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Month 1 of Life Force Kiosks is in the books, and I’m excited about our results so far.  In just our first month, we have purified over 20,000 liters of drinking water and cleaned over 330 storage containers.  Considering this is a brand new service and several vendors took a few weeks before they really started to actively promote our services, I’d say this is a great start. 

We’re currently averaging between 1,000 and 1,500 liters of drinking water purified per day, and I hope to see that number continue to rise over time.  But even at our current volumes, we’re on track to grow over 50% from month 1 to 2 and purify over 30,000 liters of water. 

I again want to recognize and congratulate Steve, Freddy, and our vendor network for an outstanding job right out of the gate.  Clearly the community appreciates their efforts as well.

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I spent a few days this week in rural Kenya working on a sanitation project so I wasn’t able to announce a huge milestone.  Life Force Kiosks recently purified our 10,000th liter of drinking water in Kibera.  Actually, we’re already at over 11,000 liters purified.  We’ve also cleaned about 200 water storage containers. 

As expected, sales were initially low, but we’ve seen steady growth and have purified over 1,000 liters per day for the past couple of days.  I attribute the growth to two main activities.

  1. Vendor improvements – Our management team has done a great job of making improvements with our vendor network.  In many cases, we used a three-day training approach where Steve spent two days running a kiosk with the vendor by his side watching.  On the third day, Steve was still at the same kiosk all day but the vendor did all the work and Steve observed.  This allowed Steve, who is charismatic and trained in community development, to give our sales pitch to every customer who approached the water tap and generate consumer demand for two consecutive days.  It also allowed the vendor to see firsthand what an effective sales pitch looks like, including overcoming objections.  Lastly, it let the vendors get over their nervousness about the new service and see that the community is responding positively and they really can make more money by working with us.  In some extreme cases, we removed vendors who were not performing and replaced them with vendors who had greater interest.
  2. Community Raffle – The cornerstone of our marketing program is our weekly raffles.  The biggest problem with most health promotions is that they don’t focus on the real things that motivate people.  Look at any gym commercial in the United States.  You don’t see a doctor explaining how exercise reduces the risk of heart disease.  You see beautiful, toned people glistening with sweat in very little clothing because people want to look like that so they can date other people who look like that.  Our raffles motivate our customers by giving them a chance to win something they really want like household wares they couldn’t otherwise afford or cell phone credit.  I wish that reducing the risk of waterborne disease was motivation enough, but it’s just not and never will be.  We had our first round of weekly raffles over the weekend and as expected, they attracted large crowds.  Everyone wanted to know how they could participate in the raffle and several asked if they could buy our services right then and there.  As we do more and more of these raffles, I expect every member of the community to eventually hear about and at least consider utilizing the services of Life Force Kiosks.  I don’t know too many marketers who would say they see that kind of impact from a billboard, brochure, or direct mail campaign.

The entire team is incredibly excited at the positive reaction we’ve seen in the community.  Even more exciting is that there’s still a huge amount of potential for growth.  We’re just three weeks old and haven’t even started our community presentations at women’s groups, schools, etc.  Stay tuned for future updates.  We’re just warming up!

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Life Force Kiosks just completed its second full week of operations and the initial results are positive.  So far our ten vendors have purified over 4,000 liters of drinking water and cleaned over 150 water storage containers.  Not bad for a brand new service in one of the poorer villages within Kibera. 

 Life Force Kiosks stand in Kibera

Life Force Kiosks stand in Kibera

Sales were a bit slow after the first couple of days, but our management team has been doing a great job of working with the vendors to improve performance.  One vendor went several days with no sales at all.  Steve spent all day on Monday and Tuesday co-running the stand with that vendor and he sold over 20 chlorine top-ups.  That showed the vendor that people really do want our service and he really can make some extra money by working with us.  Today Steve just spent the day observing but let the vendor take full control, and that vendor made 13 sales on his own.  We plan on replicating that process for all under-performing vendors over the next couple of weeks and expect to see solid improvement across our vendor network.  Once that is done and we feel confident that all vendors are fully on board and comfortable with their roles, we’ll shift our focus towards community marketing and consumer demand generation. 

I’ll continue to post updates to let you know how things are going.  So far I’m very pleased with our early performance and more importantly with the potential we’re seeing.

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Life Force Kiosks stand

Life Force Kiosks stand

After the first full day of operations, I’m pleased to report that things are going very well so far and our vendors have been successfully promoting our services.  Since we started operations on Wednesday, we have already cleaned 43 water storage containers and sold 56 doses of chlorine water treatment.  That equates to 1,120 liters of drinking water that’s been purified by Life Force Kiosks in just a day and a half.

LFK Vendor cleaning a water storage container

LFK Vendor cleaning a water storage container

What’s exciting is that most of the vendors have quickly embraced the Life Force Kiosks model and are actively promoting the services.  The community is showing good interest for such a new service as well.  Over time as we iron out some of the kinks with our vendors and ramp up our demand generation activities, I’m very optimistic that these numbers will grow and we’ll be able to make a significant impact to the health of the community.

Life Force Kiosks Vendor in action

Life Force Kiosks Vendor in action

Stay tuned for additional updates and photos over the coming days and weeks.

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Life Force KiosksIt’s with great excitement that I announce that Life Force Kiosks began operations in the Gatwekera village of Kibera today.  We launched this morning with an incredibly successful community event.  The band and Emcee did a fantastic job of gathering and entertaining crowds of people who sat in our tents and lined the street to hear about Life Force Kiosks. 

Jeremy Farkas speaking at the Life Force Kiosks launch event

Photo by Tobin Jones

A community leader opened the meeting with some rousing remarks before handing things over to our General Manager, Steve, who then gave a detailed presentation of our services.  I spoke next and outlined some of the key benefits of Life Force Kiosks.  I explained how our service offers the unique combination of affordability, convenience, effectiveness, and no impact on taste & smell.  I also reiterated the details of our weekly raffle.  We had two guest speakers who also made presentations.  Professor Karama from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and Mr. Wanjohi from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MoPHS) both gave presentations discussing the health benefits of the Life Force Kiosks model.  I am extremely thankful that our two guest speakers were able to attend.  Showing the community that both KEMRI and the MoPHS support Life Force Kiosks gives us instant credibility and should help accelerate adoption. 

Crowd attending the Life Force Kiosks launch in KiberaAfter the conclusion of the presentations, the band continued to entertain the community as we passed out more leaflets and gave free samples of Life Force Kiosks treated water.  The afternoon was spent setting up the kiosks so we could immediately start selling our services and improving the water quality and storage conditions in Kibera.  Over the coming days and months I look forward to giving you regular updates on how things are going.  I’ll also be sharing both our success stories and any lessons learned. 

Dancers on stage in KiberaIn addition to the pictures in this post, I encourage you to check out our Flickr account for additional photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/33468302@N02/.  I’d like to thank Tobin Jones, a good friend and professional photographer who volunteered his time today to take some great pictures.  Over the next few days I’ll post additional pictures to the Flickr account and on our website at www.LifeForceKiosks.org

I want to thank all of you who have been following our story for over a year.  But this is just the beginning.  The exciting part starts now!

Life Force Kiosks Management Team

Photo by Tobin Jones

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It’s amazing to think that what began with a simple tour through Kibera over a year ago has turned into an organization with two Kenyan managers, twelve water vendors, and an innovative model to improve access to clean drinking water in the poorest communities.  Life Force Kiosks is currently scheduled to start operations on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. 

Preparations for our launch event are nearly complete.  We’ve invited guest speakers from the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, KEMRI, the local government, and the water vendor network.  Numerous other non-profit organizations, community groups, and leaders from schools and religious organizations have also been invited to attend.  We’ve hired a band and an Emcee to draw a crowd and entertain at the event, which will be held in a large outdoor area in the heart of Kibera.  We have a 100 person tent as well in case of rain and based on the way people cram into busses here, it can probably fit 300 people.  2,000 leaflets touting our services and benefits have been printed, and they include a 4 month calendar so people will hang them in their houses (people LOVE displaying calendars here in Kenya).  We’ll also be serving free Life Force Kiosks treated water from branded water tanks so people in the community can see for themselves that our water has a nice, natural taste. 

Detailed vendor training is being conducted today.  The session includes technical training on how to purify the water and clean the storage containers as well as business training.  At the end of the training session, our managers will pretend to be potential customers and each vendor will have the opportunity to pitch them our services, overcome common objections that they’ll raise, and then clean a container and purify the water. 

I look forward to posting several pictures of the launch event next week, as well as pictures and updates on our live operations.  Stay tuned.  Things are getting exciting!

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I apologize for the delay in posting to the blog.  It isn’t due to lack of activity, but rather an overwhelming volume of activity as we rapidly approach the launch of Life Force Kiosks in Kibera.  I’ll write another post in the next couple of days on the launch, but first I wanted to share the results of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) testing.

KEMRI Water testing in Kibera

KEMRI Water testing in Kibera

As we have 12 vendors starting in our pilot, we decided to do a full census of water points and pulled water samples from all 12 taps.  We also pulled samples from several other taps in Kibera as well as directly from households.  As a reminder, we split each sample into four sub-samples and treated them with 0, 1, 2, or 3 ml of chlorine.  When untreated, we saw dramatically high rates of fecal contamination.  In our pilot area, about 42% of taps showed unsafe levels of coliforms in the water.  In other areas and with household samples that number was even higher. 

While that was somewhat expected, the really exciting news was that KEMRI found that only 1 ml of chlorine was enough to reduce the coliform count to safe levels.  This means that Life Force Kiosks can achieve the desired health impact without dramatically impact the taste and smell of the water.  KEMRI also tested for contamination of water containers before and after Life Force Kiosks washed them.  We tested 10 containers, and in all cases the container showed some level of contamination prior to cleaning but no unsafe contamination after the thorough cleaning with soap and chlorinated water.

KEMRI Water testing in Kibera

KEMRI Water testing in Kibera

I was asked the other day why the major promoters of liquid chlorine suggest a 3 ml dosage.  It’s a great question, and I believe they have two very good reasons for doing that.  First, they are promoting packaged chlorine across a huge geographic region and can’t adjust their dosing directions for each specific community.  If packaged chlorine like WaterGuard is being used in areas with untreated water (from wells, streams, etc.), a higher 3 ml dosage may be required.  Life Force Kiosks is fortunate to be able to conduct ongoing testing in our specific operating areas and adjust the dosage accordingly.  Second, I believe they encourage a higher dosage to ensure there is residual chlorine in the water that will prevent re-contamination.  This is not a bad idea.  However, Life Force Kiosks is in the position to offer storage container cleaning services alongside the water purification service.  This dramatically reduces the risk of recontamination so we can offer a lower dose of chlorine, thus protecting the taste and smell without dramatically increasing the likelihood of re-contamination.  We will conduct this testing on a regular basis to ensure that our model continues to be effective.

KEMRI has reviewed the results and has given us their green light to start operations in Kibera.  We are very excited to now have full confidence that our model will reduce waterborne disease, and I want to personally thank Professor Karama of KEMRI, Professor Ichinose Yoshio of Nagasaki University who works with KEMRI, and the entire KEMRI lab team.

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