As you may be aware, our project in Independencia-Bolivia is about promoting healthy habits at schools, with special attention to the needs of girls. One of these healthy habits is hand washing with soap - in fact; it is one of the most effective health prevention measures of all. Sometimes we tend to think that improving health is about technology and expensive treatments, but the truth is that we can achieve a large reduction in the number of cases of diarrhea and other diseases just by washing our hands with soap (by the way: hand washing also prevents the flu, so remember to wash your hands and remember others to wash their hands as flu season is arriving...).
In order to increase awareness of the importance of hand washing, many organizations around the world celebrate Global Hand Washing Day each october 15. In Bolivia, the main event this year was organized by the Ministry of Water and the Environment, and it took place last week in La Paz. The SODIS Foundation was part of the celebration: we taught children and adults how to wash hands and how to make a simple hand washing station with a used PET bottle. We also gave out information about soap making, we had children practice and improve their hand washing technique, and we engaged many adults in conversations about hand washing, health and water.
In the pictures you can see some of the activities - of course, it also involved laughs and a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone involved, especially our partner organizations Helvetas, Sumaj Huasi, Water for People, Plan Internation and SENASBA.
Best regards from the whole project team
In this update, we want to tell you a story about a resourceful teacher. His name is Antonio Choque and he work for the school “Carhuani” in the municipality of Independencia in Bolivia. Like many other teachers in this area, he teaches kids of several grades at the same time. His 14 pupils are between 6 and 12 years of age.
Antonio is really committed to promote hygiene practices, safe water and sanitation to each of his students. Last year, he participated in several of the workshops organized by the SODIS Foundation for this project in order to train and motivate teachers to implement simple practices for improving water and hygiene conditions at schools. One of the simple measures is the establishment of “healthy corners”, which are tables where pupils store safe drinking water and clean cups. As the project did not provide such tables for all class rooms, Antonio decided to make one with locally available resources: plastic bottles and a pressboard (see picture). This table made of recycled materials at no cost now serves as the “health corner” in Antonio’s class room, and the kids are using it regularly. This simple story tells us how importance it is to train people and to enable their creativity for finding locally adapted solutions. After all, our project is not about “feeding the hungry”, but about “teaching them how to fish”.
Given the need and with his own creativity, he created a platform to organize his corner of safe drinking water. In the educational unit, they only have distributed five “tarimas” and have six classrooms. Antonio managed to create a small table for his barrel and glasses with only pressboard and plastic bottles.
Currently, we are also training teachers and students on how to produce soap for hand washing. Again, we are seeing how important it is to foster creativity and make use of existing materials and resources – we will tell you about this in our next report.
We hope this report was useful for you. If you liked it, please share it with other people who may be interested in supporting a project like this. Thank you in advance!
Best regards from the whole project team,
During our last visit to the schools in Tiquipaya, we focused our attention on the issue of handwashing. In fact, the project this year established "proper hand washing by all students at key moments" as a goal for all our target schools. "Key moments" are after visiting the bathroom and before eating – several research studies have shown that washing hands at these key moments can reduce diarrhea rates by up to 50%.
One of the challenges we encountered previously was the lack of soap at schools. Therefore, the SODIS Foundation decided to train teachers and some of the older students in soap making, which turned out to be feasible but not as easy as expected. In fact, making soap is not difficult at all, but making a soap of high quality is - especially in an artisanal setting and without professional emplloyees. Furthermore, it also involves handling strong acids, which is why we decided to implement this activity only with the older students.
After some difficulties and a lot of learning, the students managed to produce their own soap, which now is being used at several schools. The SODIS Foundation is now looking into the option of setting up a student-run micro-enterprise which would be dedicated to produce soap for all 40 schools of the municipality. And we are preparing some special promotion and awareness-raising activities for October 15, which is global hand washing day.
Given all these developments, we decided to extend the project further in order to keep supporting the schools in Tiquipaya in improving their water, sanitation and hygiene conditions. We will keep informing you about lessons learned and challenges ahead.
We hope this report has been useful to you. Please let us know if you have specific question are feedback, and share this report with people who may be interested in supporting out project. Improving water and hygiene conditions at schools is a very direct and cost-effective way of improving conditions and combating disease. We thank you in advance for your support.
With warm greetings from the whole project team,