July, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Silas Burudi
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.
Silas Burudi is a 48-year-old farmer who lives in Munenga Village. He is the landowner of Burudi Spring, and serves as the Chair of the spring's Water User Committee.
Silas shows his face mask while at home.
Our team recently visited Munenga 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.
Silas (standing in back) shares his concerns about COVID-19 during the first prevention training in his community.
It was during this most recent visit that Silas shared his story of how the coronavirus has impacted her his life.
Team member Betty Mwangi met Silas outside his home to conduct the interview. Both Betty and Silas 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.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the protection of Burudi Spring?
"The issue of waterborne diseases in our community is now a thing of the past because we are able to access clean water. People are no longer going to hospital because of sickness. Also, we are able to do small-scale farming around the spring, like growing of vegetables and some maize around the spring using the water there for irrigation."
Silas fetches water from Burudi Spring.
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"My family is able to take fresh green vegetables directly from the shamba (field), which I have been irrigating using the clean water from this spring. I'm very happy because, during this pandemic, we are advised to boost our immunity by taking a lot of green vegetables and fruits. My family and I have also been able to access clean drinking water without any fear."
Silas weeds his vegetable garden near the 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?
"Fetching water has really changed because, before the spread of COVID-19, I used to overcrowd while fetching water without worry or any fear. But now, I have to observe social distancing. Initially, I never used to wash my hands before fetching water, but now I am forced to wash hands before and after fetching the water. It's also mandatory to clean the spring regularly because of the virus, unlike before, when people were not that much concerned about this."
Community members observe social distancing while waiting to fetch water.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
" There is no freedom, especially among children; they can't move around freely and also they are locked up at home since they can't go to school. The issue of repeating classes come next year has also brought much tension to schoolchildren because they never expected such a thing to happen. As a parent, I have tried to talk to them but still they are in disbelief, which affects them mentally."
Silas washes his hands with soap and water from Burudi Spring.
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"Lockdown has been lifted up, so there is a lot of fear and anxiety since people have been allowed to move, spreading the virus, especially those who were from towns coming freely to the village. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economy so much in that I'm no longer able to do my small business as I used to. Business is very quiet, hence affecting my provision of daily bread as a breadwinner in the family."
Silas rinses his hands using the leaky tin handwashing station installed near the spring.
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"We are washing hands every time using soap and clean water, and while going to fetch water one has to wash hands before fetching water. There is no handshaking, and the community is very much observing social distancing."
Silas puts on his mask.
Have any COVID-19-related restrictions been lifted since they began in Kenya?
What restriction were you most excited to see lifted already?
"Cessation of movement was lifted up, and I was very happy because I can now extend my time to work a bit. I was happy also when places of worship were opened because I will no longer stay at home on Sundays worshiping at home."
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"Opening of schools so that children can attend classes instead of staying at home."
Silas in his mask.
When asked where he receives information about COVID-19, Silas listed the radio, television, 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?
"The issue of mask-wearing has been very helpful to me because, before the training, I used to ignore wearing masks, thinking it's only for those who are infected and are in towns, only to learn from your team that it's very important to always wear a mask while in crowded places."
"Munenga Community got right on our previous COVID-19 training in that they have put in place measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Among them, water and soap are always at the entrance of the spring, and one has to wash hands before and after fetching water," reflected Betty on her observations from her visit with Silas.
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Munenga Community, Burudi 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.
Team Leader Emmah in full personal protective gear kicks off the training
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 Munenga, Kenya.
We trained more than 40 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.
Trainer Betty (foreground) helped arrange community members into social distancing as a requirement of attending 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.
A community member demonstrates handwashing with a leaky tin
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.
Training in progress as people sit spread out
By the end of training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s spring. 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.
Spring landowner Mr. Burudi stands to express his concerns about Coronavirus
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.
Training staff in personal protective gear listen in as they take turns leading the session
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.
June, 2019: Munenga Community, Burudi Spring Complete!
Munenga Community now has clean water! Burudi Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of clean water thanks to your donation. The spring is protected from contamination, five sanitation platforms have been provided for the community, and training has been done on sanitation and hygiene.
Happy fetching water
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, e.g bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, stones, and fencing poles. Accommodations and meals were provided for the artisan, too.
Men and women 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 plastic, 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.
Field Officer Lynnah checks in on the construction progress
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.
Artisan lays bricks
The source area was filled up with clean stones and sand and covered with a plastic membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination. It took about two weeks of patience for the concrete to dry. By then, Munenga community members had also built a fence around the spring and planted grass upstream to protect the area. They have also cleared the pathway towards the spring for easy access.
Hard work continues
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.
There was a lot of singing and dancing at the new water point, with women and children celebrating the arrival of clean and safe water. They sang songs praising God because of the clean water. They were shouting, jumping, and clapping.
At this point, an elder woman personally thanked us for protecting the spring. She was singing and dancing around the spring, exclaiming, "Clean water! Clean water!"
Grandmother watches over grandchildren drawing water
All ages appreciate clean water
"This is a remarkable year to people of [Munenga] after so many years of [having the] unprotected spring [and] taking unsafe water and becoming sick," said Margaret, an 87-year-old woman from the village.
A humble, energetic, and typically jovial person, Margaret was even more excited because of the new water project in her home.
"We really appreciate what you people have done [for] us. We as Burudi Spring beneficiaries have nothing to give back as appreciation but what we may say is that may God of all creation both Heaven and Earth bless you - all [our] donors and you, implementing partners - abundantly. May all your donors live long to keep on giving these good services to people like us," said Margaret.
Feeling the rush
Despite their low income, which contributes to the high level of poverty, broken up families, and school dropouts in Munenga, the Burudi Spring beneficiaries have their own unique sense of cooperation when it comes to bringing them together for something that can lift up their standard of living.
They said the new water point will bring them together to do something constructive that will enable their living status to change.
During training, Munenga community members all agreed to start poultry farming, which they said will benefit them as a group in selling the eggs and, during festive seasons, selling the birds for meat. This will help them start small and grow together financially as a community as they begin to lift themselves up out of the vicious cycle of poverty.
Mother and son fetch safe, clean water
Mr. Silas Burudi, who helped facilitate this project and host training, said that he thinks the population in Munenga is going to increase very much, very soon. This is because other than this new spring, there is no other nearby clean water source and people were coming from far away during the construction process to come and see what was happening.
Observing this, he was sure that all those people who were coming to see the implementation process will soon join them in Munenga to share in the clean water.
Watering the newly planted grass above the spring to help prevent soil erosion
All five sanitation platforms have been installed. Whereas the few homemade latrines that existed previously in Munenga used to collapse regularly in the rain, our latrines are designed to withhold all manner of weather and use.
The five recipient 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.
Site management training - look at that crowd!
Mr. Silas Burudi, the farmer who owns the land where the new spring is located, 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.
Good engagement during training
The attendance was beyond our expectation as the community turned up in large numbers, in part thanks to the most comfortable weather that day - not too hot, and not too sunny. We all gathered at Mr. Burudi's homestead for training, where we sat under the shade outside his house, surrounded by trees which gave us a nice breeze that made the training even more enjoyable.
All the participants were involved and actively participated in the training. They showed much interest in the different topics, and they eagerly asked and answered questions with the facilitators.
A community member asks a question
We covered several topics including leadership and governance; operation and maintenance of the spring; healthcare; family planning; immunizations; the spread of disease and prevention. We also covered water treatment methods, personal care like handwashing, environmental hygiene, hygiene promotion, and many other things.
Handing out training materials really helped the message hit home for participants
The participants were especially attentive during the primary health care training as they all wanted to get an understanding of what it means and all that it entails. When the facilitators covered proper handwashing using the ten hand washing steps, the participants said that although this new method took more time than their previous method, it looked very special and they would do it, preferring to follow the new steps and not wiping their hands with anything. The attendees said of handwashing in particular that they have learned something unique.
Trainer Lynnah leads handwashing activity
"We used to do things without precautions or caring about our health, especially drinking water without boiling [it] or any [other] treatment," said Munenga community member Christine Nechesa.
"[We were] not bothering to clean our water storage [containers] and eating food sometimes without warming [it up] before eating. I thank God for you people choosing our spring and protecting it because now our health and life will improve. We have learned so many things that we are going to put into practice," said Christine.
Young boy fills up
Linet Luchivya, a farmer in Munenga, was also excited about the project and all it had brought to their community.
"Now the issues of sicknesses like stomachache, diarrhea, and typhoid will end. Lately we have been falling sick because of taking water that is not protected and we have not been treating [it], but now we are very grateful for what you people have done in our community."
Linet said the spring protection was "beyond our imagination."
"Honestly, we never thought in our life this spring could one day be protected because it has been like that since our great-grandfathers. Glory to God for bringing you here to protect our spring, our life will now be well and we shall live long."
Thank you for making all of this possible!