Last week Water1st staff and donors returned from a visit to our project communities in Bangladesh. We are grateful for the warm welcome from the people living in the slum settlements of Dhaka, Chittagong, and Khulna and for the hospitality of our extraordinary local partner, DSK (Dushtha Shasthya Kendra). We thank them for the curry meals, cricket games, and rickshaw rides, and for opening their homes to us. We are honored to call them colleagues and friends.

Below are a few highlights from our site visit.

Ten years ago we began working in two Dhaka slums. Since then we have expanded our reach to slum settlements in Bangladesh’s three largest cities of Dhaka, Chittagong, and Khulna, and are now implementing hundreds of projects each year.

Land ownership rights are not granted to slum dwellers who typically inhabit 10’x10’ dwellings made from tin, brick, and cardboard. They work long and arduous hours in garment factories or drive rickshaws, earning approximately $2 a day. And with no access to water or toilets, combating illness is a constant battle.

Water1st projects in Bangladesh organize people to build and maintain their own water systems and household toilets. But our ultimate goal is that communities are self-sufficient and organized to solve difficult problems. And last week the power of community organizing was apparent once again in the Dhaka slum community of Kaundia.

The Kaundia Project: transformation happens from the ground up
In 2009, our DSK colleagues worked with the slum neighborhood of Kaundia to establish a community-based organization (CBO), comprised of 25 community leaders, mostly women.

DSK facilitated a process wherein CBO members identified and prioritized their problems: 1/ natural gas connection for cooking, 2/ water, 3/ toilets.

Next, DSK guided the group to develop an action plan to address each problem.

This process has been repeated by the CBO every year since, as they identify their next development priorities and create corresponding action plans.

Kaundia Today: the impact of an organized community is astounding
We gathered to listen to young women CBO leaders report the significant progress made in just seven years. This one CBO has overseen the completion of 213 water systems and 72 community toilets, all of which are still working today. Each project includes hygiene education outreach to promote hand washing and other hygiene practices that greatly reduce illness.

Medical expenditures significantly reduced
In 2009, the CBO completed a health expenditure evaluation. Members reported spending, on average, $380 per household on treatments for diarrhea and other water borne illnesses, a huge amount for a household earning less than $1,000 annually. In 2016, these numbers dropped to $15 per household, demonstrating the immediate health and economic impacts of a water and sanitation system.

Organized communities are empowered to address their next priorities

Since the completion of their water project, the CBO has been working hard to tackle other community improvements. They now have natural gas connections for cooking. They have a local health clinic. They even lobbied the local government to build a road and a drainage system to prevent the heavy flooding they experience each rainy season.

Kaundia is finally on a path out of extreme poverty.

Water is the catalyst and your support guarantees our greater reach year after year
Transformation is not unique to this one slum settlement of Kaundia. We witness changes like these in all project communities in Bangladesh, Honduras, Ethiopia, India, and soon in Mozambique.

We are grateful for your ongoing support!

Your Friends at Water1st

Since 2005, we have completed 1,810 projects in Bangladesh, serving over 120,000 people. Learn more.