September, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Isabella Amagua
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 Bukhaywa to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Ashikhanga 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 Isabella Amagua shared her story of how the coronavirus is impacting her life. Isabella is a 29-year-old farmer and mother living in Bukhaywa.
Isabella Amagua looks out from the front door of her home in Bukhaywa as she watches her kids play.
Isabella is invested in preserving the safe and clean water at Ashikhanga Spring, which is why she serves as Secretary of the spring's water user committee. The elected committee members work together to help manage the water point's maintenance and care, and inspire their neighbors to do the same. Field Officer Georgina Kamau Wanjiru, who met Isabella outside her home to conduct the interview, noted that Ashikhanga Spring is indeed in excellent condition, and its environment clean. A clear sign of an active and respected water user committee, Georgina noted.
Isabella with her daughters and other community members at Ashikhanga Spring. The COVID-19 prevention reminders chart hangs on the spring's fence from our first sensitization training in Bukhaywa when the pandemic began.
As a mother, Isabella has been torn throughout the pandemic between trying to go about her daily work and trying to watch her kids at home to keep them safe. All children are home from school due to Kenya's national coronavirus-related school closures, which impact both adults and children. Isabella's dilemma with rearranging her work-life balance is felt the world over, as so many families try to adjust routines and expectations for everyday life. Still, it isn't easy.
Isabella shares what has changed in her community since the protection of Ashikhanga Spring, and how the pandemic has changed her work-life balance.
Both Georgina and Isabella observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Isabella's story, in her own words.
Isabella sits for her interview conducted by Field Officer Georgina Kamau Wanjiru and camera operator Allan Amadaro.
"Waterborne diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea no longer present cases here, like my mother who once suffered from typhoid. Ever since the spring installation, no one has suffered from such cases. Hygiene and sanitation have also improved since the water is easily accessible.
Isabella washes her hands with soap clean water from the spring using the tippy tap handwashing station our team helped install at the spring during our first COVID-19 sensitization training in Bukhaywa.
Before the installation of the water point, we used to go far to get clean water. But now that the water closer to us is clean, we use it for all purposes, mainly drinking. This has helped us because, with the pandemic and social distancing rules, we would have risked our lives going too far to access clean water.
Isabella washes her jerrycan before each time she fetches water, just like she learned at the health and hygiene training our team led upon the completion of Ashikhanga Spring.
Fetching water has changed because of the new rules, like no touching the pipe, and children no longer hang around the spring or play with water because of social distancing. They fetch water and return home immediately.
Isabella with her children and some of the neighbors' kids - they were all playing together.
Now that the children are at home, the food budget has gone up; since they use a lot of energy playing, they also need a lot of food.
Isabella weeds her kitchen garden behind her house.
We have handwashing stations installed in our homes and at the spring. We ensure that we wear masks whenever we leave the house. Social distancing is observed at the spring and at the market...We are hoping everything will get back to normal and all restrictions will be lifted, but for now, safety is a priority."
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Isabella listed the radio, television, and our team's sensitization training.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"Learning how to construct handwashing stations, and the proper way to wash hands."
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Bukhaywa Community, Ashikhanga 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 Bukhaywa, Kenya.
We trained more than 29 people on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19. Before there were any reported cases in the area, we worked with trusted community leaders and the Water User Committee to gather community members for the training.
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.
April, 2020: Bukhaywa Community, Ashikhanga Spring Project Complete!
Please note, all photos in this report were taken before social distancing recommendations went into place.
Bukhaywa Community now has access to clean water! Ashikhanga Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. We protected the spring, constructed 5 sanitation platforms for different households in the community, and we trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices.
Kids pose with Field Officer Georgina at the completed spring
"This water point is accessible to everyone around this community, especially during the dry season when people come from very far and many kilometers to access it. We are very happy with the results," shared farmer Isabella Ligari.
"I know we will now forget about suffering from diseases such as diarrhea and fever. I am really excited about this spring," said farmer Hosea Simba, referring to the improved quality and safety of the protected spring's water.
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, and women and men lent their strength to the artisan to help with the manual labor, too.
First, the spring area was cleared and 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.
Excavation of the spring site
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 and laborers busy at work on the stone pitching, headwall, and stairs (from left to right)
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a thick plastic tarp to prevent potential sources of contamination. Then soil was layered on top of the tarp so that community members could transplant grass to prevent erosion. Finally, the collection area was fenced in. It took about 2 weeks of patience for the concrete to dry.
Backfilling 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 with a small handing over ceremony. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.
Lead Field Officer for the project Georgina Kamau (right) stands with a community member at the spring's handing over celebration
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.
Community member Peter Jairus Ashikhanga, who is the spring's landowner and who would also be elected Chair of the water user committee, helped organize the training in coordination with our team. Together we found the community’s preferred date for training while considering other events in the community calendar such as the agricultural season and expected gatherings. When the day arrived, Facilitators Georgina Kamau and Rose Serete deployed to the site.
24 people attended training, which was about the number we had expected. The day was sunny so we sat under the trees next to the spring. The cool breeze from the trees brought a calm and conducive environment for learning.
Field Officer Georgina hands out toothbrushes and toothpaste to the young volunteers during the dental hygiene training session
We covered several topics including community participation in the project; leadership and governance; personal and environmental hygiene; water handling and treatment; operation and maintenance of the spring and sanitation platforms; dental hygiene; the 10 steps of handwashing, and how to make and use a tippy tap and leaky tin. Handwashing was a particularly memorable topic because one of the participants already knew all the steps of handwashing, so she was able to teach the rest of the group without the facilitators' instructions. Most participants were also able to make their own leaky tin the same day of training.
Participants learning the 10 steps of handwashing
During the leadership and governance session, we held an election for the leaders of the newly formed water user committee. We also brainstormed income-generating activities that can be used to start a community savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop their own small businesses.
Community member shows the group the steps of handwashing
When an issue arises concerning the water project, the water user committee is equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our team of field officers to assist them. In addition, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.
Thank you for making all of this possible!
February, 2020: Bukhaywa Community, Ashikhanga Spring Project Underway!
Dirty water from Ashikhanga Spring is making people in Bukhaywa 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!