Home > Covid-19 > Ursuline Sisters leveraging the power of innovation in Nairobi, Kenya

What’s the best way to provide water and soap for hand-washing, while protecting users from transmission through contact with taps?  

This was a question that the Ursuline Congregation in Nairobi were tackling as COVID-19 precautions came in across Kenya.

Ursuline Sisters in the Karen neighbourhood of Nairobi, Kenya.

The Sisters had embarked on soap-making for distribution to those in need. But they wanted to do more – to provide water for people in their neighbourhood to be able to wash their hands. The challenge was to do this without spreading infection through shared use of taps and soap dispensers.

“We sat down as a community – our goal was to ensure that there is no cross contamination or infection,” Sister Teresia told Misean Cara. The congregation came up with an ingenious solution, inspired by some discussions that Sister Teresia had seen online: a pedal device operated by foot to dispense the soap and water.

Sister Teresia called in a local welder and plumber. It took a few tries to get the angles of the pipes right and to adjust the tension for the pedals to dispense a small amount of soap and water.

The Sisters set up the tank on the road outside their compound – since then priests, policemen and many other people who work nearby have washed their hands thanks to the Ursuline Sisters.

“Bin collectors, motor bike drivers – I welcome them all. They see me and come to see what’s happening – I show them they can wash their hands. They believe that our water is clean, our soap is good.”

“The other day I added a picture of Jesus to the tank. A small one – I didn’t want it to be very big,” added Sister Teresia.

The water tank outside the Ursuline compound in Nairobi.

A few days after the water tank was installed outside their compound, on a trip to the market in the neighbourhood, Sister Teresia saw an opportunity to install a second tank near the marketplace where there are more passers-by.

So the Sisters bought a second tank and the same welder is preparing a second set of pedals for this tank to be used by the vendors at the market, with soap provided by the Ursuline Sisters.

This second tank is proving popular with people who work nearby and appreciate the opportunity to wash their hands while reducing transmission risks.

As well as helping passers-by to maintain hygiene and reduce the chances of transmission, Sister Teresia is also using her communications skills to help people to understand COVID-19 better. “I tell them about social distancing, they didn’t know in the beginning. To be healthy. And to trust in God.”

The second water tank installed by a busy market in Nairobi.