Solar Washing Facilities

Location: QiulinTownship, Santai County, Middle North Sichuan
Beneficiaries: 800 individuals from one township middle school, one kindergarten, and one township clinic
Period:  November 2010-July 2011
Staff member responsible for project: Nima

General background of Santai County

SantaiCounty is located in the middle of north Sichuan Province. It is a mountainous area. Although the dominant nationality in this area is Han Chinese, the population of this county also consists of various other ethnic groups such as Hui, Tibetan, Qiang, Yi, Man, Bai, Tu, Mongolian, Yugur, and Miao. Santai County is famous for its local specialty, honey jujube, and has been the hometown of many of China’s high position military leaders.

Background to the project

In 2008, a devastating earthquake hit many parts of Sichuan Province. Santai County was one of the severely affected areas.  During the three years since the earthquake, the Chinese government has put much effort into reconstruction work, working hard to ensure that life returns to normal. For example, all of the damaged buildings have been replaced with new ones, and some of the buildings are already equipped with new facilities. However,  as a large number of  schools and other work units were affected, the amount of relief work necessary is huge, and the government cannot satisfy all the needs for equipment in the newly constructed buildings at once. China is still a developing nation and its needs are being addressed one by one. It was against this background that the  beneficiaries came to request solar shower tanks from Alpha.

How we choose the right location

First we got to know Professor Pu Chengyi at Southwest University for Nationalities in Chengdu, Sichuan. He is from Qiulin Township, Santai County, where this project is located. He understands the difficulties of his own hometown, and knows the work of Alpha Sichuan and Alpha’s desire to work in earthquake affected places. With his input, the beneficiaries sent a project application to Alpha in autumn 2010. In November 2010, together with the Prof. Pu, we headed to Santai County for two days. During this time, we were welcomed in a total of five townships, with various requests being made.  The  vast majority of the requests involved training for planting, and equipment for schools.  We considered all the needs, locations and budgets, and found that the solar shower project was the biggest priority, because the place was very remote and the beneficiaries were students and sick people. This is how we choose this location.

Why this project was necessary

The project is sited in a township middle school, a township clinic, and a township kindergarten. In the middle school, 58 students dormitories have been equipped with solar shower facilities, benefiting a total of 530 (280 male and 250 female) students. In the township clinic, there are 30 staff and an average of 40 patients in the hospital, all of whom have benefited from the project. In the kindergarten, almost 220 children plus staff have been advantaged.
Before we provided the shower facilities, these units did not even have shower rooms and hygiene standards were really low. The students are all from the countryside. Without showers, their dormitories constantly smelt bad, and some students even contracted skin diseases. The township clinic was in similar circumstances. The township kindergarten has many small children, and without shower facilities many of them often got sick, and many of them were reluctant to go to school, because they don’t have warm water to wash their hands after going to the toilet. Especially in the cold winter, many of the teachers and students don’t want to get up in the morning, because they were afraid of washing their faces and hands with the extremely cold water.
In order to bring better hygiene and life quality to the beneficiaries, we considered this project to be necessary.

Benefits from the project

In the township middle school, 530 boarding students now have showers twice weekly. In the past they never showered at school, and bad hygiene such as skin diseases affected their lives. Now they are healthier and happier. 
In the township kindergarten, 220 small children now have warm water to wash their hands every day, and they can have a shower when they want to. The school staff can use the warm water to wash bowls, clothes, and other things. The kindergarten headmaster said in his letter of thanks that the solar showers bring prestige for the kindergarten.  Before Alpha provided these facilities, many families were reluctant to send their children to the school. After the installation of the showers many parents send their children here, believing it to be a good place for their children.  Before the Alpha project, there were no more than 150 students are the kindergarten; now that figure has grown to 220. He is very pleased with the project. 
In the township clinic, 30 staff can have showers regularly, and an average of 40 patients can have showers when they want to. They can also use the water to wash hands, clothes, etc. The solar shower project has brought a better life for the beneficiaries.

Dissatisfactions or risks

Since the installation of the facilities, four months have passed, and there have been no serious problems. Just recently, it has been found that one of the control panels in the township middle school has a small problem. I (Nima) have already contacted the company that installed the showers, and they have committed to repair this problem as soon as possible. Generally, the facilities operate smoothly.