May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Mwichina Community, Matanyi 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 Mwichina, Kenya.
We trained more than 19 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.
March, 2020: Mwichina Community and Matanyi Spring Remain Strong After Project Completion
Mwichina Community's Matanyi Spring has been a lesson in resiliency, patience, and trust.
It was completed last May, but soon after our teams noted an early decrease in the spring's yield following one of the most severe droughts Kenya has ever seen. At first, we prepared to construct a reservoir tank that would hold water until the community needed it if the spring's yield remained low. After closely monitoring the spring since its completion, however, we and the community agree that the spring has recharged. Its yield has not only improved but it has remained consistent, despite the change in seasons.
We now feel ready to share the full update with you on how this spring went from an open, contaminated water source to a protected spring flowing with clean water.
A young man enjoys a fresh drink from the spring
Reflections on Life with a Protected Spring
A lot has happened in Mwichina Community since the protection of Matanyi Spring. On a recent visit, we heard from community members about some of the biggest changes the spring protection has brought to their lives.
"Initially we used to fetch water that was open to contamination from dogs, children, cows, and pigs - especially during rainy seasons like now - and at the end of it all, a lot of money would be spent on medication," reflected community member Agnetta Tuanga.
"At the moment, we are able to draw water within a short time; one only needs to place the container under the discharge pipe and wait for less than 2 minutes. We no longer wait for the water to settle before someone draws water. Water is now clean and safe for human consumption - no more waterborne diseases, hence we are saving on medication."
"We are able to improve our living standards because initially, we could spend money on medication but now the money is used to pay school fees for our children; they are now in school throughout the year. Also, sanitation and hygiene in the community have improved. Community members' compounds are neat and organized."
Agnetta stands with the spring
Agnetta's young son Moses shared his own thoughts on what the spring protection has meant to him.
"We feared to go to the spring because it was overcrowded and a lot of time could be wasted as we waited for the water to settle for the next person to draw water. At the moment, it is quite easy to fetch water and we have no more time-wasted. Protecting Matanyi Spring has enabled us to have time to do our homework and help our parents too. To add on that, the rate of water-related diseases has reduced," Moses said proudly.
"With this water point, we are able to remain in school throughout the year. Initially, the rate of absenteeism was high because we were in and out of school with waterborne diseases, thus affecting our performance. Now, our performance has improved and we thank God," he said with a shy smile.
Moses poses with the spring
Healthy and smiling faces throughout the community on our most recent visit proves that water is life. No money is being spent on medication to treat waterborne diseases, and instead, families are spending it on developing their homes and other endeavors.
How We Protected Matanyi Spring
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, including bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, stones, and fencing poles. Accommodations and meals were provided for the artisan, Mr. Erick, too.
Community members delivering materials to the construction site
Women and men 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 thick plastic tarp, 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.
Working on spring floor cement
As the wing walls and headwall were curing, 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.
Evaluating materials as work continues on the spring
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination. Then soil was layered on top of the tarp so that community members could transplant grass to prevent erosion. Finally, the collection area was fenced in. It took about 2 weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
Artisan and community members work together to backfill the spring box with stones and clay
As soon as it was ready, people got the okay from our field officers to begin fetching clean water. We met them there to celebrate this momentous occasion. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.
During the handing over ceremony, community members expressed their gratitude to our team for the good work done in the community and promised to always ensure the sustainability of the project. This was followed by a closing prayer from Mr. Matanyi, the spring's landowner.
"We thank God for this project. For a long time, we have been drawing water from the unprotected spring and this has always endangered our lives as a community. Today we are so happy for now we are able to access clean and safe water for our use. Thank you - we love you," said a happy Mrs. Rose Nekesa, who works as a teacher in the area.
All 5 sanitation platforms have been installed. These 5 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.
New owner of a sanitation platform
Community member and spring landowner, Mr. Musa Matanyi, helped organize the training in coordination with our team. Together we found the community’s preferred date for training while considering other events in the community calendar such as the agricultural season and expected gatherings.
Mrs. Matanyi, seated in chair
13 people attended the training including leaders from the community and church. The low turnout at training was due to the community having a funeral for one of their members who had passed on 2 weeks earlier and was to be buried the same week of implementation. A number of the community members were involved in the planning process and could not find time to attend the training, sending their apologies. We decided to push ahead with the training out of respect for the time and effort put in by those who could attend. Being a hot month, we decided to hold the training under the shade at Mr. Matanyi's homestead. The venue was most preferred as it was accessible by all of the participants and close to the spring, which allowed us to carry out on-site demonstrations with ease.
Mr. Matanyi (left) shares a moment of laughter with Facilitator Samuel Simidi during training
We covered several topics including community participation; leadership and governance; personal and environmental hygiene; water handling and treatment; operation and maintenance of the spring and sanitation platforms; dental hygiene; the 10 steps of handwashing, and how to make and use a tippy tap and leaky tin.
During the leadership and governance session, we held an election for the leaders of the newly formed water user committee. This was a vital moment in the training as the facilitator was able to dig deep to help the group members understand the importance of evaluating potential leaders based on their personal qualities, strengths, and weaknesses.
The participants realized that a majority of them had previously considered candidate's personal wealth as a leading quality over their character and skills, but the participants were able to evaluate themselves and promised to never elect leaders because of this. The spring's landowner Mr. Matanyi was then elected Chair of the committee, along with other women and men for positions such as Secretary and Treasurer.
A participant leads a discussion using a training poster
Dental hygiene was indeed another memorable topic during the training process. The facilitator was able to demonstrate to the participants how to brush their teeth and why the practice held so much importance for their personal health and hygiene. There were some community members who admitted to only brushing their teeth once a day while others did without the practice. By the end of the session, each of the participants promised to start brushing their teeth after every meal and to replace their toothbrushes on a regular basis.
Samuel demonstrates the 10 steps of handwashing
We also brainstormed income-generating activities that can be used to start a community savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop their own small businesses.
When an issue arises concerning the water project, the water user committee is equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our team of field officers to assist them. In addition, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.
"The training has been timely and we have gained important information from our facilitator, much we had no clue on before. We promise to endeavor to improve on our weaknesses from today and also we shall pass all that we have learned to the entire village so as to improve on the hygiene and sanitation of every household," said a proud Mr. Matanyi.
Thank you for making all of this possible!