What will you be doing in Sainji?

Volunteers in Sainji sitting next to the river

At a practical level, we're looking for students, staff and alumni who would like to experience working with, and for, the community on one or more of our four themes.

If you engage with an open mind and heart you'll also gain experience and insight into the complexities of sustainable development. We'll encourage you to reflect on how you can use your particular knowledge, skills, values and experiences to address these complexities to work towards a more sustainable world.

The Sustainable Sainji experience is likely to stretch both your physical and emotional comfort zones but can be enormously rewarding.

Improving the quality of education at GEMs

GEMS is a remarkable school where everyone does their very best to provide a worthwhile experience for local children. Each year we visit their are new challenges and different priorities, and we aim to be adaptable and to respond to their most urgent needs. In previous years, for example we have focused on helping improve teachers' skills, but last year the priority was to support a new influx of children learn English. Encouraging interactive lessons and a focus on comprehension and understanding over rote learning is a persistent theme.  You do not need to be studying education to be able to help – although education students are especially welcome! Subject knowledge, English literature, grammar, science, maths, history, geography, etc, is also invaluable, and if English is not your first language you are likely to have a certain empathy with others who are learning a second or third language.  


Students peeling corn husksStudents in Sainji 

This project is a great opportunity for education students, or anyone with experience of teaching (especially teaching teachers).

Health, nutrition and first aid

Chronic poor health is the root cause of many of the difficulties that people face in their day to day lives and often creates a vicious circle of poverty. Poor people are typically undernourished, live in unhygienic conditions and have little access to health care (the costs are prohibitive even if it is available). For example, the children regularly suffer from diarrhoea, worm infestations, skin infections and fevers and this reduces their capacity to learn, attend school, develop properly, and later to gain employment. The single most effective way to reduce these conditions is to encourage the villagers to ‘wash their hands with soap’ (Ejemot-Nwadiaro et al. 2015) and we are looking for innovative and creative ways in which to do this – e.g. using theatre, songs, videos etc.

Gaining basic knowledge of First Aid could literally be a life saver for people who spend their days in remote fields on steep hillsides in the presence of venomous snakes and who cook on open fires. In previous years we have toured local villages with a ‘First Aid Roadshow’ to demonstrate how to treat burns, bleeding, snake bites, seizures etc and try to dispel some of the ‘old wives tales’ such as the practice of rubbing butter on burns. We would love to do more of these next year.

Puberty education

There is little knowledge of the changes which happen to children’s bodies and emotions as they enter puberty, making this a frightening and uncertain time for many. It often affects their schooling and inappropriate comments and actions could have very serious consequences for individuals and their families. We are often asked to provide sensitive advice to males and females aged 9-14 on the changes which happen at puberty. The sessions are always extremely well received by the pupils and by the staff and are likely to have a lasting impact on everyone involved.

These projects are a great opportunity for students from our Biology department and/or Health Faculties, or anyone with experience of this type of work. 

Safe water supply

The pipeline that delivers spring water to the village is old, rusty and leaking. Whilst the source is probably unpolluted, by the time it is used by villagers it is contaminated with bacteria and possibly parasites. A new water supply infrastructure is needed but this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. By understanding more about the sources and types of contamination it should be possible to help the villagers avoid some of the health implications of having to reply on this water. We would like to be able to identify and measure the sites and sorts of contamination in order to help villagers understand what is happening and how to avoid it.

A woman in Sainji collecting water   

This project would be ideal for scientists and engineers wanting to investigate and address Sainji’s water problems.

Village and school maintenance

In July 2017 GEMS school were forced to leave their school building and are currently housed in a new temporary building nearby. There are numerous ways in which this structure can be improved. For example, the 2017 Sainji team were involved in providing a concrete floor and building some steps to the building. 

Anyone with basic DIY, practical and painting skills could get involved in this project.

There are a number of other project areas which we could get involved with, depending on the will of the villagers and the expertise of the ARU team. These include: 

1. Animal welfare - goats, cattle, buffalo are kept in the villages, improving the health and wellbeing of these animals will directly impact the health and wellbeing of their owners. 

2. Weed control - Parthenium hystophorus is an invasive weed which causes skin lesions and breathing difficulties. It is an increasing problem in the fields around Sainji. 


Ejemot-Nwadiaro RI, Ehiri JE, Arikpo D, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing promotion for preventing diarrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews 2015 (available at https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004265.pub3/epdf/full, accessed 24 October 2018).