January, 2021: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Jacob Likuyi
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.
Jacob Likuyi is a man who wears many hats - or, perhaps more accurately, helmets.
By trade, Jacob is a 45-year-old boda boda, or motorbike taxi driver. A profession typically filled by younger men, Jacob doesn't let his age hold him back from his livelihood. Jacob's verve and friendly smile quickly gives away his good nature, even before speaking with him. And with only his grandchildren around since the start of the pandemic, he has no choice but to keep up his pace in all aspects of his current life.
Jacob Likuyi outside his home
By passion, Jacob serves as his area's Community Health Volunteer. In this position, Jacob liaises between his community and groups promoting improved health, hygiene, and sanitation practices - like our team - to bring important information to his village. Jacob and other Community Health Volunteers like him have been critical in helping rural villages fight and control the pandemic.
More people than ever before are now turning to Community Health Volunteers to share their expertise and guidance communicated from the national Ministry of Health to help themselves and their families stay safe from the virus.
Jacob enjoying the water from Kenya Spring
During a recent visit to Mutao to monitor their water point, Kenya Spring, Jacob shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life and his community. Field Officer Jacky Chelagat met Jacob outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Jacky and Jacob observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Jacob's story, in his own words.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"Health problems have reduced to zero and this has enabled our community to engage in different development activities which, in return, earns them a better living than before."
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"The sufficient flow of clean water has greatly helped the community to practice frequent handwashing and improve hygiene and sanitation standards in their homes."
Washing his hands at home using soap and water from Kenya 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?
"It has slightly changed; community members go in shifts to ensure that there is no congestion at the spring. Members have been advised to wear masks, observe the social distance, and to take minimum time fetching water. "
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"Generally it has affected the social ties we used to have as a family. Having my sons living and working in the city of Nairobi has limited them from visiting and interacting with their wives, children, and me. On the other hand, it's so sad to see children staying at home instead of going to schools to be empowered. "
At home with his grandchildren
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"Being a motorcycle rider, it has limited me on the number of clients I carry on my motorbike. Due to restrictions on much movement, there are no clients to ferry. This has resulted in less cash accrued. "
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"Wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands."
Jacob masked up
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"Children going back to school and resuming their learning immediately will be a great achievement."
Since we spoke with Jacob, the Kenyan government fully reopened all school levels to in-person learning. Students' first day back was January 4, 2021.
Watering his crops at home
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"The entire sensitization training was helpful. Community members followed the teachings to the letter. As we speak, not a single case of COVID-19 has been reported in our community."
July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Mutao Community, Kenya 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 Mutao, Kenya.
We trained more than 18 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.
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.
September, 2019: Mutao Community, Kenya Spring Project Completed!
Mutao Community now has access to clean water! Kenya 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.
Women celebrate at the 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, too. The artisan enjoyed a lot of support from the community here, with women, children, and men ferrying materials to the site and all helping with the manual labor too.
Children carry stones to the spring's construction site
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 of all ages came to help with construction
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.
Artisans enjoying their work
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination. Though we ran out of stones during the initial stages of this process, when the community could not mobilize anymore from the surrounding landscape the local representative from their county assembly came in and donated the rest of the needed gravel and stones. There were no other challenges during construction after that. It took about 2 weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
Artisan measures the discharge pipe's height
Working together to backfill the spring with stones
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. Members of the community had gathered at the spring by the time our field officers started arriving. We were welcomed by songs and the local Luhya Isukuti dance.
The local county assembly member who had helped provide the stones was also there, and in her remarks, she appreciated our team for implementing the project in Mutao. Our staff, in turn, thanked the community and the representative for supporting the project. She further urged members of Mutao to take good care of the project so that it serves them for a long time.
Rosa Kadenyi, a farmer in Mutao, spoke for the group when she shared her thoughts on the project:
"We have been [having] a difficult time while fetching water from the [unprotected] spring. Whenever it rains, the path becomes so slippery and inaccessible. We are grateful because the spring is now easily accessible. We came out in large numbers to help in the construction because we were so eager to access water from a new spring. This is the time when we say that God has visited us in person and he did not send his angels."
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.
A family stands as proud owners of a new sanitation platform
Obed Khamasi, a leader within the Mutao community, 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.
Field Officer Jacklyne Chelagat in action, leading training
26 women, men, and children attended training, which was as expected. We did not start until noon since people in this community had requested to attend to their farms during the morning hours. This helped ensure that everyone was able to focus once they arrived. Because of the mid-day sun, the training was held under a tree for shade in Mr. Jacob Shikhule's compound. This venue was ideal since his home is adjacent to Kenya Spring and situated along the path that leads to the spring. Mr. Shikule's homestead served as a central place where each member of this community could access the training and spring with ease.
All participants were interested in and took part actively in the training. The training was organized into 2 levels across 2 days. The first level of training was predominantly practical while the second day was more theory sessions coupled with a few demonstrations. This organization encouraged active involvement and participation throughout both days.
Technical training on fencing at the spring
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.
The handwashing session was very enjoyable. The facilitator demonstrated how to make and effectively use a tippy tap for handwashing, and then the fun started. Members of this community were so happy and eager to practice making a tippy tap. Each person was working hard to step on the tippy tap and wash their hands using the 10 steps.
Handwashing practice using a tippy tap
During the session on spring maintenance, we all marched to the spring and shared roles and responsibilities based on gender and age. The men were supposed to dig the drainage channel, young men were to do the fencing while women and children were supposed to plant grass. When all the groups were through we were all supposed to team up in cleaning the spring.
Working together to clean the spring
Members of this community appreciated this session's teamwork, telling us "since the creation of the heavens and the earth they have never come together to perform any task together." According to the community members who attended training, their village has only ever come together during bereavements and funerals. This training, therefore, marked the beginning of greater things that were to come to this community as a result of their newfound solidarity. At some stages of the maintenance, each group was competing with the other to see who would finish their task first. "It was just wonderful to see members of the community, local leadership, and the facilitators come together and work to achieve a common goal of accessing clean and safe water," reported our Field Officer Jacklyne Chelagat.
"As a community, we are so grateful, we have learned a lot of new and very important information," said Jackob Shikhule, a local farmer who depends on Kenya Spring for water. "During this training, we have also discovered the massive potential that lies within us. We were able to work together, share together, and we also managed to start a merry-go-round."
The merry-go-round Jackob mentions is a financial tool the village decided to take up after their training. It will help community members collect money from each household monthly that will be used to make loans to one household each month to work on a development goal. We heard that a majority of them are planning to use the proceeds from the merry-go-round to buy sheep, goat, poultry, and cows for rearing. We saw strong commitment and zeal in each of the group's members. Indeed water is life because the coming of this spring protection has also brought about ideas like these that have unleashed a lot of potential in the Mutao community members.
Using the same list of households the community members came up with for the merry-go-round, they also developed a duty rota for cleaning the spring. According to this arrangement, each household is supposed to clean and maintain the spring at least thrice per week.
Thank you for making all of this possible!
August, 2019: Mutao Community, Kenya Spring Underway!
Dirty water from Kenya Spring is making people in Mutao 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 news of success!