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Empower Health for 1000 Children in Rural China

by Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation
Empower Health for 1000 Children in Rural China
Guimei
Guimei

In May 2020, student health advocates at Zengyi primary school in Yunnan province received training in specific health knowledge and behaviors, which they have committed to pass on to their peers and to model in their daily life.

Guimei, a 10-year-old student at Zengyi, was selected to be a student health advocate because of her personal discipline, confidence, and natural leadership qualities. She and her family are from the Miao ethnic minority group, and because her home is far away Guimei lives at the school during the week. At home, her family does not have access to sanitary toilets or bathing facilities, so Guimei bathes during the week when she boards at school. It was also at school that Guimei learned crucial health and hygiene lessons through CWEF’s HEAL program.

“I learned to wash my hands frequently, wear masks, have good hygiene, and not eat junk food,” shares Guimei. “If you don’t wash your hands, you will get sick easily. If you don't brush your teeth, you will get cavities, which will affect your appearance.”

When Guimei returned home on the weekends, she advocated for healthy habits with her parents and grandparents.

“I shared my knowledge of hand washing with my mom and dad, and grandparents. Apart from Grandma, they all think it’s very good. Grandma thinks it’s troublesome and doesn’t like this way of washing hands.”  

In addition to these topics, Guimei and other student health advocates learned how viruses are transmitted, how to avoid and treat diarrhea, and how to avoid accidental injuries such as scalding. Health advocate and trainer Ms. Cao shares, “The HEAL project is designed for the basic needs of the rural population. The personal hygiene habits of rural community and primary school students, as well as the basic conditions for maintaining these habits, are still lacking. The project starts from improving people's awareness and solving the problems of water, hand washing, bathing, and other essential facilities, which complement each other.” 

These teachings have been foundational to additional education in the current season about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The HEAL training included instructions for proper mask wearing and prevention of this new infectious disease. Guimei shares,  

“I hope the coronavirus will end soon, so everyone can return to school. Studying at home is lonely. I feel sad when I cannot learn more knowledge.” 

Guimei’s principal, Mr. Hua, reflected, “The health project is very good, especially for improving the students’ basic health habits. There are more and more students who wash their hands with soap and hand sanitizer. During the dry season, there is a shortage of water in the reservoir. I hope that we can also solve the problem of water shortage.”  

Beyond the current health crisis, Ms. Cao affirms the HEAL program’s value over the long-term for people in rural China: “Good personal hygiene habits and behaviors are the basis for maintaining health, and should continue to be the focus. Chronic disease has been a major health problem in China, and the root of chronic disease can be traced back to childhood.”  

With their new knowledge and the formation of healthy habits, students like Guimei have a better chance for a healthy future in which they can thrive. About her own future, Guimei shared:              

“I want to be a model when I grow up. I like singing and dancing very much!”

Ms. Cao trains health advocates
Ms. Cao trains health advocates
A younger student learns about common symptoms
A younger student learns about common symptoms
Ms. Cao exhibits proper mask wearing
Ms. Cao exhibits proper mask wearing
COVID-19 prevention materials for each student
COVID-19 prevention materials for each student
Handwashing practice
Handwashing practice
COVID-19 teaching materials
COVID-19 teaching materials

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The children were amazed to see the purple glow that emerged from on their classmate’s hands under the black-light. The idea of invisible bacteria and contaminants is difficult for anyone to understand. As part of CWEF’s health education curriculum, students participate in a simulation activity in which they see the transfer of ‘bacteria’ from hand to hand contact. The ‘bacteria’ is a transparent powder that is easily spread through contact. The transmission path can be seen when a black-light exposes the invisible fluorescent powder.

In December 2019, CWEF Health Director Jenny Chu led 30 children from two primary schools in Wuding county in rural Yunnan province through a two-day health education “Training of Trainers” session as a part of the HEAL (Health Education Advocacy & Literacy) program. These students will serve as health advocates—providing instruction and modeling to their peers in the areas of good hygiene and health promotion. 

The World Health Organization promotes proper hand washing to prevent illness and reduce the spread of disease. Once rural areas have access to reliable and safe drinking water, additional health and hygiene practices need to be introduced. Through the HEAL training, children learn how to thoroughly wash their hands and gain knowledge about bacteria and contaminant transmission. Through reference books, hands-on training, the germ-glow black-light simulation, and a handwashing song, student health advocates learn knowledge and practice good habits. They are also equipped to teach their peers about the importance of handwashing and serve as models for this healthy habit.

In addition to handwashing, the program addresses oral hygiene and proper teeth brushing techniques, healthy diet and nutrition, and importance of keeping a sanitary environment. The training provides children with critical information for healthy living and opportunities for the health advocates to engage with their peers by sharing the information and leading activities. CWEF gathers baseline information regarding the knowledge and personal hygiene practices of the students in order to provide supplemental training and information.

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Organization Information

Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation

Location: Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon - Hong Kong
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @cwef_hk
Project Leader:
Joshua Lange
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Hong Kong
$6,715 raised of $15,000 goal
 
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