October, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles at Okang'a Spring
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 Irumbi to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) 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. The following is Pius' story, in his own words.
Christopher and Pius reflect on Okgang'a Spring's protection and impact.
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."
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Irumbi Community, Okang'a 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.
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 Irumbi, Kenya.
We trained more than 26 people on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19. Before there were any reported cases in the area, we worked with trusted community leaders and the Water User Committee to gather community members for the training.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
October, 2019: Giving Update: Irumbi Community, Okang'a Spring
A year ago, your generous donation helped Irumbi Community in Kenya access clean water.
There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water at Okang'a Spring in Irumbi. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…
September, 2018: Irumbi Community Project Complete
Irumbi Community is celebrating their new protected spring, so celebrate with them! Okang'a Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of 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.
We were in constant communication with Mr. Christopher Okang'a to plan for hygiene and sanitation training. He led the group in gathering the local stones and sand the artisans would need to help protect the spring. He called everyone who fetches water from Okang'a Spring to invite them to the training.
Training took place on a sunny morning under a big mango tree. The shade and a light breeze helped us beat the heat. The elderly participants were a lot more involved in our discussions, most likely because they had so much experience to bring to the table.
We covered several topics including leadership and governance (participants started a water and sanitation committee); 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.
We were able to focus on particular topics for this community thanks to our household visits and interviews. After speaking with a few adults, we learned that the common practice is to dry clothes and other things on the ground. Thus, we taught participants about how the health complications they face are somewhat linked to this bad habit. We detailed where to find materials for clotheslines and how to build a dish rack.
One of the participants admitted that she bathes and does laundry at the same time, and even uses the laundry detergent as her body soap. That surprised everyone at the training because all laundry detergents available in the area are extremely harsh.
During the handwashing session, the whole group had fun talking about what they usually did to clean up. One elderly woman came to the front, grabbed the pitcher of water, and acted out her usual behavior of rinsing each hand as she held food in the other. Everyone had a good laugh as she mimed eating her dinner meal after rinsing her hands. After these discussions, our trainers taught the proper times and methods to wash hands.
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.
"We have been going to our neighbor's home to relieve ourselves, but because of this project, we have our own sanitation platform," Mrs. Christine Mukula rejoiced.
A sanitation platform drying in its frame.
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.
The artisan encountered a few challenges during his work. When he started excavating the spring, he got attacked by bees. He fled and then returned the following day. The second challenge was the large discharge area where the spring's water came to the surface. This forced the group to excavate and then fill up a large area behind the discharge pipe.
This, in turn, required a larger amount of stones than the community had delivered to the artisan. There was a delay until more stones could be found.
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.
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a polyethylene membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination.
The concrete dried over the course of two weeks. The water and sanitation committee has already worked with the community to plant grass and build a fence to protect the spring. They even had to cut down some blue gum trees, since that species is known to take in a lot of water. The community's willingness to shape the environment to protect their spring gives us confidence that they will continue to care for their spring.
"We had been fetching contaminated water over the years. This is a God-sent organization with the community's needs at heart," said Mr. Mmasi Okang'a.
"We are blessed and believe that we shall always enjoy safe, reliable and clean drinking water."
August, 2018: Irumbi Community Project Underway
Dirty water from Okang'a Spring is making people in Irumbi Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we have begun installing 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 soon.