October, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Mercy Chemoi
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 Buyangu to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Osundwa 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 Mercy Chemoi shared her story of how the coronavirus is impacting her life and her community. Mercy is a 34-year-old farmer and mother of 4 in Buyangu who also serves as a member of Osundwa Spring's water user committee.
Mercy Chemoi outside her home
Field Officer Christine Masinde met Mercy outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Christine and Mercy observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Mercy's story, in her own words.
Mercy reflects on the impacts of Osundwa Spring's protection in light of the pandemic
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"We hardly suffer from diseases like typhoid and diarrhea since our water is now clean and safe for drinking and other uses. My family and I are healthier than before. Fetching water is also faster and easier; as a result, less time is wasted at the spring. The saved time is used in other income-generating activities."
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"With this water point, we are able to fetch water and wash our hands frequently with soap. We also drink water without worrying about getting sick since the water is clean and safe."
Mercy (left) and her sisters fetching water from Osundwa 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?
"Before the outbreak of COVID-19, we used to crowd at the spring as each person waited for their turn to fetch water. All that has changed since now we keep social distance and use as minimal time as possible to fetch water and leave."
Mercy fetching water
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"I am a mother of 4 children with the eldest being 15 and the youngest is 3. With this pandemic, all of them are under my watch all the time. Controlling them is not easy, especially the teenager who likes interacting with his peers who might influence his behavior negatively."
Mercy giving her cow clean drinking water from Osundwa Spring
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"My husband works as a casual laborer. During this COVID-19 crisis, he hardly gets jobs to earn wages. This has put a strain on our finances. We have had to cut down on our family expenditure in order to survive. I don't know when this condition will come to an end because life is unbearable."
"There was a time I went out to look for casual work to earn some cash but I couldn't find any. People are scared of interacting with anyone from outside their homes for fear of the virus. I was devastated. This pandemic has had a negative impact on the community economically and socially. Petty thieves are also on the increase because everyone is trying all the means to survive."
Mercy and her sisters at home
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"Washing hands as many times as possible with soap and clean water, wearing masks, and social distancing when in a place with many people."
Mercy handwashing using the leaky tin she set up outside her home
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 number of people to attend a function has been increased to 150 people. I am happy about this because there is an upcoming wedding for my cousin and I wasn't sure if I could attend, but now I am assured of my attendance."
"Though we have to practice preventive measures so that we cannot be exposed to the coronavirus, I am also excited that I can now go to church to worship and join in fellowship anytime."
Mercy with her mask on
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"I look forward to the curfew being removed completely and all learning institutions to be reopened."
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Mercy listed the radio, word of mouth, and our team's sensitization training.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"Everything we learned during the training was important but what stood out for me was making masks. Since then, I have been making masks and selling them at subsidized prices. This has enabled me to earn a little income to support my family. I have even made a number of them for my children and when they go back to school they will have enough to alternate in a week."
June, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Osundwa 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 Buyangu, 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.
October, 2019: Buyangu Community, Osundwa Spring Project Complete!
Buyangu Community now has access to clean water! Osundwa 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.
Newly completed Osundwa 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.
Community members deliver materials to the construction site
One of the members of the Osundwa community passed on just when the artisan was ready to start the construction of the spring. As a result, our contact person Mr. Daniel Sajida requested us to wait until they were done with funeral arrangements and the burial.
This was because as a community when a family is bereaved they work together and assist each other to give the departed a befitted send-off. Meaning, if construction had started before the burial, no one could have offered to assist the artisan with the spring construction process. Once the community was ready for the project, we deployed our team to the site.
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.
Brickwork at the spring's 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.
Artisan works on plastering over his cement work
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.
Field Officer Christine Masinde supervises the construction and checks measurements
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination.
Backfilling with stones
The construction process was interrupted by regular heavy rainfall, especially in the afternoons. The process had to be paused several times as the rain pounded, but eventually, we were able to complete the work. After that, it took about 2 weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
Backfilling with dirt and planting grass before fencing in the spring box
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. Robert Osundwa, a local mason and landowner of the spring, spoke about how many empty promises his community has had before from people promising to protect their spring. This was a different story, he said.
"I can't believe our spring is finally protected and the only contribution we have given is locally available materials. Seeing clean and safe water flowing from the pipe is exciting for we will no longer suffer from waterborne diseases like typhoid, bilharzia, and diarrhea," he told us.
"Thank you for your generous contribution towards this WaSH project."
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 sanitation platform owners
Mr. Daniel Sajida, a farmer and local leader, 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.
18 people attended training. We had hoped for more participants, but given that Tuesday is also market day, most people preferred to go to the market to sell their farm produce and also buy other items at a cheaper price. The training took place in a homestead near the spring. The participants were actively involved in demonstrations and asked questions after each topic. They also jotted down notes for future reference. The weather was calm and sunny therefore the training went on well without any challenges.
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.
Child handwashing during training
Under personal hygiene, handwashing - being an important part of hygiene practices - was discussed in detail. The participants named when they wash their hands and the facilitators demonstrated to them the correct way to wash their hands. They were also allowed to wash their hands well.
This was special because the participants were eager to learn the 10 steps of handwashing and they laughed and corrected each other as they missed the steps. Finally, they managed to get all the steps right.
Maintenance of the WaSH facilities was also an exciting topic to teach. The community members sought clarification on how well they could manage the maintenance of the spring. They said that they will make sure that no one interferes with the operation of the spring.
This was special because the participants were taken to the site of the spring construction which made it easy for the facilitators to emphasize spring maintenance. One of the participants said that they had waited for a long time for their spring to be protected and urged other community members to take good care of the spring. If anyone is found tampering with it, they said, that person should be punished.
When the community members were told that fencing and planting of grass were beneficial to the spring's sustainability, one of the community members offered to supply poles and fencing was done then and there. Grass was also planted upstream.
Happy group of participants at training
"Through this training, we have learned to practice proper personal and environmental hygiene in order to prevent infections and diseases. We will make sure that each and every family has a leaky tin and soap/ash near the latrines," said caretaker Mrs. Mercy Chimoli.
"This training is especially beneficial for us women since we are the ones who are responsible for the cleanliness of the family members and the compound too, and in case one of the family members is sick we are the ones who take care of him/her."
Thank you for making all of this possible!
October, 2019: Buyangu Community, Osundwa Spring Project Underway!
Dirty water from Osundwa Spring is making people in Buyangu 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!