August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Joseph Sifuna Wekesa
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 Buhayi to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Nasichundukha Spring. Shortly after, we returned to check in on the community, offer a COVID-19 refresher training, and ask how the pandemic is affecting community members' lives.
It was during this most recent visit that Joseph Sifuna Wekesa shared his story of how the coronavirus is impacting his life. At 64-year-old, Joseph is a farmer, father, cattle trader, and landowner of Nasichundukha Spring where he and his family go for all of their daily water needs. Dedicated to ensuring the spring's longevity and accessibility to all, Joseph also serves as Chair of the spring's water user committee.
Joseph Sifuna Wekesa
Community Engagement Officer Jemmimah Khasoha met Joseph outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Jemmimah and Joseph observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Joseph's story, in his own words.
Joseph explains how fetching water has changed in his community since the protection of Nasichundukha Spring, and how the pandemic has impacted his cattle trading business.
"One thing that has changed is in this community since the installation of this water point is cleanliness and having peace. Initially, most households did not have handwashing stations in their compound due to insufficient clean and safe water. Also, peace was lacking because the community members would fight at the spring. Everyone was in need of clean water, and since they used to have to scoop it [from the ground], it was not easy to maintain cleanliness, thus bringing chaos every other time.
Having enough clean water has helped us so much in the following ways: washing hands, washing masks, and also cleaning surfaces. This has helped us prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Joseph at the spring with 2 of his youngest sons, who are helping him collect water for his cows to drink.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, fetching water changed whereby individuals were advised to be queueing [instead of grouping] whenever they are more than 1 at the water point. There is no idling or storytelling at the spring as it initially was.
The COVID-19 outbreak has really impacted our lives negatively as a family. Economically, the small businesses I used to do to support my family dropped. This is because many people do not have money to support the business. The little money people get is to buy food for their family.
Joseph at home with family.
COVID-19 has also affected children's education for they are not going to school. This has also affected parents because controlling their movements is not easy. There is a fear is that the children are becoming restless, thus they could be high chances of spreading the virus.
Joseph uses clean water from the spring to quench his cattle's thirst.
The activities and the things we are doing to stop the spread of COVID-19 are: we have put up handwashing stations so we may wash hands as many times as possible; putting on a mask every time we are leaving home to go where there's a gathering; and while in a multitude of people, we ensure we are keeping a distance from one another, especially during funerals. People have also been advised to stay at home, especially when they do not have an urgent thing to attend to.
Joseph washes his hands with soap and clean water from the spring using a leaky tin handwashing station he set up outside his home.
The most helpful part that we received during [your team's COVID-19] training was mask-making. Because the law is to ensure every individual wears a mask while in a public place, we are all able to afford one, for we are able to make it.
Comunity Engagement Officer Jemmimah conducts the interview with Joseph and camera operator Allan Amadaro.
The greatest restriction that I was excited to see lifted was the reopening of churches. Yes, it has not been fully opened, but the shorter time and people that are allowed per sitting has really made us have time to worship. This is a great relief for with God, everything is possible."
I am still looking forward to kids going back to school so as to help them in getting knowledge, and borders to be opened so as to enable us to continue to get our businesses running."
September, 2019: Buhayi Community, Nasichundukha Spring Project Complete!
Buhayi Community now has access to clean water! Nasichundukha 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.
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.
Community members in Buhayi were ready to get out of their comfort zones to get to work and see their spring protected. Women and men lent their strength to the artisan to help him with manual labor. Our team was impressed by various community members who brought bricks and fence poles without being paid, and by the committee that they had pre-chosen to ensure construction work and materials preparation would be done on time.
This leadership made it very easy, later on, to teach about leadership and governance, for already the community had chosen their leaders who were doing a wonderful job.
Many community members turned out to help with 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.
Artisan works on the rub wall; behind him, the 2 discharge pipes and headwall
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.
Community members assists by passing the tiles to the artisan
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. There were no delays experienced during the construction of this spring and this made the workflow easily.
"This is the best group that I have ever worked with," said Field Officer Jemmimah Kasoha.
"Mobilization of materials was super [easy] and they showed the greatest level of unity and cooperation. A fence of strong trees was made and [they] also planted of grass. This was an activity that was done by both men and women who happily did [it] with great joy that they now have clean water. They went further and planted beautiful flowers which will make the spring neat and well kept as [a] live fence. They have also put [in] a huge cut-off drainage [trench] which will help in preventing soil erosion to the spring."
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. It was so humbling to hear community members speak blessings and they asked us to continue with the same heart of service to all. One member prayed and asked God to always protect us as we move from one place to another as we give many other people water.
"This water point was really in [a] bad state and we did not believe it [would] have this great look," said Joseph Wekulo, a farmer in the community.
"We have suffered for quite some time because many people used to come and promised to protect it but in vain...Many of our children have had multiple days absent from school due to sicknesses, especially stomachaches, which we believe...came from this dirty water. Now [I] am a proud member who has got clean, safe, and sufficient water. We promise to take good care of it so we [can] drink clean and safe water always."
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.
Mr. Joseph Sifuna Wekesa was tasked with organizing the training. He gave us the community’s preferred date for training, for as the spring's landowner he was very much aware of the community calendar when it comes to planting season and other big events.
30 people attended training, with the majority being women but also including men and children. Attendance was strong and as expected. The training was held at Mr. Wekesa's homestead, which is only 30 meters away from the spring. The weather was sunny and pleasant, and participants sat comfortably on plastic chairs under a tree. The training went well and even included some participants from other villages whom we had met during the construction process. The community members invited these guests to their training to learn more about the work that had been done, and to make connections for a possible future project in their community.
COmmunity member responds to a question during training
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 artisan joins the conversation at training
The whole session was very interactive. The participants were articulate and quick to ask and answer questions, despite some needing translators for they spoke neither English nor Kiswahili. This showed that the training was important to attendees and they were focused the whole day. People showed particular interest in handwashing, hygiene, and socio-economic empowerment.
During the site management portion of training, which was held at the spring itself, we asked for a demonstration of how the women typically mount and carry water on their heads. After they showed how they might put the container on the wing walls or the discharge pipe before getting it to their heads, we discussed why these practices were discouraged since they could damage the spring. Everyone agreed to do their best to avoid this method and to instead use the stairs or a friend's help to get their water up.
Another thing that made this topic special was that the community members were so bright in understanding that the flowers they had planted were multi-purpose. They would help beautify the spring, but they would also create a more permanent live-fence should the wooden one they erected ever break or be taken down. This was excellent site management and should help maintain the long-term protection of the spring.
When discussing water use, one participant by the name of Nelson Mmusi asked if it is wrong to drink more water now that it is more easily available. Nelson explained that he typically drinks 4 liters in a day because of the heavy construction work he does. Many community members were amused at Nelson's comments because some had never had even 1 glass of water a day. Nelson was one special case who already knew the real metabolic importance of taking enough water for the body.
"The topics taught are all touching me personally and [I] am happy that I will be able to pass the knowledge to my family and my neighbors who were not able to attend the training," Nelson said. "[The training on the] steps of handwashing, leadership and governance, and food security will greatly change my life."
Thank you for making all of this possible!