From the field: Northeast Department Animator Team
On October 15, communities and organization around the world celebrated Global Handwashing Day. With diarrheal diseases being one of the leading causes of death among children, handwashing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent these diseases. This simple behavior can save lives, cutting diarrhea by almost one-half.
Haiti Outreach commemorated the day by visiting 5 schools to share techniques on the best steps for washing hands. Together with Haiti’s National Water Agency (DINEPA), the Haiti Outreach Northeast Animator Team visited the Commune of Capotille, located in the North-East Department of Haiti. Haiti Outreach has been working in this Commune since April 2014 to create, in conjunction with DINEPA, 28 community managed water wells. An important part of our community work is teaching all community members, young and old, about good sanitation and hygiene practices, which includes proper handwashing techniques.
Our team invited 5 Capotille schools to participate in this special day, gathering a total of 2000 students between the ages of 5 and 20 years old. The day’s success was thanks to the collaboration of many. DINEPA sent 2 rural water technicians (TEPACs) along with 5 gallon buckets and white boards for the demonstrations. The schools readied the children and teachers, and prepared the needed tables, buckets and water. Haiti Outreach supplied the soap and bucket faucets and mobilized its Northeast Animator Team for the day. The team split into 3 groups and visited each of the 5 schools individually.
All the students were eager learners as they were taught the importance of handwashing with soap and water. As the trainer (Animator) would call out a question, the group would excitedly call out the responses. Making the lessons as visual as possible, a sketch board was used to review the 5 steps to effective handwashing. Student volunteers came up and touched each step, saying what to do and why it is important.
Then in an energetic call-and-response fashion, everyone recited the steps:
1) Wet your hands (Mouye men ou byen mouye)
2) Soap up you hands (Savone menm ou)
3) Rub your hands to activate the soap (Fwote men ou)
4) Rinse your hands (Rense men ou)
5) Shake out/air dry your hands (Sekwe men ou).
Children were selected to demonstrate correct handwashing, as the others gleefully corrected their handwashing form. Everyone happily made the promise to keep washing their hands at their houses, and even more importantly, to pass on what they learned to their little siblings and parents. One school even declared that every Friday they would do a similar demonstration of hand-washing. Another declared that they would have a test on what they learned.
At the end of the day the different teams met up at the Capotille Plaza to review the day’s activities. Everyone truly felt that they had made an impact on these 2000 children. As handwashing is key to protecting public health and a mainstay in infection control, this day demonstrated why it is essential that we join together to promote handwashing.