Sewage and Maggots, Oh My!

Hussein Tadesse, One School Ugandan Program Manager recently exposed us to a new challenge in 2019: full latrines at our Ugandan partner schools. Many needed to be emptied. But how?!

After much research, we decided that this was urgent, and 1SAT could do it. Most importantly—  it would be handled with care. The waste would be disposed of properly and safely, so as not to spread any potential disease or infection. 

Steps for emptying the latrines:

  1. Find a waste-removal company;
  2. Sign an agreement with said company;
  3. Ensure that sewage is disposed of properly.

Seems simple, right?… Little did we know that much like many of the projects at our Ugandan partner schools, the process would require many steps executed with patience… lots of patience… before they were completed. 

Fast-forward 6 months: the U.S. team was in Uganda and it just so happened that the latrine emptying company was available to do the work. 

En route to Kampala, Hussein, Kierra Peterson (1SAT Assistant Director), and Mona Vyas (1SAT Public Relations Intern) hopped out of the 1SAT car to greet the jolly waste-removal business owner in the midst of the frenetic bustle of a street market. They signed the MOU and a date for latrine emptying was set. 

A 1SAT team member was needed to ride with the waste truck to ensure that sewage was disposed of properly at the waste treatment facility in nearby Mubende. We did not want that sewage to be dumped in a hole somewhere that could potentially contaminate a water source. 

Our challenge: the waste removal co. changed the date of sewage-sucking last minute to the same day in July 2019 that Kassanda District government officials were touring our projects at the 1SAT partner schools. Sady, this meant that no One School team member was available that day to ride with the waste truck.

While Hussein introduced the district officials to Majid (Head Teacher, Kassanda Boarding Primary), the waste-removal truck arrived at the campus. With true grace, Majid casually distracted the district officials by leading them to tour the water tanks, while Kierra and Hussein scurried up the hill to direct the waste removal folks to the latrines.

Here comes the sewage truck!

Approximately 1 hour later, after wishing the district officials a safe journey home, Hussein and Kierra hurried back up the hill to check on the emptying process. Guess what they found? Maggots covering the latrine floors! Wow, oh, wow! 

Maggots hang out at the bottom of latrines, so when the waste was sucked up to ground level, it also sucked up our little maggot friends. Thankfully, the latrine emptying folks had sprayed a disinfecting solution on the floor of the latrines post-process to kill them and sanitize the area. 

Evidence that latrines indeed have been emptied— MAGGOTS!

We hoped and prayed that the sewage was dumped at the sewage treatment plant at Mubende but without a 1SAT observer, we really could not confirm that, despite the assurances of the waste removal company. 

Although the latrine emptying process was started that day, much waste still remained in those latrines even after the truck was full. More trips would be required in order for all 4 latrines to be emptied. Feeling overwhelmed, the 1SAT team called it a day and went back to the field office for group dinner. 

Fast forward to December 2019 (6 months after the illustrious latrine emptying day): 

the latrines have yet to be emptied completely! Scheduled completion date: we’re working on that…

What can we learn from this story: completing projects with high-quality standards is typically a long journey. Each step must be completed thoughtfully, in sequence. Expect changes and surprises to occur. Don’t rush! Don’t be pushed around by someone else’s schedule. 

Stand by—fingers crossed that this project is completed soon. In the meantime, holiday greetings from the 1SAT team and our maggot friends at Kassanda Boarding Primary. 

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