Pueblo a Pueblo began the School Health and Hygiene activities by completing a needs assessment in two primary schools in communities close to Santiago Atitlan. These assessments helped us identify where and how to begin our work. In order to have the greatest impact, we chose to focus first on Escuela Chacayá. This school already had access to clean water as well as adequate sanitary facilities for the size of the student population. However, they still had pressing and legitimate needs, including the need to install a water storage tank and renovate the bathroom and sink facilities. Any time the electricity went out in the school (which was quite a common occurrence because of its rural location), the water filter would stop working and the students would be left without clean water. A water storage tank would ensure that when the electricity went out, they would still have access to potable water. In addition, the bathroom and sink facilities needed renovations, as there were only two toilets working properly for a school population of 131 students and several faucets that needed replacing.
Installation of the water storage tank has been completed and a roof is being installed this week to ensure that the tank cannot be removed from the school premises. Pueblo a Pueblo provided the funds for the tank while the director and teachers of the school helped to coordinate the installment. In addition, renovation of the bathroom and sink facilities has been completed, providing an additional 3 toilets and 4 faucets for the students.
Having access to safe water, toilets and hand washing facilities doesn’t automatically mean that hygiene and health will improve. When Pueblo a Pueblo first began working with Escuela Chacayá, lessons on health and hygiene were being taught to the students only sporadically and students’ hygiene behaviors and knowledge were strong in some areas and weaker in others. A volunteer at Pueblo a Pueblo created an initial hygiene curriculum and piloted it in the school in addition to launching a dental hygiene initiative. As a part of this initiative, every student received a toothbrush and every teacher, toothpaste. The teachers ensure their students brush their teeth every day after snack time.
In the coming months, Pueblo a Pueblo will focus on improving facilities at the second school, Escuela La Cumbre, and improving and formalizing the hygiene curriculum in order to offer it to teachers at both schools.