Clean water to the people

English19. October 2015

Sierra Leonean Winston Clett Johnston is a true social entrepreneur. With the support of the Kavli Trust, Johnston and his company Indie Group has installed the first UV water purification system in schools in Sierra Leone.

Interview: Teresa Grøtan
Photos: Winston Clett Johnston

Winston with mathura pupils

Photo: Winston Clett Johnston and pupils at Government Secondary School for Girls at Mathura.

St Joseph’s Secondary School in Freetown and Government Secondary School for Girls at Mathura in Magburaka are the lucky ones to now have pure tap water available all the time.

Every two weeks staff from indie Group visit the schools to continue educating the children about clean safe water, to do maintenance work and change filters, and to teach staff how to use and keep the system sustainable.

– We are the first group in Sierra Leone to provide such an innovative concept of safe drinking water at schools with a Solar UV purifier box. Other organisations have been using basic well water with chemicals like chorine for the last 50 years. I am very proud of Indie Group and Co taking the lead towards changes in the water sector in Sierra Leone, Winston Clett Johnston explains.

st joseph's convent finish systemAlways wanted to contribute

Why did you start with the water project?

– I always wanted to contribute to the social development of Sierra Leone. After finding out that my country lacks the most basic human need, clean water to drink, I was very inspired to embark on clean safe water project.

Please explain how your water project works. Where do you take the water from? How is it purified?

– Our concept is built around the solar UV box purifier, producing between 5000 to 10000 litres of safe drinking water per day. The Solar UV box purifier is manufactured in Netherlands by Aqua-Aero WaterSystems BV . We have been purifying water from public utility taps and wells, but if necessary we can as well purify water from streams, leaks and rivers.

Wants to reach everybody

You write that the clean water will help reduce waterborne illnesses. Do you have any measures of knowing a possible reduction in diseases?

– The challenges in providing safe drinking water at schools, is to teach the children about the essence of drinking clean safe water. We have been doing this regularly and the children are getting used to drinking clean safe water. Teachers have been giving us feedback about the reduction of illnesses at the schools. Since both children and teachers started drinking safe clean water, the absentees among school the children have been reduced greatly.

What are your future plans?

– Our goal is to see everyone in Sierra Leone having access to safe drinking water. We plan to expand the project to safe drinking water to hospitals/clinics and every school in Sierra Leone. In the coming months we plan to provide 1000 litres of safe drinking water to a kindergarten/ infant school in the far east of Freetown. The project will be named “safe drinking water for infants at school”. We hope to fund the project by our self but do hope to be seen and recognised for our good work by organisations like UNICEF which is concerned with safe water at school.