July, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Josephine Shamala
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.
Josephine Shamala is a 45-year-old farmer and mother in Bukhanga who relies on Indangasi Spring for all of her daily water needs. An active member of the spring's water user committee, Josephine officially serves as the group's treasurer.
Josephine Shamala stands outside her home in Bukhanga.
Before the pandemic, Josephine also worked as kitchen staff at a local private school, but due to Kenya's school closures that went into effect in March and will remain in place until at least January 2021, she finds herself at home. Like so many parents around the world right now, Josephine is worried about her children missing their lessons, and how their family will fare through these hard times.
Our team recently visited Bukhanga to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) 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.
Josephine (bottom right) attends a COVID-19 sensitization training in May.
It was during this most recent visit that Josephine shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her life.
Team Leader Emmah Nambuye Wekesa met Josephine outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Emmah and Josephine 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.
Josephine sews a mask at training following the step-by-step demonstration.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the protection of Indangasi Spring?
"Initially we were having problems with our water since it was open to all contaminants, but since the protection of the spring, it has been a long time since becoming sick. There is no need to treat the water because it is clean and safe for drinking. We are very grateful."
Josephine fetches water from Indangasi Spring.
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"I have clean and safe water to drink and to do all my chores without fear of contracting the coronavirus. I am very happy."
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, I am always observing social distancing whenever I fetch water at the spring. I also do not take too long at the spring. I also have to wash my hands with soap and water at the drawing area."
Community members observe social distancing while gathered at the spring for a brief COVID-19 refresher training.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"My children who are in high school are home since schools closed. I fear that they will be affected negatively academically because they do not study properly at home. I am also afraid they have too much time on their hands and can easily get into trouble."
Josephine at home with her family.
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"I am afraid to interact with others since infection moves through interacting with people; I am not attending ceremonies as before like weddings and burials. I was attending to my private school where I would prepare meals for teachers and students, but schools are closed, so I do not get to do that. Life has become very difficult and feeding the family is a huge challenge."
A family portrait with homemade masks on display.
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"We are social distancing always and washing hands with soap as often as possible. I have also learned to make masks for my family. We are wearing masks whenever leaving home and making leaky tins (handwashing stations) at home."
Josephine washes her hands at home using the leaky tin handwashing station she set up.
What restriction are you looking forward to being lifted?
"Schools to open for my children to go back to school with proper safety measures. The children staying at home are a cause of worry for me."
Josephine washes dishes with water from Indangasi Spring.
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Josephine listed the radio, loudspeaker/megaphone announcements, word of mouth, and short text messages from mobile subscribers in addition to our team's sensitization training. She said that local leaders are also attending the small burial ceremonies allowed and share information there as well.
Josephine's farm animals depend on Indangasi Spring for their drinking water. Pictured here is one of her goats enjoying a snack.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"Learning how to make masks. I have been making some and also keeping safe so that I do not get infected and in turn infect my family. Washing my hands with soap as many times as possible has helped me too."
"This community is very careful and is taking all necessary precautions to avoid infection from COVID-19. They still would like us to go back and talk to them some more, saying that our trainings are helpful." - Team Leader Emmah reflecting on her visit with Josephine.
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Bukhanga Community, Indangasi 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.
Team Leader Emmah kicks off training in full personal protective gear
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 Bukhanga, Kenya.
"Embrace the space" and "When in doubt, stick your arms out," says Emmah while explaining social distancing
We trained more than 10 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.
Trainer Protus installs a new leaky tin handwashing station at the spring
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.
Lucas demonstrates handwashing at the new leaky tin
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.
A woman rinses her hands after washing them with soap
During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s spring. To help enforce social distancing while fetching water, community members helped gather stones to create small rock piles in the grass at least 6 feet apart.
Community members collected rocks to make social distancing markers at the spring
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.
All ages were committeed to helping carry stones for the social distancing markers
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.
Trainer Betty tries out a well-made tippy tap handwashing station at a household near the spring
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.
November, 2019: Giving Update: Bukhanga Community, Indangasi Spring
A year ago, your generous donation helped Bukhanga Community in Kenya access clean water.
There’s an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water at Indangasi Spring in Bukhanga. Month after month, their giving supports ongoing sustainability programs that help this community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Read more…
December, 2018: Bukhanga Community Project Complete
Bukhanga Community is celebrating their new protected spring, so celebrate with them! Indangasi 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.
Hygiene and sanitation training was done in consultation with a community leader, the pastor at Love and Truth Church. Some 90% of the church attendees use Indangasi Spring, so it was a good place to hold sessions. The pastor made an announcement in the church and called us and put us on speaker phone for us to hear the community members welcoming the project and inviting us to come and conduct the training.
The weather was sunny and hot, though there were indications from the clouds that it would rain later in the day. That didn't matter, though, since training took place inside the church building.
The training was very interactive. Mrs. Ingangasi, an older woman than most, was conversant in the local dialect and a little Swahili. She was one of the most eager to learn. Those in leadership like the pastor and Mr. Stephen, the village elder, were very active too.
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, along with demonstrations for dental hygiene and water treatment.
Handwashing demonstration out by the spring.
Environmental hygiene information was especially important for this community. The community members were encouraged to dig garbage pits since none had any; they were throwing rubbish on their farms, and they were not recycling plastics.
Some people didn't have latrines to use and were instead going in the bushes outside. Mrs. Violet said that her neighbors were doing open defecation and that they had been talked to - but they were not heeding any of their neighbors' concerns. Since the village elder was there, he promised to take up the challenge of getting all of his community to construct latrines.
Participants have joined a water committee that will oversee the spring protection and ensure that it's cared for.
Trainer Protus teaching about how the spring protection works.
"I have treated typhoid forever and it has never left me. I thought I was observing hygiene but with the training, I know that I will be able to keep typhoid and amoeba away," said Mr. James Kutoto.
"Thank you for the training. I have acquired more knowledge about water pollution."
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.
A sanitation platform drying at the back of a family's homestead.
Construction at Indangasi Spring was successful and water is now flowing from the discharge pipe.
The community members gathered around Indangasi Spring to offer prayers of thanksgiving. The community was especially grateful about how easy it is to access the water. They promised to maintain the spring so that it can serve them for many more years. They said they are the envy of their neighbors because Indangasi Spring is the first one to be protected in the area.
"Out of persistance, this spring has been protected. My friends are on my case because they want their springs protected too! It's beautiful and safe," said Mr. Julius Shiamala.
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.
Community members shuttling bricks to the artisan at the spring protection site.
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 committee to make sure everything runs smoothly. They have already fenced in the spring area and planted grass to prevent erosion.
November, 2018: Bukhanga Community Project Underway
Dirty water from Indangasi Spring is making people in Bukhanga 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!