Steph Returns to Kono

Steph Returns to Kono

Kono is the first place I’ve ever returned to. Most of my other international experiences have been through Princeton-sponsored summer trips, so the opportunities for return visits are pretty slim. I spent twelve weeks here last year, working first as a research intern for Wellbody Alliance, our NGO partner, and then with last year’s Pre-Assessment team.

I felt like the prodigal daughter. Despite the parade of interns and EWB members in and out of Dorma over the past months, it seemed like everyone remembered me. As soon as we rolled up to Wellbody in our battered Range Rover, the clinic staff came out to greet us. In the village, the kids remembered my name, and every adult face that had become familiar to me was still there, smiling. It felt like nothing had changed. Rural Kono is charming partly because of this simple, implacable way life proceeds. But it occurred to me yesterday how insidious this can be. The familiarity is there because there are no new buildings, no people able to move in and out of town, and because many friends who wanted to go to school have not been able to do so.

So EWB is here to try and help develop Dorma in the little ways that we are able. We’ve settled into the Wellbody guesthouse, which is luxurious with it’s gravity-driven running water and flush toilets. Our next-door neighbors, we’ve discovered, whip up a mean pot of okra-chicken stew.  The guesthouse is located on the outskirts of Dorma itself, which consists of about 100 households. Pretty geographically dispersed, the main cluster of houses is located along the main line (road) that runs north-south; there are secondary communities located to the north-east and a small amputee camp to the south-west. Most families support themselves through a combination of bushwork and petty trading. Homes are cement or mud brick with tin roofs of varying quality, out of which dozens of children sprint and totter their way to the edge of the road as you pass, yelling “white man!” Regardless of the gender or race of EWB member in question.

The first few days in Dorma have been consumed by household interviews. After securing the town chief’s blessing for our data-gathering activities, we started going house to house, knocking on doors and interviewing residents. A lot of thought was put into making sure we had a representative sample of the community – going at different times of day to make sure people were home, and visiting the most geographically remote homes. In addition to household interviews, Ben and Mr. Fofanah have begun the technical assessment of Dorma’s existing water sources. There are many more sources than we originally thought, consisting of some semi-private wells and older installations close to a nearby swamp.

More dispatches from Dorma coming soon! Stay tuned for stories about the community-wide meeting and adventures around town, including Mr. Fofanah’s going-away goat barbecue.