Hygiene Messages in Zambia
I have just returned from Zambia where I visited a school and orphanage, Shitima House. 446 Children attend the school, and those who have no home to go to stay as residents. Others in my party carried out brilliant work with the children, from teaching 12th Graders vital exam techniques to helping to set up a jewellery co-operative business for school leavers to sustain themselves when they have finished their education.
For my part, I spoke to all 446 children, their teachers, cooks, carers and admin staff and demonstrated the importance of some basic hygiene rules, mainly focusing on hand washing.
The school is lucky that it has a plentiful water supply which is piped to the ablution block, kitchen and dormitories. However, there is no hot water and soap was in short supply.
Thanks to a generous donation from Unilever, I was able to give everyone at the school a bar of Lifebuoy soap.
I used some of Unilever’s “School of 5” materials which are accredited by the RSPH. Whilst I could not follow the full programme due to time constraints, I am hopeful that I have left the teachers with the skills to continue reinforcing the hygiene messages we discussed in classes.
The children learned about the 5 most important times to wash their hands.
I thought it was important to tell them some of our dreadful statistics about lack of hand washing in the UK – the food handlers who fail, and the 50% of office staff who don’t wash their hands after visiting the toilet – despite the fact that we have such easy access to hot water, soap and towels. They were shocked!
In addition to hand washing, I talked about brushing teeth, and took a toothbrush for everyone.
The pupils promised to follow the “School of 5” and their teachers will remind them every day. However, just to be on the safe side, I thought I would put some stickers up in the toilets to keep the message fresh -a bit big brother, (or sister) but maybe it will work!
As I had noticed that there was no soap around in the toilet blocks, I decided to take a trip to the local hardware shop and bought soap dispenser to put on the walls – anything left loose disappears, so the bars of soap were personal possessions for the children, and could not be left on the basins unattended. With the help of Radek, who works at the school, three boys learned how to use a drill and rawl plugs and we put up the dispensers, and didn’t forget the kitchen!
The next challenge is to ensure that there is enough liquid soap to keep the dispensers stocked up. That takes money, and Zamcog needs sponsorship and regular donations – you can be a friend of Shitima House for £10 per month or sponsor a child for £500 per year. alternatively, giving to the fund-raising account will send the money directly to Zamcog to keep the school running.
Finally on the last day we had the opportunity to meet guardians, parents or grandparents of those children who had someone to look after them at home. See my next blog for what we told them!