HERE IN WESTERN KENYA, it’s hot enough for Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen to have a ring of sweat around his collar. It’s almost always hot enough here to need constant hydration. Vestergaard Frandsen takes a sip of water from a water bottle and leaps like a lion in front of a murmuring crowd of students in candy-colored blue and pink uniforms.
“Jambo! Habari zenu!” bellows Vestergaard Frandsen to the nearly 1,000 students at St. Teresa Sio Roman Catholic Primary School in Bungoma, a remote county in western Kenya. It’s simple Kiswahili — just the phrase for “Hello, how are you all?” — but it sounds funny coming from the mouth of a Danish “mzungu” white person. Giggles chitter through the student body.
“Mzuri!” (“Good!”) they shout back. Call-and-response is customary at school assemblies in Kenya. Vestergaard turns the floor over to Paul Otiti, a local who works as a field agent in Vestergaard’s office in the nearby city of Kisumu.
Under the penetrating equatorial sun, Otiti powers through a 45-minute water safety lecture, trying to hold the attention of antsy students on the necessity of using filtered water for hand washing and drinking. In front of him is a large blue tank about the size of beer keg called the LifeStraw Community.