October, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Loice Ezekiel Simwa
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 Luyeshe to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training (read more about it below!) and monitor their water point, Simwa 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 Loice Ezekiel Simwa, better known as Mama Simwa, shared her story of how the coronavirus is impacting her life and her community.
Loice Ezekiel Simwa, better known as Mama Simwa
Field Officer Lillian Achieng' met Loice outside her home to conduct the interview. Both Lillian and Loice observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Mama Simwa's story, in her own words.
What is one thing that has changed in your community since the completion of the water project?
"Every community member believes that this water is safe for drinking and drinks it even at the spring, unlike before when we had to sieve and add water purifiers."
Mama Simwa heads to the spring
How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?
"We have been able to wash our hands all through this pandemic period."
Mama Simwa gives a hearty smile while handwashing at home
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?
"Watching of distance at the spring has affected my fetching of water. I have to come to check if the spring has fewer people before I can go down into the spring to collect water."
Mama Simwa fetching water while community members observe physical distancing at Simwa Spring.
How has COVID-19 impacted your family?
"Things have really changed. Prices of items have gone up, especially foodstuffs, making it hard to even feed my family. My son who does some minimal jobs now depends on me since he can't find those jobs anymore. My school-going children have been at home since the schools were closed."
The Simwa Family at home.
What other challenges are you experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
"Our social life has been affected so much. We can't visit our elderly parents and relatives due to the fear of infecting them with COVID-19."
What hygiene and sanitation steps have you and your community taken to stop the spread of the virus?
"We wash our hands regularly since we have placed handwashing stations in our compounds. We have avoided crowding in funerals and weddings. We also wear our masks whenever we are going out."
Putting on her mask
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?
"I was excited when churches were reopened and curfew hours reduced."
What restriction are you still looking forward to being lifted?
"I am still looking forward to our church hours being extended from the 1 hour 30 minutes period to more. I also hope to see our schools reopened.
Working her small plot of yams.
When asked where she receives information about COVID-19, Mama Simwa listed the radio and our team's sensitization training.
What has been the most valuable part of the COVID-19 sensitization training you received from our team?
"From the training I have been able to make masks for my family members from pieces of cloth in my house."
May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Luyeshe Community, Simwa 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 Luyeshe, Kenya.
We trained more than 12 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.
December, 2018: A Year Later: Luyeshe Community
A year ago, your generous donation enabled us to protect Simwa Spring for Luyeshe Community in Kenya. The contributions of incredible monthly donors and others giving directly to The Water Promise allow our local 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...
March, 2018: Luyeshe Community Project Complete
Simwa Spring in Luyeshe 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.
Project Result: New Knowledge
Mr. Ezekiel Simwa was excited to work with us to plan hygiene and sanitation training, and he offered to host the entire event. We gathered under the shade of a tree on his homestead because there were too many participants to fit in his home. It was also nice to take the group over to the spring as it was under construction. There, the artisan could explain more about how spring protection works and what community members can do to manage and maintain their clean water point.
Participants received new notebooks and pens so they could record what they learned.
All 21 participants were great listeners who boldly asked questions for clarification. The field officer clearly communicated the areas of needed improvement for Luyeshe, which included the following and more:
– Hand-washing and personal hygiene
– Handling water and food hygienically
– Safe waste disposal
– Water treatment
Mr. Simwa said, "I lack words to express my happiness and thankfulness to you people. Indeed God will reward you for the good work you have done to us and other community members in Kakamega County by ensuring that they get safe, clean water not only for drinking but also for domestic chores."
Project Result: Sanitation Platforms
All five sanitation platforms have been installed. These five families are happy about this milestone of having a private latrine all their own, and are optimistic that there will be much less open defecation. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors.
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 meals were provided for the artisan, and we asked a few people to volunteer their time and strength to help the artisan with manual labor.
The spring area was excavated to create space for setting the foundation of polyethylene, 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 head wall to direct the water from the reservoir to the drawing area.
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 polyethylene membrane to eliminate any potential sources of contamination.
The only challenge to this process was filling in behind the discharge pipe. The artisan ran out of materials when backfilling, and the community scrambled to find enough rocks and other materials for him to complete the task.
But thanks to the artisan and community members' perseverance, Simwa Spring has been transformed into a source of flowing, clean water. Purity Lumbasi was one of the first ladies there. "We are grateful for the good work you did to us. The waterborne diseases that had been rampant in the area will be things of the past. Now we are sure to save at least some money for our children, as opposed to before when we used what little we had for medication," she shared.
January, 2018: Luyeshe Community Project Underway
Luyeshe Community will soon have a clean, safe source of water thanks to your donation. Community members have been drinking contaminated water from Simwa Spring, and often suffer physical illnesses after doing so. Our partner conducted a survey of the area and deemed it necessary to protect the spring, build new sanitation platforms (safe, easy-to-clean concrete floors for latrines), and conduct sanitation and hygiene training. Thanks to your generosity, waterborne disease will no longer be a challenge for the families drinking the spring’s water. We look forward to sharing more details with you as they come! But for now, please take some time to check out the report containing community information, pictures, and maps.