November, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Silas Indayi Khakhonya
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 Eshiasuli to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Eshiasuli 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 Silas Indayi Khakhonya, a 35-year-old farmer, shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life and his community.
Silas fetching water from Eshiasuli Spring.
Field Officer Georgina Kamau met Silas outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Georgina and Silas observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Silas' story, in his own words.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"The water is now clean and easily accessible. The place is clean and we really enjoy fetching water."
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"The fact that water is easily accessible has helped a lot in that we always have clean water available in the house as well as the leaky tins (for handwashing) installed in every homestead."
Silas washing his hands with soap and clean water from the spring using the leaky tin handwashing station his family set up on the dishrack outside their 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, a lot has changed. We have to maintain social distance at the spring and avoid touching the discharge pipe. We have also reduced the number of trips to the spring in accordance with the rule of staying indoors to avoid overcrowding."
Silas fetches water while others, including his wife and daughter in back, wait in line while observing physical distancing.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"The daily schedule has changed due to curfew and changes in water fetching due to overcrowding. Some students have resumed classes in school but they are still limited in play as well as other school activities such as outdoor games."
Silas' family at home
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"We have to avoid crowds, meaning business interactions are limited. Furthermore, transport has become expensive as well as foodstuffs since cash is not coming in as before."
Silas weeds his potato farm
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"We all have leaky tins installed in our homesteads to ensure we wash our hands using soap and water as often as possible. We also ensure we wear masks whenever we leave the house."
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 opening of social gatherings was appreciated since we can attend funerals to bury our loved ones and also weddings to watch our friends and family tie the knot."
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"Lately, our county has been a hotspot for the virus and a lot of people are dying. Since our lives are more important, we prefer the numbers to go down before any other restrictions are lifted."
Silas with his mask on
When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Silas listed the radio, television, newspaper, word of mouth, and non-governmental organization (NGO) trainings including our team's sensitization training.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"They taught us how to sew masks using locally available materials which has been helpful, especially for us who have children and cannot afford to buy masks every time we leave the house."
July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Eshiasuli Community, Eshiasuli 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.
Reviewing COVID-19 symptoms and prevention using posters provided by the Kenyan Ministry of Health
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 Eshiasuli, Kenya.
Showing how to build and use a tippy tap handwashing station
We trained more than 16 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.
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.
Everyone practices 10 steps of handwashing
During training, we installed anew handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point, along with a sign with reminders of what we covered.
Homemade mask tutorial
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.
Sample mask made at training
"The training was very educative and worthwhile. We did not even know that someone can make a mask at home using the simple procedure you just demonstrated to us," said participant Petronilla Nechesa. She went on to encourage her fellow community members to avoid shaking hands when greeting and also avoid sitting or standing close to one another in order to keep Coronavirus away from their village.
Putting on a mask made at 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.
Cough and sneeze into the elbow
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.
July, 2019: Eshiasuli Community, Eshiasuli Spring Project Complete!
Eshiasuli Community now has clean water! Eshiasuli Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of clean 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.
Smiles for flowing water!
Eshiasuli Spring has been in existence for a long time - so long that even the community members don't know when it came into existence. It has always been their main source of water. Community members use it during the rainy and dry seasons since it never goes dry.
Before protection, drawing water from the spring took several minutes since the water source wasn't centralized in the ground. The community members at first were a bit skeptical about the idea of the spring being protected since they had received such promises from other groups before, but they had never been fulfilled. Keeping our word and following through with the spring protection revived the trust of Eshiasuli community members and their hopes were raised again.
Consuming dirty water, especially during the rainy season, has been the norm in this community for so long - but not anymore.
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, e.g bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, stones, and fencing poles. Accommodations and meals were provided for the artisan, too.
Children carrying bricks to the spring construction site
Men and women 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 plastic, 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.
Digging the drainage channel
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.
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a plastic membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination. It took about two weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
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.
Mr. Patrick Makotswe, a farmer in the village, was very pleased with the protection of Eshiasuli Spring when we visited.
"This water point serves so many households and this change has meant a lot to many of us. Our children can now help in fetching water quickly, unlike before when they could waste so much time at the spring trying to fill a jerrycan," he said.
All five sanitation platforms have been installed. 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.
Proud sanitation platform recipient
Stanley Machanja, a farmer in Eshiasulu, was tasked with organizing the training. He 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.
The attendance at training was affected by the current rainy season, which meant that many community members were busy planting on their farms. On this particular Saturday, the weather was chilly due to the rains that had we had experienced the previous day and night.
The participants, having chosen the training to be held at the spring site, found it even hard to sit down on the ground due to the wetness. The sun later showed up through the clouds, however, and it became somewhat warm. The 12 people who did attend braved the cold and stayed for the whole training.
Eager handwashing participant
When we first unveiled the notebooks and writing utensils we typically used for training, some of the participants almost left stating that they were illiterate. It took the facilitator to explain that the training would benefit both the literate and illiterate since it had to do with the day to day lives of the community members.
The training was to educate them on the "do's and dont's" concerning their water and the maintenance of their water point. This caused them to stay and they then felt emboldened to participate fully in the training including the practical sessions.
Dental hygiene training
We covered several topics including leadership and governance; 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.
While discussing the many and varied ways that water can become contaminated after it is collected from the source (known as the chain of contamination), there was quite a stir among the attendees. The community members got very active during this topic to inquire about the contaminants since poor handling of water has been their daily norm.
The information came as a shock and they realized that being keen on handling water properly would reduce their waterborne diseases. Practices we advised against included dipping dirty hands into clean water, storing water for more than three days, and using dirty containers to collect clean water.
Mr. Bernard Chibole, a farmer in Eshiasuli, shared his impression of the training with us at the end of the day.
"There are so many things concerning water handling that I have seen our mothers do for ages, not knowing that they have all been contributing to water contamination," he said.
"Today I have learned a lot and will ensure that my wife, who did not attend this training, will get this knowledge."
Thank you for making all of this possible!
June, 2019: Eshiasuli Community, Eshiasuli Spring Project Underway
Dirty water from Eshiasuli Spring is making people in Eshiasuli Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to solve this issue by building a clean water point and much more.
Get to know this community through the community profile and pictures we’ve posted, and learn more about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out soon with news of success!