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The Hidden Heroes, Working Hard to Provide Water to Communities, as Kenya Tackles COVID-19

 

By Susan Otieno, World Vision Communications Officer, Kenya

Have you ever thought of what it takes for water to flow when you turn on the tap?

There is definitely a lot of science involved in the process. But the knowledge would amount to nothing, without the people behind the scenes that use it to change lives.

These are the hidden heroes, who are working round the clock each day so as to increase access to clean water for communities, especially now when Kenya is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sufficient water makes it possible for children and families to abide by recommended hygiene practices – such as frequent hand washing with soap and water - aimed at preventing COVID-19.

Among the heroes is Kefa Ojwando, a geologist who supervises the drilling team at World Vision in Kenya.

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Kefa Ojwando, a geologist that supervises the drilling team at World Vision in Kenya. ©World Vision Photo/Susan Otieno.

 

“We are tasked with the responsibility of drilling boreholes and equipping them with pumps, as well as rehabilitating existing ones that may not be functioning optimally. We also put in place infrastructure to harness and purify surface water sourced from springs or rivers. This improves access to clean and safe water for communities,”  says Kefa.

His team comprises of a driller, plumber, welder, pump technician, as well as a plant mechanic and electrician.

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Members of the Kenya Drilling Team (Left to Right): Samuel Njogu (Plumber), James Matias (Driller and Camera Operator) and Lawrence Kagotho (Pump Technician) using a camera to inspect a borehole in Laikipia, Kenya.©World Vision Photo

 

Within the month of April and May 2020, the team travelled for approximately 400 kilometres - away from Kenya’s Capital city Nairobi - to remote destinations, on their mission of availing clean water to communities in need.

During this period, they traversed various Kenyan Counties characterised with harsh climatic conditions and tough terrains. They included Laikipia, Marsabit, Turkana, West Pokot and Baringo.

“Water plays a significant role in the fight against COVID-19. So communities need water now, more than ever before. This need motivated us to leave our homes and travel to these hard to reach areas,” says Kefa.

Upon arriving at selected sites, which were mostly bushy and deserted, the team would pitch camp and erect tents. This served as their living quarters until intended tasks were completed in a particular area.

The drilling team usually erect tents (seen in the background) that serve as their home  as they implement water projects.
The drilling team usually erect tents (seen in the background) that serve as their home as they implement water projects. ©World Vision Photo

 

"We normally contract community members to prepare our meals. But this time round, we decided to do the cooking on our own so as to observe social distancing which helps to minimise the spread of COVID-19," states Kefa.

Despite experiencing extreme weather patterns - ranging from very high temperatures to heavy rainfall that caused floods and landslides in most parts of the country - the team soldiered on, encouraging each other every now and then.

"Many times, our trucks would get stuck in the mud. And we would spend a lot of time trying to pull them out. This would slow down our work. But it never dampened our spirits," says Kefa.

Heavy rainfall causes one of the trucks of the Kenya drilling to get stuck along the way.
Heavy rainfall causes one of the trucks of the Kenya drilling to get stuck along the way. ©World Vision Photo

 

"What we dreaded the most was running out of cooking gas and having to look for firewood, especially if it had rained heavily and all the wood was soaking wet," adds Kefa.

In the deathly silence of the night, Kefa and his fellow teammates would think of their families and loved ones back home. Despite missing them so much, they got consolation from the purpose of their work.

“We were content that the water projects being undertaken would change lives and bring joy to many families and children facing water challenges in Kenya.”

One of the lowest moments for the team, Kefa narrates, was when the Kenya government banned travel in and out of Nairobi (a hotspot for COVID-19 in the country) so as to contain the spread of the disease.

"We were all worried because we didn't know when or how we were going to travel back to our families in Nairobi, upon completing our tasks."

Despite these challenges, Kefa notes that the team decided to remain positive and motivated, while putting their trust in God.

Consequently, they managed to successfully inspect and test the water quality of seven boreholes that they had drilled.

They went ahead to connect four boreholes with solar powered pumping systems that will help distribute clean and safe water to many households.

Water splashing out of a drilled borehole.
Water splashing out of a drilled borehole. ©World Vision Photo

 

“You can’t ignore the excitement that always comes from the community when they see the water flowing, after we have completed our work,” says Kefa with a beaming smile.

 “It’s always heart warming to see the faces of children and families lighting up.  We also feel happy knowing that we contributed to the joy and change in their lives.”

Thanks to the support of the drilling team, World Vision was able to enhance access to improved drinking water sources for 186,275 people in Kenya within the last Financial Year (October 2018 to September 2019).