Meet Patrick Ojok: Lifeline’s Senior Sanitation Officer

By: Brian Cartwright

All of our work here at Lifeline is made possible by the incredible passion and drive of our team. We’re proud to introduce you to the talented individuals who power our work and mission.

“Practicing public health has an impact on people’s lives and WASH provides a solution to stop the spread of water and sanitation related diseases.” ~Patrick Ojok

Your title with Lifeline is “Senior Sanitation Officer – WASH.” Could you please give a brief overview of your position and what your roles and duties are within this position?

As a Senior Sanitation Officer, I lead a team that implements the software component in the WASH program. This includes identifying and selecting WASH communities, doing needs assessments and qualifying the communities that are in most need. I also develop and implement assessment models and baseline surveys to see where and why we are choosing a community to work with and to see how much we have already accomplished within a community.

Another large part of my job is facilitating community mobilization by working with community leaders and by working with communities that are really involved in their programs. There is a lot of coordination with district, local, and national water and sanitation authorities in my work.

What is it about this line of work that drew you to pursue a career in this field? How did you come to find that you have a passion for the public health and the WASH sector?

I chose this line of work because public health has a direct impact on people’s lives. This is really the only way to stop the spread of water and sanitation related diseases and I wanted to be a part of the fight. Practicing public health has an impact on people’s lives and WASH provides a solution to stop the spread of water and sanitation related diseases.

There is a common saying, “If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.” Is there a specific aspect of your work that brings you a true sense of accomplishment, feeling of success, or joy?

The specific aspect of my work that brings me a sense of joy is knowing that I am working with communities to help them not drink from unsafe water sources. Whenever I go out, I am always happy to find communities like Ayegero, where residents were previously drinking from unsafe sources but are no longer since Lifeline provided a safe water source and a system like EverFlow to take care of it by paying monthly user fees for borehole maintenance. This motivates me and makes me appreciate what Lifeline and I are doing.

From your experience, if you had to describe one skill or ability that you have used and has been most useful to you in this line of work, what would that skill be and why?

The one skill that has been really important to me are interpersonal skills, maintaining positive relationships with the people I work with. This includes both personal relationships and professional. The reason why this is so important, especially within my work, is so we can talk openly and honestly with each other to solve problems, which makes moving forward much easier.

Based on your experiences within this sector, where do you see the WASH sector going? Has this sector been effective at improving people’s lives and do you see any changes that need to be made in the way we go about WASH programming?

I see the WASH sector moving away from handouts and towards more communities demanding the services that they deserve. This demand is backed by willingness and ability to ensure there is sustainability. Communities are more open to requesting what they need and are showing willingness and responsibility to take care of their own and to play a more active role within these sustainable programs, in this case taking care of their equipment and boreholes. Lifeline’s EverFlow business model is a good example of this. Communities collect money from within the community to pay for the water pump repair and maintenance services we offer. This is a much more sustainable system.

The WASH sector has been effective at improving people’s lives at the household and community levels. However, I believe we need to integrate more sanitation hardware. One example of this is to construct more public toilets, which would cover more sanitation related issues. In my opinion, when we talk about WASH, we should include the whole package, water and sanitation. Software is good and important, but there needs to be more hardware available to target broader sanitation related issues. Overall, though, we are moving on the right track.

What is it about Lifeline that initially piqued your interest and pushed you to apply to be a part of the team?

I am an environmentalist by profession. I practiced public health in the [displacement] camps and communities returning home from the insurgence [of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army] in northern Uganda. I witnessed large groups of [displaced communities] in the close quarters of settlements and the sanitation issues that were created. I wanted to be part of the fight to address these issues. After a while I started to see a lot of impact in what I was doing.

When I learned that Lifeline is implementing both WASH and Energy saving projects, I felt this is where I should be and became interested to be part of the team.

In your career and personal life, what are you most proud of? Is there something in your life that brings you a sense of peace?

I impacted on people’s lives positively most especially in rural communities we served by making them happier as they are now able to maintain their water sources and have improved hygiene and sanitation at their households and communities.

I am proud that I am a part of improving people’s lives at the household and community level to make them happy, especially in the more rural areas.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be any why?

I would want to use technology to help improve the environment.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like listening to music and playing board games. I enjoy listening to Celine Dion for softer, calmer music, and one of my favorite games is omweso*.

*A traditional mancala game that originated in Uganda.