July, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with David Kweyu
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.
Mr. David Kweyu
David Kweyu is a 65-year-old farmer who lives in the village of Eshiakhulo in Western Kenya. David relies on Kweyu Spring for his daily water needs and serves as a member of the spring's Water User Committee to help maintain and manage the water point. During our most recent visit To Eshiakhulo, we found the spring to be in good shape and functioning well.
David (right) stands with the Chair of the Water User Committee for Kweyu Spring.
To date, there have been no reported or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Eshiakhulo. After recently completing a COVID-19 sensitization and prevention training with David's community (see the report below!), we wanted to hear how the pandemic has affected David personally.
The following interview was conducted outside David's home by our area Team Leader Emmah Nambuye Wekesa. Social distancing and other precautions were observed to keep both Emmah and David safe. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in your country, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?
"Oh, yes! I do fetch water for my cows and goats, and I ensure that there is soap at the water point for people to use whenever I go to fetch water. We are social distancing whenever we are at the water point. We are also avoiding crowding at all times and wearing masks which should cover the mouth and the nose always. Those are restrictions that are very new to me, personally."
David quenches his animals' thirst using water from Kweyu Spring.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the protection of Kweyu Spring?
"Before the project implementation, the spring water was contaminated, and we would become sick more often with stomach conditions like typhoid and amoeba. I can't recall when last I was treated of those ailments. Thank you for providing safe and clean water for us to use as a community."
David fetches water from Kweyu Spring.
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"I am using clean water for drinking and washing without worries, even if the pandemic is in the country. I am happy that the virus does not affect the water, so I drink it happily."
David washes his hands using the leaky tin he installed outside his home.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"COVID-19 has really affected my family and me. I have a son who was working in Nairobi, and when the pandemic struck, he lost his job since he was doing manual jobs. Then, the lockdown prevented his travel back to the village. I feel bad that my son is struggling, yet he is far away, and I do not have resources to support him from here."
David stands with some of the members of his family currently at home with him.
"The school-going children are home because the schools have been shut down, so their eating habits have changed. They are eating a lot, and hence it is expensive to feed them. I am afraid for them and do not want them to move out of the homestead since they can be infected. Yet I cannot send them to visit relatives due to cross-country travel restrictions."
One of the youngest Kweyu children strikes a pose at home.
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"Economically, it has become very difficult since I would engage in different income-generating activities. I used to travel to see some of my children who are married, and now I cannot. Curfew hours have changed my lifestyle; I always have to be careful to come back home early to avoid being arrested by security. My wife is now forced to go to the market to sell vegetables so that we can earn an extra coin to assist the family - something she never used to do."
David shows his mask.
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community took to stop the spread of the virus?
"We are handwashing with soap and running water as many times as possible at home and the water point. We are wearing masks whenever we leave the compound or when we are with more than 1 person. We are keeping social distancing at all times outside the home. And we are avoiding crowds and social gatherings - no more shaking of hands, and sneezing under the armpit."
David puts on his mask.
What restriction(s) were you most excited to see lifted or changed already in your area?
"The new hotel operating hours being moved up to 7.30 am will allow small traders to start earning income little by little. The curfew hour changes from 7:00 pm - 5:00 am to new hours of 9:00 pm - 4:00 am. And businesses are opening and getting back to normalcy."
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"Employees are going back to work so that my son in Nairobi can start fending for himself. And if not that, then the Nairobi lockdown being lifted so that he can come home."
From where do you get information on the Coronavirus?
"Radio, television, word of mouth, loudspeaker/megaphone announcements, The Water Project training, newspaper, and during burials. The administration normally sends a representative to talk to us at burials about COVID-19 restrictions and rules."
Trainer Protus leading a handwashing demonstration during the COVID-19 sensitization and prevention training at Kweyu Spring
What has been the most helpful part(s) of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"Being advised to: wear a mask whenever I am leaving my home; wearing a mask will help me keep myself and my family safe; handwashing with soap immediately when I get back from outside the gate since I might carry infection to my family and me; it's important to visit the health facility whenever I am unwell; the water has no COVID-19, and it is safe and clean for drinking."
David fetches water, and people line up while observing social distancing at Kweyu Spring.
"We thanked Mr. David Kweyu for making time for us to interview him and for him receiving us with an open heart...It is the season of green maize harvesting, and so we could not escape partaking in the delicious boiled maize which they offered and which we could not turn away from. Oh yes, we definitely undertook in "swallow-ship" with them! It was very generous of them." - Emmah Nambuye Wekesa
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Eshiakhulo Community, Kweyu 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.
Trainers (in masks) lead the session at Kweyu Spring
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 Eshiakhulo, Kenya.
We trained more than 20 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.
Community members listen to Team Leader Emmah while practicing social distancing, a requirement to attend 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.
Trainer Protus demonstrates handwashing
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.
Protus explains the importance of rinsing hands with clean flowing water
During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap at 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.
Having fun with the handwashing training
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.
A community member washes her hands at the newly installed leaky tin
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: Eshiakhulo Community, Kweyu Spring Complete!
Eshiakhulo Community now has clean water! Kweyu 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 handwashing in the new spring water!
The community members in Eshiakhulo village were surprised when we first offered to help protect their spring since they had heard so many similar promises for a very long time from people who had never turned up to fulfill them. They started to have more hope, however, as we continued to visit the site, set the date for construction, and asked them to gather materials. The relationship that was created between the community and our team strengthened each day as both communications and the number of visits increased. When the month for implementation arrived, all of the materials were ready and taken to the site. The locally provided construction materials included bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, stones, and fencing poles. Accommodations and meals were provided for the artisan, too.
Two students help gather materials during school holidays
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.
Adding water to the cement for the spring's platform
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.
Fitting the discharge pipe
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. The community also built a fence and began growing grass around the spring to protect the backfilling from erosion.
Finished the cement runoff area
The community members were so surprised when the construction had been finished since they confessed they had not imagined seeing such a beautiful spring.
Excited, thankful, grateful
“We have waited for anyone to come and protect this spring for us, but no one ever came," said Ayub Kweyu, the farmer who owns the land where the spring is located.
"Now that it has been protected we are going to get clean water, [and] we shall ensure that we take good care so that it serves us again and again."
Ta-dah! Fresh, clean water
As soon as cement dried and the spring was ready, people got the okay from our field officers to begin fetching clean water. We met them there to celebrate this momentous occasion.
The official handoff from our team to Eshiakhulo Community for use and stewardship of Kweyu Spring
After the community all prayed together, it was declared that the spring was now ready to be used. Previously a divided village, the community was brought together during local material mobilization and also during the training. The project was left to the community to use and to steward. The community members did not hide their excitement as they sang and gave thanks for the completed spring.
Happy to lean back and let the spring do the work of filling his container!
All five sanitation platforms have been installed. These five 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.
Artisan constructs a sanitation platform
Happy beneficiaries of a new sanitation platform
Pastor Ernest Murunga 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.
22 people attended the training, which was lower than anticipated. This was due to the community members' need to be on their farms for planting as the rains had just begun. For those who attended, however, there was full participation, a high level of interest, and no one was in a hurry to leave.
The training kicked off with a powerful statement by Pastor Herbert Aseka, a community member of Eshiakhulo. He said, "This is our golden opportunity to bury our differences as the community and come up with strategies to forge ahead."
Site Management Training
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.
Mr. Aseka also amused the group by confessing during the healthcare segment that his commitment to regular exercising had kept him fit for over 25 years without being sick.
Trainer Adelaide in action
The community members heartily adopted the concept of keeping their water clean, and they were impressed when learning how to get safe and clean drinking water by using the sun to treat their spring water. They also adopted the concept of storing drinking water for at most three days and cleaning their containers.
Trainer Lynnah in action
Additionally, Eshiakhulo villagers have decided to come up with a project that will bring them together as well as generate some income. They propose to lease some land around the spring, irrigate it, and plant vegetables to be sold at the market in Kakamega, where one of the community members has been selling vegetables for a very long time and will be able to serve as a resource for the rest of the village on this method. This will especially be useful during the dry season, when the community hopes to continue selling their vegetables as there is a high demand for them at that time and they fetch a good price at the market. Finally, the community also proposed to add in poultry farming, which if successful they will later expand into a catering business.
Trainer Adelaide leads handwashing practice
One spring user said: "I am so happy that you managed to protect this spring. We have had so many challenges - especially during rainy seasons - [when] all the dirt upstream used to be discharged here. We are so grateful as we are now able to access [a] clean water source."
"It's now our mandate to ensure that we keep the spring clean and also maintain it," she remarked.
Thank you for making all of this possible!
May, 2019: Eshiakhulo Community, Kweyu Spring Project Underway
Dirty water from Kweyu Spring is making people in Eshiakhulo Community sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to solve this issue by building 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 again with news of success!