs for water, such as bathing and goat herding.
Man overlooks a Jagüeye, which is a traditional rainwater collection method and technology that the Wayuu people have been using for centuries. Although effective, jagüeyes are often contaminated by competing needs for water, such as bathing and goat herding.

Three years later, the opportunity to support the region became a reality. In Bogota in 2017, CAWST and our training partner, Fundación Red Projecto Gente (FRPG) facilitated an introductory workshop on household water treatment and safe storage techniques and technology, such as the biosand filter. In attendance was Fundación Hilo Sagrado, a social enterprise with a long-standing relationship with Wayuu communities, especially Los Cabritos. Hilo Sagrado (which means Sacred Thread in Spanish) empowers Wayuu communities to advance income-generating activities, such as selling the distinct, woven mochilas (purses and satchels) of La Guajira. They enhance the design of the mochilas, increasing the value of the bags, and improving access to market. In turn, the women who weave mochilas receive a fair wage, empowering them as economic actors in their community.

Fundación Hilo Sagrado had been searching for years to find best practices and cost-effective technologies for improving water systems in the communities in which they worked. Most solutions were too expensive or not viable to maintain. At the workshop, they discovered that the biosand filter could be viable—not only as an effective technology, but an opportunity for Los Cabritos to learn and multiply the benefits of the technology in the region. They invited CAWST and FRPG to lead several workshops on biosand filters in the community of Los Cabritos.

“Often the community can be soft-spoken and hesitant with outsiders. But the workshops didn’t allow anyone to sit on the sidelines, and one community leader pushed the boundaries to set an example for other women in her community. That’s Amalfi,” recounts Leanne Madjidi, MEd, CAWST Global Learning Advisor.

Community leader Amalfi Romero walks emerging community leaders through the construction materials and mold for the biosand filter. Combining skills development and creating space for women like Amalfi to address an immediate community need. It’s an opportunity for women to model different gender norms, with positive reinforcement towards gender equality.
Community leader Amalfi Romero walks emerging community leaders through the construction materials and mold for the biosand filter. Combining skills development and creating space for women like Amalfi to address an immediate community need. It’s an opportunity for women to model different gender norms, with positive reinforcement towards gender equality.

“Maybe people think that this is a job just for men, but we as women are also capable of building a filter. Just like Rocío [of FRPG], like you [Eva and Leanne of CAWST], or even me, we can demonstrate—to men, to children, and to each other—that we are just as capable,” emphasizes Amalfi.

Local technicians installed 82 filters in 2019. They were not only trained to build the filters, they also learned techniques for following up with neighbours, so they could reinforce best practices for correct, consistent, and continued use, and troubleshoot issues down the road. Following hands-on construction, community workshop participants visited other households in other communities where biosand filters were installed. The purpose of these household visits was to follow up and support other families to sustain the technology and practices.

“On that day, we saw so much growth. There was one fourteen-year-old boy in particular who would barely speak in the first few household visits. But with repetition, and the opportunity to practice with the support of us and other community members behind him, he gained confidence and was leading the household visits by the end of the day,” shared Leanne.

Amalfi and community members who completed the biosand filter training also conduct regular household visits to support the correct use, maintenance, sustainability, and understanding of families using the filter.
Amalfi and community members who completed the biosand filter training also conduct regular household visits to support the correct use, maintenance, sustainability, and understanding of families using the filter.

As Amalfi remembers, “You saw the people who were trained doing our household visits. They didn’t just get certified because they were sitting there. Each person made an effort to learn and none of this would have been possible without the support of Iván and Rocío [of FRPG]. They trained us, motivated us, and at the end of the day we are now capable and confident to handle water issues, handwashing, and educating our families.”

The community of Los Cabritos is highly motivated and entrepreneurial. They see biosand filters as a potential business opportunity: becoming technicians that construct the filters and sell them to other communities in the region, while sharing their knowledge.

While the business idea is still being tested, the results in Los Cabritos are already easy to see. In merely a year of active capacity development and biosand filter implementation, changes towards the wellbeing that Amalfi works so hard to achieve are evident.

The biosand filter helps families consume drinking water that is safe. Thanks to this filter, our health and quality of life are improving. Our children are less sick with diarrheal diseases and skin infections. Water is life. Water is everything.
—Amalfi Romero, Community Leader

We are sharing this story in honour of the International Day of Indigenous PeoplesCelebrating the resilience of Indigenous peoples all around the world, we appreciate the opportunity to support communities like Los Cabritos and learn from their experience and perspectives.

This story will also be featured as a Story of Impact & Acceleration in our Annual Report. To receive updates and a copy of the CAWST Annual Report, sign up for our mailing list.

Coffee with CAWST: Astrid Hasund Thorseth

From her flat in northeast London, Astrid has been working the front lines in the global response to COVID-19. Astrid is a Research Assistant in WASH and Behaviour Change at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). As a key member on the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub and Wash’Em teams, Astrid works with CAWST to ensure the latest information, research, and resources on hygiene interventions are available to people who need them most.

From her two-bedroom flat in northeast London, Astrid has been supporting the front lines of the global response to COVID-19. Astrid is a Research Assistant in WASH and Behaviour Change at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and a key member on the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub and Wash’Em teams. Through these teams, she works with CAWST to ensure the latest information, research, and resources on hygiene interventions are available to people who need them most.

Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Astrid (via Zoom, of course) to talk about a variety of topics from handwashing to wedding deposits, and why her first trip post-COVID will be to a small island off the coast of Norway.

Tell us about what a typical day looks like for a Research Assistant at LSHTM

Pre-COVID, I’d spend approximately 70% of my time in the office and 30% in the field, doing research projects, trainings, or attending conferences. Office days start with a 12 km bike ride to work and lots of time in front of my computer, with quick breaks hunting for treats from my colleagues. Fun fact: researchers are fueled on chocolate. When travelling, my days are busy and often long, but loads of fun. I get to meet new people, cultures, and garner new experiences.

During COVID, I’ve been working from home each and every day, while doing my best to keep some normalcy by running regularly, spending time in my garden, making masks for friends and family, and trying to maintain a routine. There have been longer hours with the launch of the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub, which has been my full focus over the past few months. Half of my team is in Calgary at CAWST and then the other half here in London, so I’ve been juggling time zones with many online meetings. However, my passion for WASH and knowing that I’m playing a role in the global response keeps me motivated.

How has your role changed since the COVID-19 pandemic?

It has dramatically changed. I planned to spend the spring in Tanzania on a research trip and it was cancelled the day before I was to depart. I have, more or less, paused all of my research and I’ve shifted complete focus to prevention of the coronavirus. It’s a unique scenario because so much has happened, so much has changed; yet, it’s all taken place from the same chair I’ve been sitting in for the past 4 months!

Thumbs up for handwashing! Astrid and colleague from Action contre la Faim (also a Wash’Em partner) during a intervention research study for Wash’Em in Ethiopia.

We are still in the middle of the pandemic, but have there already been specific learnings that are emerging?

Definitely, two things stand out. Firstly, that rapid response is everything. Acting fast when we saw the initial warning signs proved to be incredibly important in combating the coronavirus.

Secondly, while there was a lot we didn’t know, and still don’t know about the virus, the core principles of infectious disease control have remained true. For example, the intensive testing and tracing that we saw early on in South Korea and Iceland demonstrated a slow to the spread by isolating those infected.

How are the challenges you may be facing in the UK different or similar compare to the people living in low- and middle-income countries?

In the UK and similar countries, we’ve demonstrated that the key behaviours for preventing COVID-19 are to some extent possible to adapt by the general public. This includes frequent handwashing and social distancing, including working from home. We experienced drastic changes when the pandemic hit, but we were able to adapt quickly to government enforcement. While there are obviously exceptions to this, many of us were able to adopt these measures without too many insurmountable challenges. We brought our laptops home, we ordered essential goods straight to our homes, and we could use the water flowing from our taps to regularly wash our hands.

However, in low- and middle-income countries, people face significant challenges in adopting these measures. This is due to many factors, including economic insecurity, poverty, and communal living. For example, if families and neighbours share close housing quarters, physical distancing and shielding are impossible. It’s also challenging to avoid public areas and transport if a scheme like the paid furlough we have in the UK or Canada is not available, and if it is just not possible to do your job from home. In areas that lack piped water, regular handwashing with soap is challenging. So, to adopt similar protective measures and support their citizens, governments in low resource countries have to come up with innovative and context-adapted solutions that resonate in different communities and most people can apply.

You’ve created many of the social videos for Wash’Em. There’s the glitter one and your most recent, managing handwashing in challenging settings. Do you have a favourite?

It was fun discovering my kitchen was social media friendly! I have a perfect shelf for holding my phone to create these. I enjoyed making all of the videos, but if I had to pick a favourite, it would be the pepper video. It was cool to see the pepper run away from the soap so clearly.

Astrid at a Wash’Em training for WASH Cluster member organization in Myanmar, July 2019.

What’s the number one question about your job you get from friends when they learn about what you do?

So, basically you research poop!? When I explain the need for WASH research, especially in low- and middle-income countries, people tend to be most fascinated with the fact that I research feces.

Is there anything that you wish you could’ve told your 2019-self to prepare for the year we’re having in 2020?

Don’t put down a non-refundable wedding venue deposit! I was supposed to get married this summer, and while everything turned out fine, we had a bit of a scare with our deposit. However, the venue and all of our bookings were very generous and everything has been shifted a year.

I’ve heard you like to travel. What will be your first destination post-pandemic?

I would go home to Ulsteinvik, which is a small island off the coast of Norway. I think so many of us miss our friends and family during this pandemic, especially if you don’t live in the same country. So, my first trip would be to visit Ulsteinvik and then head to my partner’s home island, Sicily, to visit his family.

How do you see the sector changing over the next 10 years?

I believe there will be a lot more focus on the ‘H’ in the WASH acronym. Hygiene is crucial to the prevention of disease and likely the least researched out of three—water, sanitation and hygiene. We don’t know enough about hygiene and already we’re seeing initiatives like Hand Hygiene for All, in which Hygiene Hub is a core partner, emerge to address this imbalance. I believe there is going to be a long-term focus on building capacity for disease outbreak preparedness and that COVID-19 will start and ignite even more initiatives, both in programs but also research and academia. I look forward to continuing to be a part of it with LSHTM and CAWST.

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!


Espacio de aprendizaje sobre TANDAS

Justo cuando la COVID-19 nos obligó a salir de las comunidades a las que servimos y a sentarnos frente a nuestras computadoras, acabamos de terminar de crear nuestro Espacio de Aprendizaje de Tratamiento de Agua para el Hogar y Almacenamiento Seguro (TANDAS). En el Espacio de aprendizaje, puede moverse a través de módulos de aprendizaje interactivos de 2 a 5 minutos para aprender sobre TANDAS.

Dado que la COVID-19 nos obligó a salir de las comunidades en las que prestamos servicio y a sentarnos frente a nuestras computadoras, se sintió extrañamente fortuito que acabáramos de terminar nuestro Espacio de aprendizaje sobre el tratamiento del agua a nivel domiciliario y su almacenamiento seguro (TANDAS). Cuando creamos el Espacio de aprendizaje, nuestra intención era proporcionar a los clientes que enfrentan desafíos para asistir a nuestra capacitación presencial la oportunidad de aprender más sobre el tratamiento del agua a nivel domiciliario. Lo que no sabíamos era que casi todos nuestros clientes pronto estarían en esta posición.

Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage

El TANDAS es un enfoque económico y efectivo para proporcionar agua segura para el consumo a las poblaciones más marginadas. Cuando los sistemas no son confiables, o enfrentan problemas operativos (muchos como resultado de la pandemia), las soluciones de TANDAS pueden proporcionar soluciones temporales o a largo plazo. En varios países, como Colombia e India, las adaptaciones de políticas han comenzado a considerar el TANDAS como una alternativa viable para complementar a los sistemas tradicionales de tuberías.

Pero, ¿por dónde comenzar? Ingrese al Espacio de aprendizaje sobre TANDAS, donde descubrirá diferentes opciones de tratamiento y aprenderá a combinarlas como parte del enfoque de barreras múltiples para obtener agua segura para el consumo. También aprenderá más sobre criterios, barreras y enfoques a considerar al llevar a cabo un proyecto de TANDAS. Toda esta información se proporciona en módulos interactivos de dos a cinco minutos de duración que se pueden completar en forma independiente o combinar en rutas de aprendizaje específicas basadas en sus necesidades e intereses. Todos los módulos están disponibles en español, además de francés e inglés.

Manju Kabba, director de Health Education Network en Liberia, hace poco vio el Espacio de aprendizaje y le encantó lo fácil que fue recorrer los módulos. “Una vez más, tengan la amabilidad de aceptar mi profundo aprecio(…) por los módulos de aprendizaje virtual que encuentro muy efectivos. Me gustan especialmente las evaluaciones rápidas que hay en el medio. Hacerlos fue y sigue siendo una experiencia increíble”.

Para Rocío Robayo de Fundación Red Proyecto Gente en Colombia, esta web constituye una gran herramienta para fortalecer el aprendizaje y conocimiento sobre el “TANDAS”. El que sea virtual, permite su fácil difusión a grupos y personas interesadas o involucradas en proyectos a diferente escala, que no tienen acceso a asistir presencialmente a una capacitación.

Nuestro equipo de América Latina ha comenzado una emocionante iniciativa para diseñar cursos en línea personalizados, utilizando los módulos del Espacio de aprendizaje TANDAS. Estas rutas de aprendizaje se complementarán con información contextualizada para diversos países y desafíos específicos. Como parte de esta iniciativa, están desarrollando un curso piloto en Nicaragua que estará dirigido a los trabajadores de la salud en colaboración con RASNIC (Red Agua y Saneamiento de Nicaragua) y el Centro SMART. El equipo también está trabajando con otras organizaciones para incorporar los módulos del Espacio de aprendizaje sobre TANDAS en sus cursos e iniciativas de desarrollo profesional existentes.

Únase a nuestro equipo y socios el 21 de julio para obtener más información acerca del Espacio de aprendizaje sobre TANDAS y cómo usarlo para avanzar en su conocimiento sobre el tratamiento del agua a nivel domiciliario y su almacenamiento seguro, como una opción viable para llegar a los más marginados con agua segura para el consumo y cumplir con los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible.

Herramientas interactivas en linea - TANDAS y Aqua Segura

Regístrese al seminario en línea:

El Espacio de aprendizaje:

Step into the Learn Space

As COVID-19 forced us out of the communities we serve and into the chairs in front of our computers, we had just finished creating our Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS) Learn Space. In the Learn Space, you can move through interactive learning modules of 2 – 5 minutes to learn about household water treatment and safe storage.

As COVID-19 forced us out of the communities we serve and into the chairs in front of our computers, it felt oddly serendipitous that we had just finished our Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS) Learn Space. When we built the Learn Space, our intention was to provide clients who face challenges coming to our face-to-face training with an opportunity to learn more about household water treatment. Little did we know that almost all of our clients would soon be in this position. 

Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage

HWTS is an affordable and effective approach to providing safe drinking water to underserved populations. When centralized systems are not reliable, or facing operational issues, as many are as a result of the pandemic, HWTS solutions can provide interim or long term solutions. In several countries, such as Colombia and India, policy adaptations have started to accommodate HWTS as an alternative to traditional, piped systems.

But, where do you begin? Enter the HWTS Learn Space, where you’ll discover different treatment options, and learn how to combine them as part of the multi-barrier approach to safe drinking water. You also learn more about criteria, barriers, and approaches to consider when delivering an HWTS project. All of this information is delivered in two- to five-minute, interactive modules that you can do independently or combine into specific learning paths based on your needs and interests. Best of all, modules are available in Spanish and French, as well as English.

Early Reviews

Manju Kabba, Director of the Health Education Network in Liberia, recently viewed the learn space, and was delighted at how easy it was to go through the modules. “Again kindly accept my profound appreciation (…) for the HWTS E-Learning modules which I find very effective. I especially like the quick evaluations that come in between. Going through them was and still is an amazing experience.”

For Rocío Robayo, Founder of Fundación Red Proyecto Gente in Colombia, this site was a great tool for strengthening learning and knowledge about HWTS. Being virtual, the tool allows for easy dissemination to groups and people with different interest and involvement levels, who don’t have access to attend training in person.

Find your learning pathway

Our Latin America team has started an exciting initiative to design tailored online courses using the modules from the HWTS Learn Space. These learning pathways will be supplemented with contextualized information for specific countries and challenges. As part of this initiative, they are designing a pilot course in Nicaragua that will target health workers in collaboration with RASNIC (Red Agua y Saneamiento de Nicaragua) and the SMART Centre. The team is also working with other organizations to incorporate the HWTS Learn Space Modules into their existing courses and professional development initiatives.

Join our team and partners for a webinar on July 21st at 8 am MT to learn more about the HWTS Learn Space and how to use it to advance your knowledge of Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage as a viable option for reaching the underserved with safe drinking water and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Register for the webinar (hosted in Spanish):

Explore the HWTS Learn Space:

New Global Hand Hygiene Initiative Launched with COVID-19 Hygiene Hub as Core Partner

The Hand Hygiene for All Global Initiative, co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, launched on June 26. With an aim to increase hand hygiene to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Initiative will implement WHO’s global recommendations on hand hygiene to ensure hand hygiene infrastructure and behaviour beyond the pandemic. CAWST is honoured to contribute to this initiative as a partner of the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub. 

Photo source: UNICEF

As the world faces new and exacerbated challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, collaborative responses emerge. The Hand Hygiene for All Global Initiative, co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, launched on June 26. With an aim to increase hand hygiene to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Initiative will implement WHO’s global recommendations on hand hygiene to ensure hand hygiene infrastructure and behaviour beyond the pandemic. CAWST is honoured to contribute to this initiative as a partner of the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub. 

Achieving hand hygiene for all requires broad participation. UNICEF and WHO co-lead the Initiative; they will be supported by core partners including the COVID-19 Hygiene Hub, the World Bank, Sanitation and Water for All, the International Federation of the Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Economic Forum, the UNHCR, the Global Handwashing Partnerships, and WaterAid. The Initiative will mobilize engagement from diverse stakeholders, including governments, non-profit organizations, academia, investment banks, businesses, and households.

Public health depends on good hand hygiene. Good hand hygiene relies on each and every individual practicing frequent handwashing behaviour and having sufficient resources to do so. The current pandemic has illuminated the importance of hand hygiene as a cost-effective measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. 

Yet, many barriers exist to hand hygiene for all. Even in high resource settings, where soap and water are readily available, hand hygiene is often deficient, with most people washing their hands less frequently than needed, and for ten seconds or less (when it should be 20-30 seconds at minimum).1 In low resource settings, even greater barriers to hand hygiene exist, including competing priorities for soap and water.

In a joint statement by Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, “According to our latest data, the majority of people in the least developed countries are at immediate risk of COVID-19 infection due to a lack of hand hygiene facilities. In the 60 highest-risk countries, 2 out of 3 people – 1 billion people in total – lack basic handwashing facilities with soap and water at home. Around half are children.”2

Hand Hygiene for All is about the long view. Specifically, it is focused on responding to the immediate pandemic, rebuilding infrastructure, and reimagining hand hygiene at local and national levels. Hand hygiene must become a pillar for short-term and long-term national development plans. The Initiative also proposes a framework for coordination and collaboration amongst regional and global actors.

As one of the first actions of the Hand Hygiene for All Global Initiative, COVID-19 Hygiene Hub helped to launch a discussion forum. The discussion forum will promote peer-to-peer exchange on responses to COVID-19 and share evidence-based tools for hygiene program design. Engage in the COVID-19 Discussion Forum now.

Hand in (virtual) hand, hand over heart, working together, we can increase Hand Hygiene for All. 

Learn more



1 Chugh, A. (2020). How long should hands be washed for?  COVID-19 Hygiene Hub Resource.
2 WHO & UNICEF. (2020).  Joint Statement: To control COVID-19, we have to make hand hygiene accessible to all.

Changemaker: Srijana Karki

Srijana Karki is a leader who is influencing significant changes to gender equality in Nepal. Working at the organizational, community, and societal levels, Srijana shares practical solutions to achieving gender equality and access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Srijana Karki is a leader who is accelerating gender equality in Nepal.


As a Senior Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Officer with Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), a partner in CAWST’s Water Expertise and Training Centre program, Srijana has over a decade of experience in project implementation. She brings a gender equity and social inclusion lens to all projects and organizations that ENPHO supports. This means that she provides advice and practical solutions on how water, sanitation and hygiene projects can influence equitable participation across genders to accomplish health and social outcomes.

To achieve her level of focus and expertise in gender equality and WASH, Srijana is studied and systematic in her approach.

“When I completed my first master’s degree in Rural Development, I started to work in WASH. Soon, I ran up against recurring limitations of WASH interventions due to gender stereotypes and a lack of consideration of gender in the design of interventions. Women simply could not access WASH in the same way as men. So, I pursued a second master’s degree in gender to get beyond my surface-level observations. This education opened an opportunity for me to implement my knowledge in bringing gender sensitizing campaigns to life within our interventions.”

So, what were Srijana’s observations around gender equality?

“There are many barriers to gender equity and social inclusion. First of all, I work in a very patriarchal society. Stereotypes around gender run deep and influence all WASH. We’ve seen a commitment to gender equality through government policy, but I feel strongly that the greatest opportunity for practical change starts at the household level.

In many households, there’s a prevailing belief that WASH is women’s work. Men must support it too. We can influence the shift in belief and behaviour with ongoing sensitization and mainstreaming. Sometimes projects include one training on gender roles, but that is insufficient. Shifting stereotypes requires daily repetition of messages on gender equality and strategic interventions, such as creating meaningful leadership roles for women on community committees.”

Looking at gender equality at the societal level, Srijana observes opportunity for change within organizations, as well as communities.

“One of the most exciting areas in my work is within my organization, and others we support, to integrate gender policy. We recently reviewed the ENPHO gender policy. Learning from that, we guided four organizations to complete gender assessments of their organizations. From there, we helped them develop gender policies and implement them in the field. Implementation included creating key positions for women, both at the coordinator level and field staff, and mainstreaming gender throughout the full project cycle. The results are hopeful. On community visits I often see men cleaning and supporting household water work with pride.”

“I simply feel lucky to work in this area. Now, I’m honoured to represent ENPHO at international and national forums, sharing cases and knowledge. But I’m also always eager to learn more.”

We simply feel lucky to work with Srijana. As a changemaker, Srijana is inspiring to us to look more critically at gender equality and social inclusion in water programs. Srijana’s hope for the future is something we can all get behind and something we can walk alongside:

My greatest hope is that in offices, households, communities, and within ourselves, we start a dialogue to fight the stereotypes that permeate media, institutions and culture. That’s my intent to shift gender equality.

Srijana is starting a dialogue next week on Facebook Live. Join us on Wednesday, June 24 at 9 am MDT at to hear more about her perspective and the work of ENPHO and CAWST.


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 Srijana. For more information, visit

Articulate Storyline Trainer

Are you experienced with the Articulate Storyline software and eager to share your knowledge? If so, you could support our learning team with biweekly training and troubleshooting sessions, so that we can more quickly share e-learning with our global network of clients.

The Position: Articulate Storyline Trainer

Purpose of the Role:

Provide training to the Learning Team on the use of Articulate Storyline. This will support our development of e-learning resources with our clients around the world.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Provide biweekly training to the CAWST Learning Team (via Zoom)
  • Provide advice and troubleshooting into the design of learning assets within Storyline
  • Coordinate with the Director of Learning to plan and schedule sessions

Skills and Qualifications:

  • Experience designing learning materials within Articulate Storyline
  • Strong understanding of adult learning principles
  • Ability to coach and share knowledge

Orientation and Support:

We will provide an introduction CAWST, the team you’ll be supporting, and the status of the project.

Timing: Start as soon as possible. Two hours every two weeks – an hour to deliver training and an hour to prepare/schedule it.

Location: Remote.

To Apply:

If you are already a CAWST volunteer, please email Tori to express your interest at and she can facilitate next steps.

If you are new to CAWST, please complete the volunteer sign up form and we will get you started.

Additional comments:

All CAWST volunteers are invited to participate in a 4-day training workshop of their choice after completion of 40 volunteer hours. CAWST welcomes volunteers searching for work experience, and is happy to provide letters of reference to interested volunteers.