August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Antony Shihungu Imbai
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 Shihungu Village to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Shuhungu 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.
Antony Shihungu Imbai stands outside his home.
It was during this most recent visit that Antony Shihungu Imbai shared his story of how the coronavirus has impacted his life.
Training Officer Olivia Bomji Chebet met Antony outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Olivia and Antony observed social distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety.
Antony shows how he puts on his mask before leaving home.
At 30-years-old, Antony has dealt the pandemic touching so many aspects of his life. From losing his job to having kids home instead of in school due to Kenya's national coronavirus-related school closures, "the way of living has changed," he said.
Some of those changes Antony knows are for his own safety and the safety of others, such as the increased sanitation and hygiene measures families are practicing throughout the village.
Although Antony reported there are more water users now "because of the accessibility to safe and clean water" at Shihungu Spring, "community members have ensured that they keep social distance while fetching water. We fetch water during the day and by evening we are done. The spring has helped so much because during this pandemic we use more water than before."
Community members observe social distancing and wear masks while waiting in line at the spring.
"I bought a handwashing station for my family. We make masks for our families as we were taught during the training. We bought hand sanitizer which we also use to protect ourselves from COVID-19."
Antony washes his hands with soap and clean water from Shihungu Spring using the handwashing station he set up outside his home.
Citing the radio, newspaper, and our own team's training as his main sources of information on COVID-19, Antony noted that "the most helpful information [from training] was ensuring that every household was to install a handwashing station," followed by "being taught how to make a mask and ensuring that everyone wears a mask when going out."
July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Shihungu Community, Shihungu 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.
Passing out COVID-19 informational pamphlets to training participants
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 Shihungu, Kenya.
Trainer Shigali sets up a tippy tap handwashing point
We trained more than 28 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.
An elder demonstrates handwashing
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.
A girl demonstrates handwashing
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.
Reviewing the prevention reminders chart
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.
Homemade mask tutorial
"Participants were so happy to learn that they can make their own masks without spending any coins. They promised to educate the whole village, including spring users who did not attend the training, on handwashing and mask making. They were also ready to observe the good practices that they learned which help in preventing the spread of COVID-19 such as keeping social distance, avoiding crowded places, and avoiding touching their eyes, ears, and noses," reflected trainer Shigali.
Participants pose with their COVID-19 informational pamphlets after training
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: Shihungu Community, Shihungu Spring Project Complete!
Shihungu Community now has access to clean water! Shihungu Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. We protected the spring, provided 5 sanitation platforms to different households in the community, and we trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices.
(To hear them give thanks, check out the video on the Photos tab of this project page!)
Team Leader Catherine Chepkemoi (center) with Shihungu community members
Shihungu Spring being the only source of water for this community, the participants were so happy for the newly protected spring that will help to provide clean and safe drinking water. According to people here, Shihungu Spring is a natural source of water that is second to none, even bottled water.
They believe that bottled water is not safe for consumption because no one knows the source. As for Shihungu Spring, the source is natural and they have been using it since they were young. The community members encouraged even our staff members to pass by when they go to the field and fetch the spring's water to drink.
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, too.
Women and men lent their strength to the artisan to help him with manual labor.
At first, when the construction began, the artisan had a hard time controlling the community members who came to fetch water at the spring. They came in large numbers every day to fetch water. We had to ask them to fetch water very early in the morning before the construction began each day so that the artisan could work well without being disturbed. After this, the compromise in water fetching and construction went well.
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.
Community members help lay bricks
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.
Plastering the wing walls
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination. There was a slight delay during this step because the stones that had been provided were not enough.
Children help deliver stones for backfilling
It took 2 more days for the community members to look for more stones, which delayed the backfilling just a bit. Once the backfilling was complete, it took about 2 weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
Community members help backfill with stones and soil
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.
"I am so happy that Shihungu Spring has finally been protected after a long time," said 35-year-old farmer Mr. Simon Makutsi.
"We can now fetch water from a clean place. No [more] poor drainage which directed dirty water to the spring because [you] have made us understand why the cut of drainage is needed at the spring. Our water is natural and we thank [you] for helping us access clean water. No more worries of waterborne diseases. Be blessed!"
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.
Sanitation platform construction with help from its new owners
Together Mr. Anthony Imbayi Shihungu, a respected local leader, and village elder Mr. Francis Matwanga were tasked with organizing the training. Mr. Matwanga gave us the community’s preferred date for training, for he was very much aware of the community calendar when it comes to planting season and other big events.
21 people attended training. The attendance was so impressive and to our expectations. The village elder who is also a government representative at the village level really mobilized the community very well to attend the training, so the community was well represented at the training.
The participants chose the venue near the spring where the training was to take place, but later we changed the venue because there was no shade and the day was sunny and hot. This forced us to look for another venue outside Mr. Shihungu's homestead where the participants sat comfortably under the shade. This enabled them to be keen and attentive to the training session.
Training participants; facilitator stands in center
We covered several topics including leadership and governance; operation and maintenance of the spring; healthcare; family planning; immunizations; and the prevention and spread of disease. We also covered water treatment methods, personal care like handwashing, environmental hygiene, hygiene promotion, and many other things.
There were no challenges during the training except a small disruption which was caused by a hawk which wrestled with the chicken and got away with its chick! This made most of the participants leave the training session shouting and throwing stones at hawk which had already taken away the chick from her mother.
Mr. Simon Makutsi, one of the participants, was so sad and was forced to take the chicken and her chicks to a safe place to avoid any other interruptions again during the training. After that, all ran smoothly.
Site management training at the spring, still under construction
During the onsite training at the spring, the participants were being shown how well the spring can be taken care of by the community without damaging it. The way the spring will be maintained determines how long it will serve the community. The participants promised to ensure that the spring will be fenced, cut off drainage will be well-placed, and cleanliness will be the order of the day.
The village elder promised to take action at whoever will go against the rules and regulations that govern the spring. Every household will be responsible if their children damage the spring. He promised that whoever will go against the spring will pay some fine to repair and maintain it.
When the participants were asked why we required them to contribute the locally available materials and help the artisan during the construction process, some people still were not so sure of the reasoning. We discussed how it is important to give as a community because working together as a team promotes a spirit of teamwork and togetherness.
Not only that, but it promotes ownership and when the community owns the spring, they will maintain it very well. Then, in case of any challenge, they will feel comfortable contacting our team for help. This session was very special as everyone got on the same page of understanding and reciprocity.
The community members adopted all concepts from the training so well because they had a public health officer who was following up on sanitation and hygiene in the community even before the project began. Having the training was the best thing that helped them to understand that embracing good sanitation and hygiene and supporting household water treatment and safe storage initiatives to improve the quality of drinking water and reduce the transmission of waterborne diseases will improve their way of living in a positive way.
Happy to be taking fresh spring water home
"The training will change our lives and those of our future generations because we have learned a lot about sanitation and hygiene," said village elder Mr.Matwanga.
"Without proper sanitation and hygiene, I have learned that we will always be sick but now we know how [to] store our drinking water, water treatment, handwashing, environmental and personal hygiene. We will ensure that we improve and change the way we have been doing things before we attended the training today."
Thank you for making all of this possible!