Jerry Cans and Leaky Taps

The story of providing a simple hand washing facility to a slum in Africa

Sucessful District Matching Grant 

(Along with the Rotary Clubs of Leeds, Rothwell, Roundhay and Headingley)

Leaky Taps and Jerry Cans

In September 2016, the club was approached by two very personable 4th year medical students from the University of Leeds. Ben Human and Ameen had just completed an extra year studying for an inter-collated BSc. As part of their studies and research, they spent some months in the largest slum in Kenya called Kibera. There are no facilities in this enormous slum, no running water, sanitation, or other services. The people have next to nothing but shack like dwellings.

The research was to study the effect of hand washing on the reduction of diarrhoeal illnesses especially in children. The slum has no sanitation or running water. An American NGO, called Carolina for Kibera (CFK) hosted the two students during their stay in Kenya. CFK has been working in the slum for a number of years and has developed a simple hand washing system utilising a jerry can into which a ‘faucet’ tab is screwed at the base.


The can holds about 20 L of non-potable water. The equipment provides hand washing facilities under running water for about 10 people. The can is recharged with non-drinking water as necessary. Soap is easily available locally.

The students found that this low cost system is effective in reducing morbidity from diarrhoea if used before the preparation of food or eating. The local inhabitants call the equipment ‘Jerry Cans and Leaky Taps’. The cans are in plentiful supply, but the taps have to be purchased (locally) for about US$ 3.00.

Seeing the benefit of this initiative, Ben and Amir decided to raise money to buy some more taps, and got US$ 2,251 through a ‘crowd funding’ website. They also approached the Club, and came and spoke to us on 15th September doing a Power Point Presentation of their African experience (they climbed Mount Kenya to raise more cash for taps). The Club was so taken by these impressive young men and the story they told, that it was agreed that they should be awarded £200 towards the ‘Leaky Taps’ project. This sum was transferred to Kibera via CFK in Carolina USA. We have had messages of grateful thanks from the people out there, and photographs of the equipment purchased, and lots of happy faces.

President Bill decided to share this story with the other 9 Clubs in the Leeds Group at a meeting run by the Assistant Governor in October 2016, and not only were most of them interested, but 4 of them were willing to donate £200 each, which together with another £200 from Leeds Elmete meant a total of another £1000. The other Clubs are: Leeds, Headingley, Roundhay and Rothwell and District. President Bill was also encouraged by the District Foundation Chair, Anita Rayner, to apply for a matching District Grant from the Rotary Foundation. Bill filled in the (initially daunting) paperwork, and just before Christmas the submission was on its way via District to Rotary HQ in Evanston. Thankfully the submission passed scrutiny, and the Grant was awarded. Thus £2,000 was sent to CFK in early April 2017 and has arrived safely.

Since each tap costs US$ 3.0, and altogether we have sent over $ 2,700, over 900 taps and cans can be bought. Since each ‘Leaky Tap’ serves 10 people, over 9,000 people in Kibera will be able to wash their hands and suffer less illness in the future. Then add to that the 2,700 people benefiting as a result of Ben and Amir’s fundraising. Good or what?

Bill Jones, May 2017.