Handwashing Day was started a few years ago in Sulu, Philippines to promote proper handwashing in the communities. Asia America Initiative enables such a program by providing hygiene supplies, toothbushes and paste, and clean water/water tanks to prevent waterborne diseases. This year, there was a great turnout and LOTS of enthusiasm in more than 80 schools on Jolo island. The older students participating in our Mini Nurses program were on hand with the parents and teachers to teach the younger children proper hygiene.
The event centers around the local elementary schools. Soap and clean water are provided as the students wait in line for their turn. Who would think such an event would bring such joy? In this region, hygiene and nutrition are difficult to achieve. United Nations development reports rate Sulu near the bottom worldwide. AAI's mission is to continue in 2019 to support local school systems with clean water, soap and nutritional support so that impoverished parents will send their children to school where they will be properly cared for.
An important element of the hygiene and improved health programs, says Principal Merhama of Salih Yusah Elementary School, "is that once they arrive to school they will stay all day to receive a mid-day meal prepared by teachers and parent volunteers."
"Girls are especially vulnerable," says Sulu head school nurse Shareen, "because they are susceptible to many forms of illness caused by the lack of proper hygiene and sanitary facilities such as simple rest rooms.
"What Asia America Initiative has done is to provide us with the necessary tools and resources we need to care for our children in the correct manner. This also builds confidence for learning because they and their parents know that our schools are truly "Child Friendly Zones" where they can be safe and improve their health conditions. It is a blessing to have wonderful friends from outside of our own community who support AAI and our Nursing Department to be effective and expand our activities."