Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with David Kweyu

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.

Mr. David Kweyu

David Kweyu is a 65-year-old farmer who lives in the village of Eshiakhulo in Western Kenya. David relies on Kweyu Spring for his daily water needs and serves as a member of the spring’s Water User Committee to help maintain and manage the water point. During our most recent visit To Eshiakhulo, we found the spring to be in good shape and functioning well.

David (right) stands with the Chair of the Water User Committee for Kweyu Spring.

To date, there have been no reported or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Eshiakhulo. After recently completing a COVID-19 sensitization and prevention training with David’s community (see the report below!), we wanted to hear how the pandemic has affected David personally.

The following interview was conducted outside David’s home by our area Team Leader Emmah Nambuye Wekesa. Social distancing and other precautions were observed to keep both Emmah and David safe. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.

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

“Oh, yes! I do fetch water for my cows and goats, and I ensure that there is soap at the water point for people to use whenever I go to fetch water. We are social distancing whenever we are at the water point. We are also avoiding crowding at all times and wearing masks which should cover the mouth and the nose always. Those are restrictions that are very new to me, personally.”

David quenches his animals’ thirst using water from Kweyu Spring.

What is one thing that has changed in your community since the protection of Kweyu Spring?

“Before the project implementation, the spring water was contaminated, and we would become sick more often with stomach conditions like typhoid and amoeba. I can’t recall when last I was treated of those ailments. Thank you for providing safe and clean water for us to use as a community.”

David fetches water from Kweyu Spring.

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

“I am using clean water for drinking and washing without worries, even if the pandemic is in the country. I am happy that the virus does not affect the water, so I drink it happily.”

David washes his hands using the leaky tin he installed outside his home.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

“COVID-19 has really affected my family and me. I have a son who was working in Nairobi, and when the pandemic struck, he lost his job since he was doing manual jobs. Then, the lockdown prevented his travel back to the village. I feel bad that my son is struggling, yet he is far away, and I do not have resources to support him from here.”

David stands with some of the members of his family currently at home with him.

“The school-going children are home because the schools have been shut down, so their eating habits have changed. They are eating a lot, and hence it is expensive to feed them. I am afraid for them and do not want them to move out of the homestead since they can be infected. Yet I cannot send them to visit relatives due to cross-country travel restrictions.”

One of the youngest Kweyu children strikes a pose at home.

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

“Economically, it has become very difficult since I would engage in different income-generating activities. I used to travel to see some of my children who are married, and now I cannot. Curfew hours have changed my lifestyle; I always have to be careful to come back home early to avoid being arrested by security. My wife is now forced to go to the market to sell vegetables so that we can earn an extra coin to assist the family – something she never used to do.”

David shows his mask.

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

“We are handwashing with soap and running water as many times as possible at home and the water point. We are wearing masks whenever we leave the compound or when we are with more than 1 person. We are keeping social distancing at all times outside the home. And we are avoiding crowds and social gatherings – no more shaking of hands, and sneezing under the armpit.”

David puts on his mask.

What restriction(s) were you most excited to see lifted or changed already in your area?

“The new hotel operating hours being moved up to 7.30 am will allow small traders to start earning income little by little. The curfew hour changes from 7:00 pm – 5:00 am to new hours of 9:00 pm – 4:00 am. And businesses are opening and getting back to normalcy.”

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

“Employees are going back to work so that my son in Nairobi can start fending for himself. And if not that, then the Nairobi lockdown being lifted so that he can come home.”

From where do you get information on the Coronavirus?

“Radio, television, word of mouth, loudspeaker/megaphone announcements, The Water Project training, newspaper, and during burials. The administration normally sends a representative to talk to us at burials about COVID-19 restrictions and rules.”

Trainer Protus leading a handwashing demonstration during the COVID-19 sensitization and prevention training at Kweyu Spring

What has been the most helpful part(s) of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?

“Being advised to: wear a mask whenever I am leaving my home; wearing a mask will help me keep myself and my family safe; handwashing with soap immediately when I get back from outside the gate since I might carry infection to my family and me; it’s important to visit the health facility whenever I am unwell; the water has no COVID-19, and it is safe and clean for drinking.”

David fetches water, and people line up while observing social distancing at Kweyu Spring.

“We thanked Mr. David Kweyu for making time for us to interview him and for him receiving us with an open heart…It is the season of green maize harvesting, and so we could not escape partaking in the delicious boiled maize which they offered and which we could not turn away from. Oh yes, we definitely undertook in “swallow-ship” with them! It was very generous of them.” – Emmah Nambuye Wekesa

Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Kanyaa Kavindu

This story is a part of a series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how they are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. See other stories in the series here.

Kanyaa Kavindu (center) standing with her husband, son, and grandchildren.

The Kenyan government implemented a series of restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. A curfew is in place from 9:00 pm to 4:00 am each day, social gatherings are limited, and people are not allowed to move in and out of counties with higher caseloads – including the capital city of Nairobi. As a result, everyday life is significantly disrupted.

For Kanyaa Kavindu, a 57-year-old mother of 7, the changes significantly impact her life. Kanyaa and her husband live in Wamwathi, a community in southeast Kenya. Their elder children live and work in Nairobi. They send home money to their parents but no longer can send as much because their incomes fell as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. This money is crucial for them because one of their younger children suffers from a health problem that requires extra attention and financial resources.

Kanyaa Kavindu

“It has been difficult taking care of him in such a time with limited financial ability,” Kanyaa told our team during a recent visit.

We spoke with Kanyaa as a part of our outreach to communities where we work to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on people’s lives. Kanyaa and her husband are members of the Syiluluku Self-Help Group. The members work together to improve their community – notably through projects such as constructing a sand dam and hand-dug well to enable access to safe water every day.

“Our community entirely depends on the shallow well we constructed last year. We have installed a handwashing station at the well to prevent the spread of the virus,” Kanyaa said.

Wamwathi community members stand on the sand dam they helped construct last year

Wamwathi Community is in Kitui County of southeast Kenya. It is a semi-arid region that experiences periods of drought – a situation that is only getting worse due to climate change. The households are spread out. Some homes are as far as 2 kilometers apart. Before the construction of the project, community members, including Kanyaa, woke up at 3:00 am to get water from the nearest reliable water point. Now, people can make a short walk to the dam and shallow well they completed instead.

The project is helping the Kavindu family deal with the unique challenges presented by COVID-19. While the money remitted from Nairobi has decreased, the family now has a garden where they grow vegetables – something they did not have before.

“Using water from the well, we have developed a small garden near the water point where we have grown pawpaws, maize, sugarcane, and sweet potatoes. All this supplements the small produce from our farm toward feeding my children and grandchildren here at home,” Kanyaa explained.

The sugarcane holds the potential to provide income for the family, too. It takes more than 18 months to mature but it is very lucrative if grown successfully.

During our visit to Wamwathi, our teams conducted a COVID-19 sensitization training. We went over national and international standards for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and refreshed previous training on topics such as handwashing and constructing tippy tap handwashing stations.

COVID-19 sensitization training in Wamwathi

Fortunately, access to water is not a concern for this community anymore.

“The sand dam and shallow projects have been of great importance to us in this time of coronavirus outbreak. The well has been supplying us with clean water since the day it was completed last year,” Kanyaa said.

“This has greatly enabled us to practice regular hand washing with clean water since the water is available in plenty.”

Handwashing using a tippy tap set up during training

Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Margaret Mbone

This is the first story from a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how they are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lot has changed for Margaret Mbone since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in her home of Sichinji, Kenya. A 59-year-old farmer, mother, and wife, Margaret recently met us at her home (while observing social distancing) to share her story.

Margaret Mbone (left) with 3 of her children outside their home

We were happy to meet Margaret at home, because she was actually supposed to have gone to join a burial the day we came. But, she canceled her plans to attend since the previous day, the security at the burial homestead had cautioned community members that no one would be allowed to attend.

This decision came after the burial homestead had slaughtered a cow with the intent of cooking meals for guests. This was against the rules, because during the pandemic there is to be no feeding during the ceremony to avoid the spread of the virus.

And so Margaret, like so many of us, was at home. Margaret’s home community of Sichinji has no reported cases of COVID-19 to date. We observed mask-wearing in the community and also handwashing stations with soap set up at residents’ homes. These observations encouraged us because it meant people are taking precautions and prevention steps seriously, including those covered in our recent training here.

Margaret stands at the entrance to her homestead, visible to the right

Margaret depends on Kubai Spring as her daily source of clean water, which we helped protect last year. The timing could not have been better, according to Margaret.

“Before the water point installation, we used to suffer – especially the children – from water-related diseases such as typhoid, amoeba, and stomach pains. But since protection, the water is clean and safe.”

Since the pandemic requires Margaret and her family to wash their hands frequently, they can access clean water from the spring to wash hands as many times as possible. Margaret is very happy that, all things considered, the pandemic could not have come at a better time since the water she is using to help protect herself and her family from the virus is safe.

Other things at the spring and at home, however, have changed.

“Due to the curfew hours, it means I have to fetch water earlier and observe social distancing at the water point. No more meeting at the water point to catch up on affairs because crowds are not allowed. Now I have to wash my hands at the water point before fetching water. We were afraid that the virus would affect the water, but we were told it does not affect water at the drawing point.”

Margaret fetches water from Kubai Spring

Before the pandemic, Margaret’s husband and other children used to visit her from Mombasa and Nairobi more frequently. But since the lockdown was enforced in those cities, they can no longer leave to see Margaret. Her husband and working children are no longer employed due to the shutdown and consequent widespread job losses, so they cannot assist Margaret financially. Her husband used to send money home from his work, but now there is nothing to send and no sense of when he will have it next.

“There’s no work at the moment, so we just stay at home,” said Margaret.

Margaret does her laundry using water from Kubai Spring

Knowing her husband and children are stuck in a lockdown affects Margaret emotionally, she said, because she fears for their safety and wellbeing. Other ways that Margaret would usually connect with friends and her support network have been lost temporarily due to the restrictions, heightening her social stress.

Without church gatherings, Margaret said she feels spiritually malnourished. She is missing the fellowship that comes with the weekly service. Social gatherings were banned, hence women “cannot meet as women to help one another, especially at such a time like this.” She also cannot visit relatives, especially during burials, because it is no longer allowed.

Margaret (right) takes advantage of her short trips to the spring to talk with others while wearing a mask and observing social distancing.

Many community members here said they do not wish for schools to reopen just yet for fear of their children contracting the virus. Right now, Kenyan schools are scheduled to reopen in September, providing they can pass a checklist of prevention measures required by the Ministry of Health.

So for now, Margaret’s 3 children who are supposed to be in school during this period are stuck at home all day. That means a lot more breakfasts, snacks, and lunches that would have otherwise been provided by the school. You can see how much Margaret’s crops and stores have been depleted already because of how much her children require on a daily basis, our team noted.

Margaret puts on her face mask

Margaret and her fellow community members in Sichinji are not giving up in the fight against COVID-19. The community has embraced the rules enforced by the government about wearing masks, observing social distancing, handwashing with soap, and ensuring that they are not caught outside after curfew.

The national curfew has been a particular point of stress, followed by relief, for Margaret. She was so happy with the recent extension of the curfew from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. The curfew also ends an hour earlier in the morning, shifting from 5:00am to 4:00am.

The extension gives Margaret more time to do her work on the farm while relaxed without worries of the curfew. When asked what restriction she is most looking forward to being lifted next, she said “the reopening of the church”.

Thankfully, information about COVID-19 is spreading across all areas of Kenya thanks to the many forms of news. Margaret cited the radio, word of mouth, television, and our own team’s training in her community as her main sources of information about the disease.

“Training helped me see the need for washing of the hands more frequently and setting the handwashing station at the entrance of the home. Also, it helped me see the sense of wearing masks whenever I go out of my home.”

Margaret washes her hands using a leaky tin station and soap at home

A new well brings relief for Alhaji and his mother

This used to be the most reliable water source for the 185 people living near #26 Old Town Road in Lungi, Sierra Leone:

Another well in the community was the secondary source, but it runs dry for 3 months out of the year. That meant that for people to get water each day, they had to manually haul a large bucket filled with water just to fill the few containers they carried from their homes.

This daily task was an enormous burden for Alhaji Kamara. His mother is sick and blind, and fetching water from the deep well is not possible for her. So Mr. Kamara must do it for her – a task made difficult by the physical labor needed to pull water out of the well.

Alhaji Kamara

“I am now a single, divorced man in my 50’s and I have to take care of my sick mother. There is nothing I can do to help her, except for the water I make sure she has every single morning,” he shared.

“I make sure that she has all that she needs every morning before I head out of the house. I can never go very far from home because I am the only person she has in the world to help her. Throughout the day, the one thing she is always in need of is water.”

To make matters worse, the water from the open community well is not safe for drinking. The container is handled by dozens of people each day and collects dirt and other contaminants each time. Because the water source is open, the water is directly exposed to pollutants. The potential for contracting a waterborne disease from this source was a real and daily threat to Mr. Kamara’s mother.

Mr. Kamara immediately joined the water user committee when we scheduled the construction of a new well for this community. He is a descendant of the late section chief, so he is one of the leaders in this community. We held a hygiene and sanitation training before construction started, and Mr. Kamara was an active participant.

Hygiene and sanitation training (conducted before social distancing).

“As a senior member of the community, it is my responsibility to make sure that I attend all of the training sessions. I am very grateful and honored to have participated because I have learned a lot of new things that I am going to implement at my home,” he said.

But it was the construction of the new well that had the most significant impact on Mr. Kamara’s life.

Community members celebrate at the new well, with Mr. Kamara in the center background (before social distancing).

“Having a clean and safe source of water in front of my house is going to do wonders for me, for the simplest reason – my mother. Words can not begin to express what I am feeling in my heart for the people that made all of this possible,” he said.

Fetching water is now easy for Mr. Kamara. He spends less time and can get more water with each trip. That means fewer visits to get water each day. And it also means that he and his mother are consuming safe water every time they drink from the well.

The water from this well also benefits the community. The water user committee will collect fees from people when they fetch water at the new well, explained Mr. Kamara. This money is then set aside to pay for repairs when any issues arise. Any excess cash will support community projects, such as improvements for the local mosque, he said.

“There are also people in the community that greatly need financial help, so we are going to set up a fund to help some of the old people that cannot afford to buy food during the month of Ramadan,” Mr. Kamara added.

Alhaji Kamara (third man to the right) celebrates with community members at the new well (before social distancing).