Mansark lives and works in Kroo bay slum, in the centre of the capital Freetown, home to 13,000 people, which has two working public water taps. Kroo Bay is littered with rubbish and sewage – many people use the rubbish to reclaim land on which to build ramshackle houses.
There are no pit latrines in the slum; most residents use the beach or one of the few drop toilets constructed on it. On discovering a natural spring in the slum, Mansark decided to set up a youth cooperative, the Water Sie Boys, to run a public shower for slum-dwellers. [Water Sie Boys received US$9,000 to set up the community shower from the government Youth Employment Secretariat (YES)] . Set up in 2008, YES, supported by the UN Development Programme, has established a fund of US$700,000 to distribute grants and micro-finance loans to youth groups.
[…] “We used to have a machine to pump water into our containers, but it has been broken for months now, so now we fill up the tanks by hand.
“If you want a shower, you pay 3 US cents (100 Leones) and you can take five minutes, or we will give you a bucket of water. People need soap so we started to make it [soap] too.
“We are 20 working here – but I want to increase the number. We get by – every now and then we have to put in $1.50 to sustain our business. We want to expand it to other zones in the slum. We could employ 40 people because we always have enough customers.
“We don’t have roofing materials and we don’t have money to plaster our showers. The women’s shower is the worst – it is mouldy – but it is not their fault. None of us are trained. I did not know anything about plumbing but now I have learned. There is one plumber in the slum who helps us.
“Now everyone comes to us when they want a shower. We are not rich but water is life, and we want to bring it to the people.