Dust flies as I hop back and forth over several pairs of kid sized slippers. Laughter erupts from the small gathering crowd as I am quickly pegged with a small bundle of socks and have to pick myself up from the dirt. This is not what I thought a hygiene program would be like.
I have been in Liberia for nearly a month now, working closely with Landis and the UOF well team trying to design an attention grabbing, interactive child hygiene and sanitation program. Fortunately many of the children in the villages we have been working in receive hand washing 101 in school, but there are many kids who are unable to afford to go to school and miss out on this valuable knowledge that I just take for granted.
We cover everything from why to use soap, when one should wash their hands, and the consequences of bad hygiene. I have noticed after sitting in with the adult hygiene program that the children are on the same level as the adults, and in some cases have more of a grasp on the basics.
My goal of our program is to have it run primarily by the children. Sure the UOF staff will be facilitating, but in my experience the way children are going to make hand washing habitual is if they are the ones calling the shots. So, we ask questions and help to guide their answers. Rather than lecturing the children we aim to start a conversation…and it doesn’t hurt to start the conversation by playing a game of lapa.