Peter Okari is championing hygienic sanitation in Mukuru
Peter’s story was suggested by Fresh Life credit officer Haron Muciu, who is a member of Team Freshi, a group dedicated to sharing stories that highlight the impact of Sanergy and Fresh Life in the communities we serve.
Peter Okari was born and raised in Kisii, a small town in western Kenya. For years, he dreamed of moving to Nairobi. “When my relatives would visit from the city, they appeared very sophisticated and well-off. I could not wait to follow suit,” he says.
In 2003, Peter’s aunt Jacqueline got him a casual job at the Coca-Cola bottling plant, for which he relocated to Nairobi’s Kayaba area. It did not take long before Peter began finding fault with city living. “There was not a single toilet facility in Kayaba; defecating by the Nairobi River was the norm,” he recalls.
This situation troubled Peter, particularly when his wife Josephine and their two daughters would visit from the village. They had nowhere to relieve themselves, and the nearest toilet was 2km away. Okari set up two makeshift toilet structures, not far from the river.
“My goal was to provide my neighbors, friends, and my visiting family with an enclosed area to do their business,” he says, adding that the Kayaba residents rarely used the facility, despite it being free of charge. Okari realized that the foul smell kept the community away from the unsanitary makeshift toilet, and he decided to demolish it.
In 2005, in an unexpected turn of events, Okari lost his job at Coca-Cola. Fortunately, he was soon recruited by a community-based organization to teach people the importance of hygienic sanitation. In addition, Peter and his colleagues helped the organization establish and run toilets for public use in Kayaba.
During a massive cholera outbreak in the area in which many residents contracted the disease, Peter was instrumental in training the community on basic hygiene and the importance of using a toilet facility. It was an opportunity for Peter to learn a lot about hygiene and sanitation. By 2009, open defecation had significantly reduced in his neighborhood, However, the community-based organization shuttered its doors in the same year, leaving the public toilets under the care of Peter Okari and his colleagues.
In 2013, Fresh Life Toilets began opening in Kayaba’s Crescent Area. “These facilities could not go unnoticed,” says Peter, who met with Fresh Life Sales Associate Benedict Muli to learn more. Peter was determined to keep improving sanitation in his area, so he was thrilled to learn about this new and innovative solution. Peter had just concluded building five rental units and a retail shop. He decided to put up one Fresh Life Toilet as a pilot to gauge its acceptance in the community. “Having championed sanitation improvement in this area, it was not difficult to convince my tenants and customers to use Fresh Life Toilets,” he recalls.
Within six months, Peter’s toilet was among the best performing in Kayaba. “Customers love the fact that this facility is always clean and it does not smell. They come from as far as Kayaba market just to experience the service,” he says. Customer demand escalated, particularly in the morning and evening, and so he installed an additional facility. “Consistency in providing improved sanitary options for my community has also played an important role in building my business,” beams Okari.
Today his family lives with him in Kayaba; his wife and business partner Josephine helps in maintaining the toilets’ cleanliness while he runs their retail shop. “I am particularly happy because my children do not have to use unsafe paths at night to access toilets,” says Josephine.
The Okaris’ Fresh Life Toilets are doing very well, and last quarter, Peter received an award from Fresh Life for the cleanest toilet in Kayaba. “Having two facilities is still not enough; the queues in the morning are too long. I am in the process of acquiring another Fresh Life Toilet, so as to better serve my customers.”
We celebrate Okari’s milestones this far, and we continue to support him in his work towards achieving improved sanitation in Kayaba.