Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Philip Omukiti

“Staying indoors is not my thing…It seems I have a lot of time on my hands,” said 31-year-old teacher Philip Omukiti plainly.

After several months of lockdowns, restrictions, curfews, and stress in his hometown of Mungakha, Kenya, it is easy to find empathy in Philip’s statement as so many people around the world are facing similar challenges.

Philip Omukiti stands outside his home in Mungakha, Kenya.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed or brought to a halt many familiar routines, not least of which is sending children to school. In Kenya, all primary and secondary schools have been closed since March, and they do not plan to reopen until at least January 2021.

Not all schools and homes in Kenya have the resources or ability to move classes online. Consequently, for many pupils and teachers alike, this pandemic period has been one of frustration and stagnation. Philip, who ordinarily works as a teacher, knows this story well.

Philip is a member of the water user committee for Asena Spring, which he depends on for all of his daily water needs. Our team recently visited Mungakha to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their water point. 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.

Philip (left) observes social distancing while attending a COVID-19 sensitization training in June.

It was during this most recent visit that Philip shared his story of how the coronavirus has impacted his life both personally and professionally.

Team member David Muthama met Philip outside his home to conduct the interview. Both David and Philip observed social distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. Their questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Philip stands at the entry to his homestead to greet David.

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

“I am confident that I am taking safe, clean water unlike before when the spring was wide open, exposed to frogs and tadpoles. I am confident and happy I have a source of clean water I can depend on.”

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

“There is plenty of clean water, and now I am able to wash hands, wash utensils, and even sanitize my furniture and other touchable items I use every day, including – most importantly – our clothes.”

Philip fetches water at Asena Spring.

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?

“I am a trained teacher by profession, and I would wake up and go to work, not having anything to do with water at the spring. But since the pandemic, schools closed, and I have been going to the spring to fetch water or do some cleaning. After the training by your team, I have observed that people are washing hands at the water point and doing social distancing, which I also do.”

Philip washes his hands with soap and water from Asena Spring using a leaky tin handwashing station he set up at home.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

“Staying indoors is not my thing. I can’t go to work, there is no socialization, and people are not interacting as before. As my profession – I am a teacher – suggests, I am a guy who loves the social set-up. And for the children, life has become unbearable since they are used to school life.”

“On the positive side, the pandemic has helped us as a family as most of us are now back at home since there are no jobs. Some of us had not met for a long time, but with the lockdown, we’ve had time to socialize and catch up on life.”

Philip sits with some of his nieces and nephews who are home from school due to the pandemic.

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

“Traveling has become a challenge as well as having an insufficient food supply. Getting money has become a challenge since jobs like coaching are no longer available, which has brought a lot of idleness and wastage of time.”

“I miss my teaching job, I miss the school, and I miss the students. It seems I have a lot of time on my hands.”

Philip spends some of his extra time keeping a close eye on would-be weeds in his vegetable garden near the spring.

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

“We are adhering to social distancing, handwashing with soap for at least 20 seconds, wearing masks anytime we leave the home, and strictly avoiding public areas such as political forums and other gatherings like funerals.”

Philip shows his mask.

Have any COVID-19-related restrictions been lifted since they began in Kenya?


What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?

“Opening of the partial lockdown of counties and the extension of curfew hours.”

What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?

“Meetings, because I can’t send off our beloved ones in burials. And because for church, certain age groups have been barred from going, and these age groups are usually the most active in church activities.”

Philip brought all of his nieces and nephews along to the spring to help fetch water for their families.

When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Philip listed the radio, television, newspaper, loudspeaker/megaphone announcements, word of mouth, and our team’s sensitization training.

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

“The (aforementioned preventative) measures in place and the steps you showed our illiterate members like the old men and women in our community. This included awareness of how the disease spreads and helping the elders understand what coronavirus is using their mother tongue.”

Philip in his face mask.

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.

Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Serilah Nyawanga

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.

“53-year-old Serilah looks tired and worn out,” stated Training Officer Jacquey Kangu with concern while reflecting on her recent interview of Serilah Nyawanga.

Serilah Nyawanga stands outside her homestead to greet us.

Serilah lives in the village of Shikhombero in Western Kenya, where our team recently visited to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their protected water source, Atondola 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.

Serilah (right) stands with her children at home during the pandemic.

Serilah agreed to meet with us while observing all COVID-19 precautions and showed us how her daily life has changed since the virus came to Kenya earlier this year.

“This is a lady we met during spring protection and training who was vibrant and happy, but a few months after the pandemic, she looks different. She misses her husband, who can no longer visit, but of much more concern is that she is just a farmer and her husband used to supplement the income by taking care of the family. Now that he is not working, there is no financial assistance, so she has had to seek alternative ways to take care of the family.”

“Yes, it is evident that COVID-19’s impact has really changed not only Serilah but the entire community of Shikhombero,” Jacquey said.

Serilah reaches for the soap at her home handwashing station.

“We are living under fear and worry. Life has really hardened due to the tough economic situation,” said Serilah. At the time of Serilah’s interview, the capital city Nairobi was still under lockdown. Her husband, who usually works there and sends money home, could neither leave nor work due to the lockdown.

Handwashing at home

“My son left for Homa Bay County for manual work just a few weeks ago. My prayer is that he keeps safe and does not contract the virus since we (Kenya) have positive cases there. My school-going children are home with me, which is not supposed to be so…I have a fear for my children that they are losing study time when they are home.”

Serilah shows her mask before putting it on.

The one thing that has remained constant for Serilah throughout the pandemic is her access to clean and safe water from Atondola Spring.

“We are using safe and clean water. Imagine washing hands with dirty water, or using dirty water! I would be very worried since COVID-19 [is not kind] to dirty [hands].”

“Nowadays I have to observe hygiene like washing hands with soap and cleaning the containers before fetching water. I never used to do these before the pandemic; I am keener on hygiene to keep the virus away.”

Serilah puts on her mask.

“Matters of hygiene and sanitation and mask-making training has really been helpful. [We are now] washing hands thoroughly with soap and water as many times as possible, keeping away from social places like funerals, and wearing face masks whenever we leave our homes.”

Serilah actively participates in the COVID-19 refresher training we held in Shikhombero on the day of her interview.

Training Officer Jacquey confirmed that “the community is so grateful for the clean water since it helps them to carry out hygiene and sanitation. The community members who attended the [COVID-19] training seemed to be knowledgeable about matters concerning COVID-19 since all of them came wearing face masks.”

Our team continues to monitor Atondola Spring to ensure that Serilah and every community member in Shikhombero maintain their vital connection to good hygiene and sanitation during the pandemic: clean water.

Respond with us to provide essential services and support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

300+ students need water at Prophecy Primary School in Sierra Leone

Help these students gain access to clean, reliable water in celebration of World Water Day on March 22nd.

Welcome to the School

Prophecy Primary School employs seven teachers and can get quite noisy with its 305 students. Without Prophecy Primary in Sankoya community, children would have to walk extraordinary distances elsewhere.

There is no electricity or running water. There are three classrooms and a space for the headmaster’s office. Each classroom is split for two classes, facing opposite directions.

Classrooms at Prophecy Primary School

Water Situation

There is a hand-dug well on school grounds which supports students with their cleaning, hand-washing, and drinking needs. They always carry a bucket back home at the end of the day because there isn’t another clean water source in their part of Sankoya. In fact, the entire community relies on the school’s well.


Because of our Monthly Donors


Kankalay Primary School in Sierra Leone has too many reminders of Ebola. The Water Project completed a water and sanitation project here in 2011, and the photo you see above is of the toilets installed for the school. When Ebola was at it’s worse, this whole area became a treatment center.

If you look closely you’ll see where medical equipment and linens infected with Ebola were burned against the building. Students are still using these facilities, and the accompanying water well is providing safe water – thanks to your support! (more…)