Billian Okoth Ojiwa is the Founder and Director of the Billian Music Family’s Leadership and Resource Centre, which is a Community Based Organization in Mathare, Nairobi County.
The CBO in the informal settlement supports children, youth, women and children with disabilities to develop their talents, access education and build the skills and capacities of women.
During the pandemic, Billian Music Family partnered with the Mastercard Foundation for a two-month public awareness campaign on Covid-19 targeting communities in Mathare.
“The first thing I did in Mathare with my own money was to get trucks and bring water to Mathare. Looking back into my community I knew there’s nobody who would even afford to buy one mask. So, I mobilized my team, especially our lead tailor, to go to Kibra for training so that she would be able to understand how to make the reusable masks,” he said.
Through the initiative, the community worked to contain the spread of the disease and in the process had a positive impact on the lives of residents of Mathare.
Ojiwa also says the resource centre hired tailors, women soap makers and youth leaders to sensitize the communities in the area on importance of following Covid-19 safety protocols.
Ojiwa added, “We were making masks and giving for free and we started now mobilizing our friends to be able to help us do mass production. And through that we have been able to get Mastercard Foundation coming through…what we were doing in small scale we are doing now in large scale.”
The campaign urged residents to continue adhering to the preventive protocols set by the World Health Organisation and Kenya’s Ministry of Health to prevent and slow community infection.
“The best way to prevent and slow down transmission in our communities is by informing all about the Covid-19 virus, the disease it causes, how it spreads and also help the community with essential requirements such as masks, clean water and soap,” said Ojiwa.
He added that the campaign was implemented in coordination with the area community health volunteers, local artists, village elders, boda boda riders and youth group leaders.
Jennifer Akinyi is a trainer as well as a seamstress at the Billian Music Family’s Leadership and Resource Centre.
“When Covid struck our work suffered and we shut down. Now, I train women at the Billian (Leadership and Resource Center) and we sew masks to give out to the community for free because of their low income hence they cannot afford to buy masks,” said Akinyi.
She added, “Mastercard has really helped the community by encouraging the wearing of masks, distribution of water and sensitizing people wearing masks and washing their hands.”
Seamstress Sofia Wanjiru lauded the partnership with Mastercard Foundation saying it has really changed their lives in Mathare.