Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

GVI get scrubbing on Global Hand Washing Day

The 15th of October was global hand washing day. For this special occasion Rise and Shine, the local community unit, held a ceremony at Shimoni Primary with students from Matunda Bora and Shimoni Secondary present as well. GVI was also invited so a few of us decided to go. A week earlier we already taught a life skills class at Shimoni Junior Academy about the importance of washing your hands for which we prepared a few hand washing songs, so health staff Matata, volunteer Jordan and myself volunteered to sing those songs at the ceremony. Little did we know how many students, teachers, dispensary staff and community health workers would be present! Everyone was sitting under a few massive trees just behind Shimoni Primary, and before we knew it we were called to come to the front to sing. Luckily the kids seemed to like the songs and most of them were happily singing along with us, which was great. The songs explained when you have to wash your hands and about the different movements you have to do to get your hands completely clean, so hopefully the students will remember this. I think they did, because now, weeks later, the kids are still singing the songs to us when they see us in the village.

Lisanne, Jordan and Matata sing songs about hand washing
After our little singing performance, it was time for the different teachers and health workers to give some talks to the students. First, the  public health officer Patrick gave a speech about how important it is to wash your hands and what kind of diseases you can get if you don’t wash them. He also told the kids to help each other; if you see one of your friends not washing their hands after using the toilet, then tell them to do so. A few of the community health workers talked about how exactly you have to wash your hands and they explained the oral-fecal routes of contamination. Our highlight was one of the health workers, Saidi, doing a little play about public defecation. The kids all thought this was the most hilarious thing ever (so I hope this means they’re not doing it themselves). 
Public Health Officer Patrick teaches the students about different diseases associated with poor hygiene.

Public defecation is actually quite a big issue in the area surrounding Shimoni, because of a lack of facilities. The local health groups are working hard to stop this problem before the end of 2012. In the village of Shimoni itself low standards of personal hygiene is a common problem. Water is a luxury that is not always available, so why use it for washing your hands? Even if people wash their hands, they don’t always have soap to wash them with. Facilities are even worse at the schools. At the public primary school, Shimoni Primary, the squat toilets are quickly filling up (which, as you can imagine, is not the most hygienic thing ever) and there are no hand washing facilities at all. At the moment, the school is trying to make the squat toilet holes deeper. GVI’s construction project is also trying to help out as we just started a rain water harvesting project at Shimoni Primary. The construction volunteers are working very hard every day to put gutters around the roofs and install water tanks for collecting rain water. Some old sinks were kindly donated by the Reef hotel in Mombasa, which we will attach to the walls so the kids can finally wash their hands after using the toilet. This will hopefully all be finished before the end of the year and will be a great improvement for the school. 

Students from local schools taking part in Global Hand Washing Day events at Shimoni Primary
All in all, with three schools and all the different community groups present, I think hand washing day was a great success. Everyone was working together to teach the students about hygiene, and along with the new facilities that will be installed at the school, I think this will make a big difference. Now all we need is some rain!

Lisanne Spruit – Shimoni Community Field Staff