October, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Wilson Shilungu Dex
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 Bung'onye to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Shilangu 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 Wilson Shilungu Dex shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life and his community. Wilson is a 42-year-old farmer, father, and Chair of the spring's water user committee.
Wilson Shilungu Dex
Field Officer Christine Masinde met Wilson outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Christine and Wilson observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Wilson's story, in his own words.
Wilson shares how his community uses clean water from their spring
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"Since the installation of this water point, we have reliable, safe water for drinking. Unlike before, when we could consume contaminated water and get sick frequently."
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"Clean and safe water is essential for survival, especially during this time when everyone is at risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus. We are privileged to have this water for cleaning our hands frequently and also drinking. It has also enabled us to keep high hygiene standards around our homes by cleaning surfaces, washing our clothes, bathing, and general cleaning."
Wilson, his wife, and daughter fetching water from the spring
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?
"We have to fetch water in turns by keeping social distance and we also wear masks in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We also wash our hands with soap before fetching water from the spring. Though not everyone keeps to these regulations, I keep on reminding them to do so."
Wilson washing his hands at the spring
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"After the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Kenya, the president ordered the closure of all learning institutions in order to control the spread of the virus. My children have been at home since then and I am worried that their future will be affected negatively, especially my daughter who was to sit for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination this year. At the beginning, she could try and study, but as time went by, she relaxed. I try my best to guide her to study but I can't help much since I didn't further my studies...I want my children to have a bright future."
The Dex family at home
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"I own oxen which I use to plow people's farms at a fee, but since the outbreak of COVID-19, I hardly get work to plow because people now prefer to dig their farms using jembes (hoes). They cannot afford to hire my services because most of them have lost their jobs and the ones with businesses are not bringing in much, and some are even closed. I even don't know how I will raise school fees for my children when they resume school."
Wilson feeding his cattle
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"Each home has a homemade handwashing station and soap for washing hands frequently, we wear masks when we leave home, and we keep social distance when in crowded places."
Wilson putting on his mask
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?
"Curfew time was adjusted to 11:00 pm which has come as a relief for me because at least I get more time to fend for my family."
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"I look forward for learning institutions to be open fully so that our children can go back to school and study."
Handwashing at home
When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Wilson 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 important part of the training was how to make a simple handwashing station from locally available materials. At least now we are able to wash our hands with clean running water. During the training, we were assured that bar soap works as well as liquid soap. Before that, we had been made to believe that bar soap was not effective enough."
June, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Shilangu 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 Bung'oye, 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.
November, 2019: Bung'onye Community, Shilangu Spring Project Complete!
Bung'onye Community now has access to clean water! Shilangu 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.
Dedication ceremony at the spring
The community members are now happy having access to safe and clean water not only for drinking but also for general house chores. Initially, it was reported that drawing water from this spring was a challenge because it had a lot of silt. More so, during the rainy season community members used to complain of waterborne and water-related diseases. The water sample we collected before implementation indeed showed that the water was contaminated and not safe for human consumption. Now, all that has changed thanks to your help.
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.
At first, work had to be delayed for more than 5 days. This was because some community members who draw water from this spring had lost their loved ones. The unity of the community was to assist the bereaved families, hence they requested some days for the send-off ceremonies. Then, after the works commenced, there was also a challenge of rainfall which delayed the works further. But, we are happy to report that at the end of the tunnel, there was a light. Work came to completion through the efforts and unity of this community. While some were assisting the artisan, others were crushing huge rocks for backfilling, bringing materials to the construction site, and assisting with manual labor the whole time too.
Kids help pass bricks during construction
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.
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 inside of spring's headwall
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination. It took about 2 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.
(To hear the dedication ceremony of this spring in memory of Vildana Pilica Radoncic, where community members share in their own words what this project means to them, check out the video on the Photo tab of this project page!)
"The new water point looks so attractive to the eye...Water from this source now is safe and clean for drinking. We are so grateful for your assistance. We have been having a lot of challenges on waterborne and water-related diseases which had drained our resources. It is our time now to see progress in all aspects of development," said Mr. Wilson Shilangu, the spring's landowner.
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.
Proud new owners of a sanitation platform
Mr. Wilson Shilangu, a local farmer and landowner of the spring, 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 training was attended by only 13 participants. This was because most of the community members were harvesting while others were busy preparing their lands for the second season of planting. This turnout was lower than expected, but the participants who came were actively involved throughout the training session and the majority of them were already informed on water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. This was as a result of the training held at Sachita Spring, which is next to Shilangu Spring, where many of these community members attended training last spring.
Handwashing practice at training
The weather of the day was so good. It dawned bright and early in the morning. Since it was a cloudless day, the weather up to midday was sunny. We held our training at Mr. Shilangu's homestead in the front yard under the shade of trees. The environment was conducive to learning due to the comfortable amount of space.
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.
Group work activity
The session on the care and maintenance of the spring was very special. Though the works had not come to an end by the time of training, the topic was paramount. We took participants to the side of the spring where we made them familiar with the spring's parts as well as the "do's and don'ts" at the spring for the water point's longevity.
The topic was made special by participants learning that care for the spring was not only meant for them but also for their generations to come. The facilitator urged them that since they are investing in their kids' future, one of the most important investments is taking good care of the spring to enjoy during their lifetime.
Once we completed our training, from the remarks the community members gave we felt confident that the training had a positive impact on the community. They were admitting that they had been taking most of the things concerning sanitation and hygiene lightly, but that they were now ready to embrace good hygiene.
Thumbs up for clean running water
"The day's training was a very informative one. We have learned a lot of what we were not aware of," said Jonathan Mukaisi, a farmer in Bung'onye.
"The ball is on our side now and we need to take action on what we have learned. The teamwork will definitely achieve a goal...Working alone will mean you want [only your] own goal...which is to one's disadvantage. Everyone in our village should own a clean sanitation facility for good hygiene in the area."
Thank you for making all of this possible!
October, 2019: Bung'onye Community, Shilangu Spring Project Underway!
Dirty water from Shilangu Spring is making people in Bung'onye 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 news of success!