October, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Benson Omwoma Weku
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 Ematetie to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Chibusia 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 Benson Omwoma Weku shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life and his community. Benson is a 48-year-old father, businessperson, and Chair of the spring's water user committee.
Mr. Benson Omwoma Weku
Field Officer Rose Serete met Benson outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Rose and Benson observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Benson's story, in his own words.
Benson outside his home
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"Our community looks neat because we have enough water for practicing hygiene and sanitation. We have also improved our living standards because the money we used to spend on water is now diverted to other activities."
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"Having this water point has really helped us fight the coronavirus. We are able to wash our hands frequently without the fear of where to get clean water. We also have enough water to practice hygiene and sanitation at home."
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?
"Yes. Initially, people could just fetch water without washing hands, but nowadays it's a must and no one is allowed to touch the discharge pipe, even after washing hands."
Benson washing his hands at home with soap and clean water from the spring using a leaky tin he made
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"Personally, I have been affected by COVID-19 because I used to work in a hotel and our employer had to let go of some people, and I was one of the people asked to step down. Providing for my family has been not easy. My children too are affected because the government started some learning programs online and on television, but where we live, there is no electricity. Therefore my children have not benefited from that program."
Benson's son Joshua refills the handwashing station with clean water
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"Parenting has been a major challenge, especially those of us with teenagers. You need to be there with them and make sure they are busy doing something; a lot of indiscipline cases been reported in my community."
Benson looking after his cow while it eats
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"My community members have made efforts that every home has a handwashing station. The station is put at the gate so that anyone visiting them has to wash hands before entering the compound. They are also practicing social distancing everywhere they go. Finally, they have to put on masks whenever they go out."
Benson at the spring fetching water for his cow
Like most governments around the world, 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?
"The restriction that I was most excited about was the ability to hold social events like weddings, funerals, and going to church [with limited numbers]".
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"I am looking forward to seeing the government allowing full social events' attendance. The attendance of people at events has been limited to 200 people."
Picking some kale from his farm
When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Benson 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 most helpful part was how to make a mask and a handwashing station within our homes. With this we are safe and ready to fight COVID-19."
June, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Chebusia 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 Ematetie, Kenya.
We trained community members 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.
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: Ematetie Community, Chibusia Spring
A year ago, your generous donation helped Ematetie Community in Kenya access clean water.
There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water at Chibusia Spring in Ematetie Community. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…
November, 2018: Ematetie Community Project Complete
Ematetie Community is celebrating their new protected spring, so celebrate with them! Chibusia 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.
Mr. Benson Omwoma was our main contact who helped us plan work in Ematetie. He coordinated volunteers to transport local sand and stones to the construction site. He also helped us recruit participants for our hygiene and sanitation training. He told us that it was tough recruiting enough of his neighbors, because most of them responded about how busy they are on their farms. Thankfully, Mr. Omwoma convinced nine of his neighbors to come and represent their own households. These 10 participants have promised to share everything they have learned with their families and the others who were not able to attend.
Group picture with all of the participants
Several topics were covered during the training, such as personal and environmental hygiene, common local diseases and their prevention, and care of the water point. The ten steps of handwashing were demonstrated, and participants were shown how to make their own handwashing stations using five-liter plastic containers.
Participants were surprised to learn that there are ways they need to care for their new spring protection. If they enforce special rules for its use and carry out some weekly chores, the spring protection will serve generations to come. They formed a water committee that will manage and maintain the water point. Learning about ways to care for the protected spring actually made the community more excited about having one nearby in Ematetie.
People were also surprised to learn about how important it is to treat drinking water. They admitted that they never boiled the water from Chibusia Spring because firewood is expensive and the entire process took too much energy. They loved learning about how solar energy can kill germs instead; all they would need is a clear container, time, and sunlight.
"The training will change our lives because we will form a group that will be registered under the name of 'Chibisia Spring,' and this group will help us do many activities which will earn income," said Mrs. Nancy Vugudza.
"We will put in practice what we have learned today. Thank you so much for giving us hope again of accessing clean and safe water."
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 latrine of their own. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors.
Construction at Chibusia Spring was successful and water is now flowing from the discharge pipe.
"I am personally so happy because we have clean and sufficient water," said Mr. Mohammed Kweyu. "This community has gotten something precious which they have desired to have for years."
The only challenge during the process was the location of the spring. It's at the bottom of a steep hill, so it was difficult to safely shuttle stones and sand down to the construction site. That being the case, the community greatly appreciates the cement stairs that now lead down to the discharge pipe.
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, e.g bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, wheelbarrows of ballast, and gravel. Community members also hosted our artisans for the duration of construction.
The spring area was excavated with jembes, hoes, and spades 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 five days. With this spring now handed over to the community, we will continue to follow up with the water user committee to make sure everything runs smoothly. They have already fenced in the spring area and plan to plant grass to prevent erosion.
The community held a meeting to mark the completion and commissioning of the protected spring. The event was full of prayer and thanksgiving. The community leaders thanked God and were categorical that the protected spring will greatly improve the quality of life here.
November, 2018: Ematetie Community Project Underway
Dirty water from Chibusia Spring is making people in Ematetie Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.
Get to know this 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!