August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Magdalene Wanjala
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.
Our team recently visited Burachu B to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Shitende 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.
It was during this most recent visit that Magdalene Wanjala shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her life. Magdalene is a 34-year-old farmer and mother, and she is dedicated to ensuring the longevity of Shitende Spring. That is why she also serves as Secretary of the spring's water user committee.
Community Engagement Officer Jemmimah Khasoha met Magdalene outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Jemmimah and Magdalene observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Magdalene's story, in her own words.
Magdalene shares what has changed in her community since the protection of Shitende Spring, and she shows 2 of her new norms during the pandemic: frequent handwashing and wearing a mask.
"What has changed since the installation of this water point is that we can now access safe and clean water very easily and fast. There is no time for rumor-mongering at the water, which caused hatred in the community initially.
During this pandemic, having clean water is the greatest blessing we had. One requirement was to wash hands more often and this clean water is serving us well and also being used for cleaning surfaces.
Magdalene (right) fetches water while community members observe physical distancing and wear masks at the spring.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we had to adopt new rules like maintaining a distance of 1 meter from each other while at the spring, washing hands before fetching water, and avoiding idleness at the water point. The sanitation and hygienic activities that we are undertaking to stop the spread of COVID-19 include washing hands as many times as possible and wearing masks when leaving home.
Magdalene washes her hands with soap and clean water from Shitende Spring using a leaky tin handwashing station she set up on the dishrack at her house.
The outbreak of COVID-19 brought negative impacts on our lives. Children are uncontrollable for they keep playing from morning to evening. The education system was shut down, thus making children even forget what they learned in school.
Magdalene helps her daughter Lilly put on her mask.
The other challenges that we are experiencing include unemployment. We used to do casual labor, like washing people's clothes and weeding their farms, but currently, there are so many people with no jobs. Economically, food items are insufficient in quantity making prices rise. Since churches were put on hold, spiritual life was affected, too.
Magdalene sifts her maize harvest before airing it to dry.
The restriction on going to church has been partially uplifted and at least now a few people can go to church. Curfew times have also been uplifted, thus enabling people to at least work evening hours and get income.
Having children go back to school is the restriction we are really looking forward to seeing uplifted. The places of worship also should be fully opened."
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Magdalene listed the radio 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 refresher in handwashing, more information on COVID-19, how it's spread, and prevention measures. We were also taught to make masks which is really helping us now, especially when going out of our home [because they are mandatory]."
July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Burachu B Community, Shitende Spring
Our teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in our fight against the virus while maintaining access to clean, reliable water.
Building a tippy tap handwashing station
We are carrying out awareness and prevention trainings on the virus in every community we serve. Very often, our teams are the first (and only) to bring news and information of the virus to rural communities like Burachu B, Kenya.
We trained more than 11 people on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19. Due to public gathering concerns, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.
We covered essential hygiene lessons:
- Demonstrations on how to build a simple handwashing station
- Proper handwashing technique
- The importance of using soap and clean water for handwashing
- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces including at the water point.
Homemade mask tutorial
We covered COVID-19-specific guidance in line with national and international standards:
- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19
- What social distancing is and how to practice it
- How to cough into an elbow
- Alternative ways to greet people without handshakes, fist bumps, etc.
- How to make and properly wear a facemask.
Homemade mask tutorial
During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point, along with a sign with reminders of what we covered.
Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we also dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed.
A man holds the prevention reminder chart
We continue to stay in touch with this community as the pandemic progresses. We want to ensure their water point remains functional and their community stays informed about the virus.
A man shows the COVID-19 informational pamphlet received at training, translated into local languages
Water access, sanitation, and hygiene are at the crux of disease prevention. You can directly support our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve while maintaining their access to safe, clean, and reliable water.
September, 2019: Giving Update: Burachu B Community, Shitende Spring
A year ago, your generous donation helped Burachu B Community in Kenya access clean water.
There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water at Shitende Spring in Burachu B. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…
August, 2018: Burachu B Community Project Complete
Burachu Community now has clean water! Shitende Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of clean water thanks to your donation. The spring is protected from contamination, five sanitation platforms have been provided for the community, and training has been done on sanitation and hygiene.
Hygiene and sanitation training was organized in the early days of our visiting Burachu. During community engagement, the field officer was able to remind community members of the training, working together to set a specific date. Being a farming community, farmers had to spare valuable time from working on their farms.
Mr. Abraham Okumu went house to house inviting everyone who uses Shitende Spring. The training took place at one of the homesteads right by the spring, with 17 ladies and five men in attendance. Inquiring about why there were so few men, the field officer learned that the men don't mingle with the women well. When invited, they also pointed their fingers at the women and said water and cleanliness was all their responsibility.
The day was chilly, and cold crowned the air. The roads were almost impassable with mud all over due to the heavy rainfall the previous night. While we normally use motorbikes to get around, we had to commandeer a full vehicle to arrive on time.
We covered several topics including leadership and governance; operation and maintenance of the spring; healthcare; family planning; immunizations; the spread of disease and prevention. We also covered water treatment methods, personal care like handwashing, environmental hygiene, hygiene promotion, and many other things.
The only issue was that a lot of participants came with their own interests. When we got to a certain topic, a handful of people would be extremely engaged in what was happening. But when we moved on, they checked out until another topic of interest! Our trainers did their best to call on and involve those individuals. There was a language barrier with a few of the older participants, but thankfully there were others that could translate from Swahili to their local dialect.
Most everyone enjoyed learning about food security. We discussed drought-resistant crops, some of which should be planted with the rains and others planted when it's dry. The women were very active in this session, for they are the most affected when it comes to ensuring that food is on the table for the whole family. Crops like tissue culture bananas, orange fresh sweet potatoes and cassava are encouraged. The orange fresh sweet potatoes can be used for making flour which can cook chapati and even make porridge - and they only take three months to mature!
Mrs. Everlyn Okumu said, "I must attest that I am not the same woman who came for this training without knowledge. I have learned that success in life does not come just from getting more; it comes with the acquisition of knowledge and information which will keep you moving and help you get more."
All five sanitation platforms have been installed and make wonderful, easy to clean latrine floors. These five families are happy about this milestone of having a private latrine of their own and are optimistic that people will no longer leave waste outdoors. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors.
Creating the frame and preparing concrete to make the sanitation platform.
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, e.g bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, wheelbarrows of ballast, fencing poles and gravel. Accommodations and meals were provided for the artisan, too.
Men and women lent their strength to the artisan to help him with manual labor. The spring area was excavated to create space for setting the foundation of polyethylene, wire mesh and concrete. After the base had been set, both wing walls and the headwall were set in place using brickwork. The discharge pipe was fixed low in place through the headwall to direct the water from the reservoir to the drawing area.
As the wing walls and headwall cured, the stairs were set and ceramic tiles were fixed directly below the discharge pipe. This protects the concrete from the erosive force of the falling water and beautifies the spring. The process of plastering the headwall and wing walls on both sides reinforces the brickwork and prevents water from the reservoir from seeping through the walls and allows pressure to build in the collection box to push water up through the discharge pipe.
Field Officer Jemmimah checking progress. The spring still needs to be filled up and covered behind the discharge pipe.
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a polyethylene membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination. It took about two weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
As soon as the spring protection was ready for use, the field officer made a visit to officially hand it over to the community. The day was very bright and filled with gratefulness as people witnessed clean water coming from the pipe.
"I am very grateful for the initiative taken by our good organization and the donors who have ensured we have clean water. Over a long period of time, we have suffered from having dirty water. The spring is just next to a pathway whereby before protection, anybody could bring their cattle to take water and this would really make it dirty," Mrs. Okumu said.
"I am happy and now that I am the immediate neighbor to the spring, I will ensure the spring is well kept so that the children of our children can use it."
April, 2018: Burachu B Community Project Underway
Dirty water from Shitende Spring is making people in Burachu B Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.
Get to know your community through the narrative and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news!