School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
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Colgate representative sharing dental hygiene tips
Colgate representative sharing dental hygiene tips

We have been forming some exciting new partnerships since our last check-in. Our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) project has been collaborating with Colgate to equip our beneficiary schools with healthy dental hygiene knowledge and supplies. This initiative is part of Colgate’s innovative campaign “Brilliant Smiles, Brilliant Futures.”

On August 16-17, school directors, teachers, and parents from all of Pueblo a Pueblo’s beneficiary schools gathered at Tzanjuyu and La Cumbre schools to attend a series of workshops led by Colgate Program Ambassadors Carlos Soberanis and Nery Castillo. Important themes were covered, such as the relationship between healthy habits, self-esteem, and academic productivity.

Colgate Ambassador Carlos Soberanis asked, "What happens when children brush their teeth? They are nourishing their self-esteem, sense of security, and confidence. And self-esteem is vital. It can affect whether a student becomes a lawyer, an architect, or a bilingual translator...”

The Colgate Ambassadors also reviewed tips and tricks for children to use when brushing their teeth, and they gave parents toothpaste, a toothbrush, and fun informational games for students to play at home. In total, 3,945 of Pueblo a Pueblo’s beneficiary students received Colgate supplies!

In addition to trainings, we officially completed and inaugurated new WASH facilities at San Juan Mirador School. We also celebrated the installment of a new rainwater collection system at Totolya School, so that students and teachers always have a secure supply of water. With WASH facilities and access to clean water, in addition to dental hygiene trainings, students are equipped with more tools to fight away the germs and develop good self-esteem!

Teachers receiving Colgate supplies
Teachers receiving Colgate supplies
WASH inauguration at San Juan Mirador
WASH inauguration at San Juan Mirador
Water collection system at Totolya School
Water collection system at Totolya School
A WASH Student Ambassador at San Juan Mirador
A WASH Student Ambassador at San Juan Mirador

Last time we checked in at San Juan Mirador School, a small, Kaqchikel-speaking community outside of San Lucas Toliman, we were in the very beginning stage of breaking ground on new WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) facilities. The bathrooms at San Juan Mirador were in such poor conditions that students were at high risk of getting sick and missing school.

Thanks to a partnership with the students at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn, VA, and support from donors like you, construction is well underway. During this first phase, Pueblo a Pueblo is building four latrines, two handwashing stations with four faucets, and a urinal. The WASH facilities are set to be completed by early August, which means the teachers and 222 students at San Juan Mirador will soon have access to new clean bathrooms!

Meanwhile, we’ve moved forward with our second round of training for WASH student ambassadors. During this training, the WASH student ambassadors at San Juan Mirador learned how personal hygiene affects self-esteem and academic productivity. Teachers and students were divided into two groups. They then analyzed short stories explaining how poor hygiene habits, like not washing your hands or not bathing, can cause sickness. The stories showed that when students get sick often, they miss more school, harming their academic development and self-esteem.

WASH student ambassadors also learned how to create good personal hygiene routines. For example, students should always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them, and they should boil tap water before drinking it. With this knowledge in hand, WASH ambassadors can encourage their peers to follow these healthy habits as well!

WASH Project Coordinator Tomas Mendoza notes that it is  “very important to have a group of student ambassadors learn healthy habits, so they can be change-makers for a healthier school environment and improve the overall personal hygiene of their peers.”

Now that they are equipped with personal hygiene and sanitation knowledge and the soon-to-be finished WASH facilities, students and teachers at San Juan Mirador are on their way to healthier and more productive school days!

Students and teachers during the second training
Students and teachers during the second training
Pre-construction, bathrooms are in poor condition
Pre-construction, bathrooms are in poor condition
Digging wells for septic tanks
Digging wells for septic tanks
Construction in progress for new, clean bathrooms!
Construction in progress for new, clean bathrooms!
San Juan Mirador students with Trailside t-shirts
San Juan Mirador students with Trailside t-shirts

Soon, we will begin construction on WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) facilities at San Juan Mirador School. This new partnership is particularly exciting because San Juan Mirador has some special supporters: the students at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn, VA.

San Juan Mirador School is located in a small, Kaqchikel-speaking community outside of San Lucas Toliman. There are currently 222 students from preschool to 6th grade, and most of the students’ parents work on the large coffee plantations nearby. The students love school -- but “the bathrooms are in bad shape, and the kids are really at risk to get sick,” explained Tomas, our WASH in Schools Project Coordinator.

Trailside Middle School is helping us meet the challenge. Through a collaboration with H2O For Life, Trailside students have been raising money and awareness within their communities to support San Juan Mirador’s new WASH construction. Trailside has hosted advocacy and fundraising events at their school, and have even reached out to the students at San Juan Mirador. Students learning Spanish have written letters introducing themselves to the students in San Juan Mirador, and recently, the school sent over 100 Trailside t-shirts.

When WASH Project Coordinator Tomas visited the school recently, he delivered the letters and t-shirts to the 6th grade class. Students could see photos of the students at Trailside, and each student received a t-shirt and a letter. They have now written letters in response, sharing their everyday lives and their interests with the Trailside students.

Alice, an 8th grade teacher at Trailside Middle School described how the students  “are really excited. [They] loved being able to see the direct connection made. Our students were excited to see how excited San Juan Mirador students were.”

The first phase of the WASH in Schools Project is now underway at San Juan Mirador. The school has chosen its six student WASH ambassadors, who will help to make sure their peers practice proper hygiene and that the bathrooms are fully stocked with soap and toilet paper. They have also formed a community support group, which includes the principal, the teacher in charge of WASH, the student ambassadors, and two parents.

This past month, the community support group participated in the first WASH training at the school, where they learned proper hand-washing and teeth-brushing techniques, and more WASH basics. There is another training coming up before construction begins in May!

The entire 6th grade class
The entire 6th grade class
Checking out photos from Trailside Middle School
Checking out photos from Trailside Middle School
First training at San Juan Mirador!
First training at San Juan Mirador!
The school principal participating in 1st training
The school principal participating in 1st training
Mr.Castro at Totolya School
Mr.Castro at Totolya School

One thing we always strive for in our projects at Pueblo a Pueblo is autonomous, sustainable, community-driven success. As we wrapped up the 2015 school year, we checked in with some of the students and teachers at our partner schools to see how the WASH in Schools Project has been progressing. We’re happy to see them taking charge of the project and spreading their new knowledge!

When we spoke to Ruben Castro, a preschool teacher at the Totolya School, he told us he has seen changes in himself, his students, and his community. After participating in trainings and workshops about the importance of WASH, he told us that his outlook has changed. He now feels more personal responsibility for caring for his school and community:

“I have been a part of the process, and I look out for the kids. [...] Now it is my responsibility to be vigilant. [...] I have found a new interest in personal hygiene and for keeping spaces clean. [...] Now I can say that a WASH representative doesn’t necessarily have to come. It’s enough that I am here to instill values about hygiene in the kids. I will be calling their attention when they don’t keep a space clean.”

Mr. Castro has taken charge of making sure the lessons imparted at the Totolya School about WASH are carried out. He hopes that his students will keep practicing good hygiene habits, and tells us he has already seen positive results! Many times, he has seen students encouraging WASH habits with their peers and their family members:

“I’ve observed that my own students are calling each other’s attention about picking up trash, and the importance of using soap. And they don’t just practice those habits at school--but also in their homes. I have a few nieces in our school, and my sisters tell me that the girls always ask for soap to wash their hands. They take care of themselves, they brush their hair, they brush their teeth--and those changes are really significant.”

After speaking to Mr. Castro, we made our way to the Nueva Vida School, where we installed WASH facilities and began trainings just this past summer. Loida, a 5th-grader at Nueva Vida, told us the lessons she has learned have already made a big difference in her life.

I am healthier now because I practice good hygiene in school and at home. [...] Now I brush my teeth and wash my hands with soap because at school there is soap. Now I use toilet paper since we have rolls of toilet paper at school.”

Loida told us she has already seen a difference in her own life, and thinks it is important to share her new knowledge with her classmates and encourage them to keep practicing good hygiene and sanitation:

“We have to teach others to be hygienic too because they can also get sick from bacteria. [...] What they have taught me, I have taught to others. And because of that I am proud of myself, because I am helping my classmates and showing them the right way to wash their hands.”

In addition to encouraging her peers, Loida has also brought the lessons she has learned home with her:

“I also talked to my parents a little bit about hygiene because they have to be hygienic too, and practice good hygiene at home. [...] I have seen changes with my family members: my aunts, my uncles, my siblings. They have practiced good hygiene because I told them they could get sick, and that’s why they should always wash our food. Now they are healthier because [...] I always tell them about hygiene and help them in all that I can.

We are excited by the success stories of Mr. Castro and Loida--and look forward to more WASH successes in 2016!

Loida on the road to Nueva Vida School
Loida on the road to Nueva Vida School
Nueva Vida kids raise awareness in the community
Nueva Vida kids raise awareness in the community
Nueva Vida teachers learn about WASH
Nueva Vida teachers learn about WASH
Students spreading environmental awareness!
Students spreading environmental awareness!

This August, Pueblo a Pueblo’s WASH in Schools Project inaugurated sanitation facilities at the Nueva Vida Official School, one of our new partner schools.  We installed five student toilets, one urinal and a small hand washing station with four faucets—making for many happy kids and teachers!

WASH Project Coordinator, Tomás, asserts that “the new facilities will contribute to the betterment of the children’s health because they will no longer be exposed to contagious diseases due to unsanitary conditions.”

To help support the school with the ongoing management of these facilities, students who demonstrated strong leadership skills were selected to be WASH Student Ambassadors. As Ambassadors, they help educate their fellow students about the importance of hygiene and sanitation. In early September, the WASH Student Ambassadors demonstrated their commitment by organizing and leading an Environmental Cleanup Awareness Walk in Nueva Vida. It was a successful community-wide event with hundreds of youth, parents, and teachers participating!

The WASH project in Nueva Vida has also helped coordinate the creation of a support group made up of the school principal, teachers, parents, volunteers and a designated WASH Student Ambassador to ensure a community-driven effort is in place to take on any immediate or future challenges.

Tomás emphasized the importance of the school community’s direct involvement in managing the project. Looking forward, he envisions that 100% of students in the school will use the new facilities and learn the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene.

“Pueblo a Pueblo has now executed all the needed steps. We will do occasional follow-ups, but now we want the teachers, students and community to become the main actors to look out for the hygiene of the students at the school. […] With the appropriate use of the new facilities and the direct support from the students and teachers, this will be another means of improving students’ academic success.”

The old hand-washing station, before construction
The old hand-washing station, before construction
The new completed WASH facilities!
The new completed WASH facilities!
New WASH Student Ambassadors at the inauguration
New WASH Student Ambassadors at the inauguration
The school principal opening up the new facilities
The school principal opening up the new facilities
 

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Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.puebloapueblo.org
Project Leader:
Andrew Wilson
Executive Director
Neenah, WI United States

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