October, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Brenda Barnabas Muhalia
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 Shitoto to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Abraham 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 Brenda Barnadas Muhalia shared her story of how the coronavirus is impacting her life and her community. Brenda is a 45-year-old mother living in Shitoto who serves as Shitoto's Community Health Volunteer, helping to spread improved health and hygiene practices among her neighbors and nearby villages. She also volunteers in her elected position of Secretary for Abraham Spring's water user committee. For Brenda, water, sanitation, and hygiene are always connected.
A light moment with Brenda Barnabas Muhalia
Field Officer Betty Muhongo met Brenda outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Betty and Brenda observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Brenda's story, in her own words.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"Community members never spend money on medication as in the past; protection of this spring has done us good."
We first found Brenda while she was doing some laundry at home
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"Having a clean water point has really helped us because a lot of water is needed for one to fight COVID-19 . Handwashing stations have been installed in all homesteads and water has been available throughout this pandemic. Thus, we are able to prevent COVID-19 by washing our hands frequently."
Brenda washing her hands at home with soap and water from Abraham 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?
"Yes. Initially, we could overcrowd at the spring without keeping social distance, but when coronavirus was announced, no one wanted to be affected. I only allowed my family members to go the spring when there were no other people."
Brenda fetches water while community members wait in line observing physical distancing
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"COVID-19 has really affected most families. I have 2 [children who are] candidates [for exams] this year, one in Class 8 and the other in Form 4. We had already paid first-term fees so that our children could be at school throughout the year. Now, we are forced to look for spiritual leaders to come and help us talk to our children to understand the situation and repeat the same class."
Brenda's young son Thomas was very happy to have the camera's attention
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"My husband works as a watchman in a school; since the schools were closed, getting anything to put on the table is not easy. We need to struggle, and the little we get is not even enough with the children at home throughout [each day]."
Camera Operator Allan Amadaro filming Brenda's interview
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"Most people put on a mask where necessary and they also keep the physical distance. Washing hands has become a habit."
Brenda in her mask holding Thomas at 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?
"Allowing people to go to church."
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"For all people to go to church, irrespective of age."
Watering her cattle with spring water
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Brenda listed the radio, newspaper, and our team's sensitization training.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"How to improvise handwashing stations using locally available materials."
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Shitoto Community, Abraham 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.
Passing out informational pamphlets on COVID-19
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 Shitoto, Kenya.
Trainer urges new greetings from a distance instead of handshakes
We trained more than 17 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.
Emphasizing a point
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.
Handwashing demonstration with the new 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.
A participant responds to the training
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.
The reminder chart installed at the spring during training
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.
The new leaky tin handwashing station near the spring
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.
Participants review informational pamphlets
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.
August, 2018: A Year Later: Shitoto Community
A year ago, generous donors helped protect Abraham Spring for Shitoto Community in Western Kenya. The contributions of incredible monthly donors and others giving directly to The Water Promise allow teams to visit project sites throughout the year, strengthening relationships with communities and evaluating the water project over time. These consistent visits allow us to learn vital lessons and hear amazing stories. Read more...
August, 2017: Shitoto Community Project Complete
Abraham Spring in Shitoto Community, Kenya is now a protected, clean source of water thanks to your donation. The spring is protected from contamination, five sanitation platforms have been provided for the community, and training has been given in sanitation and hygiene. Imagine the changes that all of these resources are going to bring for these residents! You made it happen! Now, want to do a bit more? Join our team of monthly donors and help us maintain this spring protection and many other projects.
We just updated the project page with the latest pictures, so make sure to check them out! And please enjoy the rest of the report from our partner in Kenya:
Project Result: New Knowledge
Hygiene and sanitation training was held at the spring after construction was finished. Locals preferred to meet there because they already travel to Abraham Spring on a daily basis, and they also wanted an opportunity to learn about how the protection system works.
Everyone who uses the spring was invited, but we especially urged every household to have at least one representative present. The sessions were attended by 17 people, out of which 11 were female and six male. The female majority is expected, since Kenyan women are seen as most responsible for water and sanitation in their households. There were both young and old, and we were honored to have the village elder in attendance.
Training topics included but were not limited to 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, environmental hygiene, and hygiene promotion. We also took a session to emphasize proper maintenance of the spring protection project. The community should refrain from washing clothes, watering animals, farming with fertilizers, and open defecation in the vicinity.
We brought poster paper and illustrations that facilitated discussion on healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Group discussions were also very effective in helping participants take responsibility for what they were learning. And since we were at the spring, we could take the group over water point management and maintenance.
Community members showed an eagerness to learn as much as possible, and promised to put these things into practice. Mrs. Brendah Mahalia said, "These trainings have been indeed eye-opening for us as community members. We thank our facilitators for coming to help us understand how to maintain our spring and improve sanitation in our homes. I personally will take up the challenge to be monitoring the cleanliness of the spring!"
These training participants now make up the water committee, which is taking charge of water point management and maintenance.
Project Result: Sanitation Platforms
All five sanitation platforms have been installed and are ready for use. These five families are happy about this milestone and are optimistic that there will be much less open defecation. People without proper latrines would often use the privacy of bushes, but now have a private place of their own. It is expected that proper use of latrine facilities provided by the sanitation platforms will go a long way in reducing environmental pollution here. We will continue to encourage these five families to finish building walls and roofs for privacy.
This woman and her family are working on finishing the walls and roof around their new sanitation platform.
Project Result: Spring Protection
Community members provided all locally available construction materials, e.g bricks, wheelbarrows of clean sand, wheelbarrows of ballast, fencing poles and hard core (crushed rock and gravel). Accommodation and food for the artisan were provided and a few people volunteered their services as laborers.
Mr. Columba lives in Shitoto and was one of several men who volunteered to help protect Abraham Spring.
The spring area was excavated to create space for setting the foundation of polythene, wire mesh and concrete. After the base had been set, both wing walls and the head wall were set in place using brickwork. The discharge pipe was fixed low in place through the head wall to direct the water from the reservoir to the drawing area.
Leveling for the spring foundation.
As the wing walls and head wall were curing, the stairs were set and the tiles were fixed directly below the discharge pipe. This reduces the erosive force of the falling water and beautifies the spring. The process of plastering the head wall 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. Lastly, the base of the spring was plastered and the collection box was cleaned. The source area was filled up with clean hardcore and covered with a polythene membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination. Finally, grass was planted and cutoff drains dug to direct surface water away from the spring box.
The biggest challenge was getting to and from the spring - there is no clear road. Construction materials had to be stored 500 meters away from the spring, and community members and the artisans had to shuttle these materials to the construction site every day.
The team practically had to drag their motorbike to this area of Shitoto!
But this perseverance paid off with Abraham Spring finally becoming a clean and convenient source of water. Mr. Columba Ommani shared that his "community now has something to be proud of. Having clean water in the community is a big step in the right direction! We are hopeful that the water-related issues will be a thing of the past, and community members can now focus on developing themselves. It's a very unique and well done spring."