August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Alice Mwanyasi
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.
Alice Mwanyasi is busy. A resident of Hirumbi Village who relies on Khalembi Spring for all of her daily water needs, Alice finds there is always something to be done. She works as a businessperson, a mother, and as chair of the spring's water user committee. And of course, there is her farming. On the day we most recently visited Alice, we found her checking on her arrowroot farm.
Alice checks her arrowroot farm for weeds and anything ready to harvest.
Our team recently visited Hirumbi to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point. 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 Alice shared her story of how the coronavirus has impacted her his life.
Video Part 1: Water - Alice reflects on how her community has changed since they began accessing clean water from protected Khalembi Spring.
Field Officer Rose Amulavu Serete met Alice outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Rose and Alice observed social distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. Their questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Video Part 2: Training & Prevention - Alice shares how her community is putting into practice what they learned from our team's COVID-19 sensitization training and how they are using clean water from Khalembi Spring to help prevent the virus.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the protection of Khalembi Spring?
"My community has really improved in cleanliness; at least every home in the community has a handwashing facility. Community members are also free from waterborne diseases. As a community, we appreciate the supporters of this project since now we have access to clean and safe water for household use."
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"The clean water point has helped us because we have access to clean and enough water for washing hands at all times, drinking, and other household use."
Video Part 3: Handwashing - Alice uses soap and clean water from Khalembi Spring to wash her hands using the homemade leaky tin handwashing station she set up outside her home. She demonstrates each of the 10 steps of handwashing our team emphasizes at every training.
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, because community members no longer crowd at the spring. This is because community members follow the 1-meter rule of spacing. This has affected the socialization of people since they no longer engage in long conversations at the spring like they did before COVID-19."
Alice and other community members practice social distancing at the spring.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"My children have been affected educationally because there is no going to school and they find it hard to follow up with the classes provided by television programs and radio stations. We don't have enough money to purchase good food and clothing since the economy has changed and money is not coming in like before."
Alice with her husband and children at home.
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"I'm struggling with my business. Life is so expensive currently, making it hard on my side to support my family and worse is that I'm the family's breadwinner."
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"My community members are now putting on the face masks. Second, every home has managed to install a handwashing facility. Lastly, community members are maintaining a social distance of 1-meter apart. Most community members are not attending social events and ceremonies as before."
Alice's son Baraka washes his hands with soap and clean water from Khalembi Spring using the leaky tin handwashing station Alice installed outside their 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 disease.
Camera operator Allan Amadaro films Alice's interview with a small audience in tow.
What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?
"The lockdown in counties has been lifted. We can now move from one place to another looking for greener pastures."
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"So far, none. The restrictions are helping us stay safe from the virus. We trust that the government is watching out for us while we do the same for ourselves."
Alice fetches water from Khalembi Spring.
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Alice 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 helpful part was the proper handwashing steps since our hands are to be clean always. We also learned how to make and wear masks the right way through demonstrations."
July, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Hitumbi Community, Khalembi 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 Hitumbi, Kenya.
We trained more than 23 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.
November, 2019: Hirumbi Community, Khalembi Spring Project Complete!
Hirumbi Community now has access to clean water! Khalembi 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.
"Many have come and promised [to] us that this spring will be protected but none of them fulfilled this for us until God brought you to help us. Thank you and God be with you," rejoiced Mr. Oliver Makotsi, a resident of the area.
Community members celebrate the new 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. Before the construction started, community members fetched water from the unprotected spring just to ensure that they had enough water for use in their various homes throughout the early stages of work.
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.
Community members help divert water during construction of the spring's foundation
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.
Working on cement and plaster
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination. No delays or challenges were experienced throughout the entire construction process. It took about 2 weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
Building a fence around the spring box planted with grass
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 thank God for sending The Water Project...for considering the community members' spring for protection...At long last, the spring has been protected and we are assured of clean and safe water for our use," said Beverlyn Busieka, a farmer and resident of the area.
"I take this opportunity to thank [your team] for the great work you have done," said Mr. Lumumba, our main contact person for this community.
"We don't have anything to give you but God who sees in secret will reward you. No wastage of time at the spring compared to other years; this time is now used to do other activities. We also have safe water for drinking and have said goodbye to waterborne diseases," he said.
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.
"This community has 5 members who have a smiling face after benefiting from the 5 sanitation slabs," Mr. Lumumba said.
Proud new sanitation platform owners
Mr. Oliver Makotsi, a community member and local businessperson, 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.
Som 22 people attended training, which was a satisfactory attendance given that the training was conducted during the rainy season when many people are busy planting and selling their crops. We held training at the spring, though it was a bit wet and cold with the day's rainy forecast.
This did not affect the attendees, however, as they were so active and happy the whole day. The women were more actively involved than the men, asking more questions and listening keenly to the facilitator. This made the training even more interactive.
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.
Site management training at the spring
Handwashing was an interesting topic. When the facilitator urged the participants to incorporate the concept of leaky tins at home to enhance their levels of hygiene, one man said that it was a woman's task to ensure that the leaky tins were refilled with water.
In response, the facilitator urged the men to help their wives with this task as it is everyone's responsibility to help uphold the family's health and hygiene at home, and that this teamwork and improved hygiene level would help them live a happy life.
Site management was also a very important and special topic because it was during this session that the new sanitation platform owners were identified. The 5 families were selected by their own neighbors based on need, and it was a very exciting and humbling moment to reveal the names. Though everyone wanted their own sanitation platform, it was understood that these first 5 are meant to serve as examples for further replication across the village.
Thank you for making all of this possible!
October, 2019: Hirumbi Community, Khalembi Spring Project Underway!
Dirty water from Khalembi Spring is making people in Hirumbi 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!