A Longtime Friendship and Joint Commitment to Clean Water at Okang’a Spring

Friday, October 9th, 2020

Our team recently visited Irumbi to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their water point, Okang’a Spring. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic is affecting their lives.

During this most recent visit, we met up with Christopher Okang’a and Pius Atsango Ligami. Christopher and Pius are a formidable duo in Irumbi, and they have been the champions of community development in their village. They are incredibly passionate about the protection of Okang’a Spring; if there is anything to do with the spring, they are at the forefront. The two men are neighbors and close friends, almost like brothers, many say.

Pius Atsango Ligami (left) and Christopher Okang’a

Pius and Christopher both serve on the spring’s water user committee, Christopher as Chair and Pius as Secretary.  “They have an excellent working relationship and coordinate so well. I like the way they are working together,” said team leader Catherine Chepkemoi.

Together, Pius and Christopher are helping to inspire exceptional water management practices at Okang’a Spring, working with the rest of the water user committee and community to keep the spring clean and accessible. They are leaders in promoting improved hygiene and sanitation practices across the village; we noted that every homestead had at least one handwashing station as we walked through the community, just as our team had encouraged during the COVID-19 prevention training.

Pius outside his home

Pius sat down with Field Officer Olivia Bomji during this most recent visit and shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life and his community.

Olivia met Pius outside his home to conduct the interview while both observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. Christopher was also sure to drop by and share an update on Okang’a Spring’s use during the pandemic, as shared in the joint video with Pius, below.

Christopher and Pius reflect on Okgang’a Spring’s protection and impact.

The following is Pius’ story, in his own words.

What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?

“The community had water to feed [crops] all through [the year]. They have enough clean water for washing and drinking.”

How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?

“It has helped so much because, during this pandemic, we all as the community depend on Okang’a Spring. We fetch water for drinking, cleaning, and washing hands.”

From left to right: Pius, Christopher, and Christopher’s wife Mrs. Okang’a at the spring. Behind them, the chart of COVID-19 prevention reminders hangs from our first sensitization training held during the pandemic.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?

“Since the pandemic [began], the water has helped a lot for household work, drinking, and washing hands. Having enough water has helped us to keep the virus away.”

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

“I was personally affected because I am a businessman. I was forced to shut down my business, which my family depended on as an income source. Now that we have children at home, although we have bonded a lot, having them playing around and staying idle for so long is not good.”

Pius with his son Jacob

What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

“The cost of living has increased because now we have not enough money to support our families. This is because we can’t move around freely because of the fear and restrictions of COVID-19.”

What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community took to stop the spread of the virus?

“The community members have ensured that they wear masks while going to crowded places, and [they are] washing hands. This has been achieved by having handwashing stations at the homes.”

Pius with his mask on

Like most governments worldwide, the Kenyan government continues to set and adjust restrictions both nationally and regionally to help control the spread of the virus.

What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

“I was happy about the curfew hours being moved from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm.”

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

“I am still looking forward to the government to open companies so that some products in the market can be found easily.”

Pius checks on his maize harvest drying in the sun

When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Pius listed the radio, television, newspaper, and our team’s sensitization training.

What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?

“It enlightened the people to know why they should wear masks, keep social distance, and avoid crowds.”

This post is part of a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them. We invite you to read more of their stories here.

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