A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Global Hand Washing with Soap Day

October 15, 2009 marks the second annual Global Hand Washing with Soap Day. It is sponsored by UNICEF and encouraged all over the world to celebrate and focus on washing our hands with soap. This has been a big project for me over the last 2 months or so. I have taken it to schools, health centers, churches, and community leaders. I do a short activity on the transmission of germs which leads to the importance and implication of washing our hands with soap. I encourage schools to make a program for the Global day with the use of dramas, songs, poems, dances, and/or lessons. I then lead a tippy-tap demonstration. Students are encouraged to make them all around their schools (near latrines, kitchens, dorms, etc.) and also to take the knowledge home and make them for their families.

A tippy-tap is a hygienic hand washing structure with running water. We use local materials to fashion the tippy tap and I have the students or community members make it themselves so that they take ownership. A tippy tap is made with poles, jerry cans, string, sticks, and sometimes wire.

A few weeks ago I went to a school I had already been to but had been called back to make another tippy-tap. The teacher I was working with was late which happens often and didn’t bother me. He came rushing in and apologized for being late but he had been called away as a resource person to teach another school how to make a tippy-tap. I was scheduled to go to that school later that week. At first, I was upset about the school not waiting for me and going ahead on their own. I calmed down and acknowledged that this is actually exactly what I hoped and dreamed my service in Uganda would be. I am supposed to always be working myself out of a job. I train Ugandan’s who in turn go out and share their knowledge and skills and train others which hopefully becomes a cyclical sustainable cycle of development! When I went to that school later in the week they were so proud and excited to show me their work. I went to a few schools over the last couple months that had already set up tippy tap stations with the help of other schools and community member knowledge.

A final quick success story: I was helping my nun friends make Sunday lunch this past week. We over looked the primary school kitchen from where we chopped vegetables. The bell rang and students came flying carrying their plates racing to be in the front of the line. We noticed two lines were being formed and most were in the line away from the kitchen door. This is the tippy-tap line. They were washing their hands before eating! Yes!

This project came to life with the passion, excitement, and involvement of children, teachers, health workers, parents, business owners, church leaders, and really, the whole community. While washing our hands doesn’t stop, the culminating program in schools will take place this Thursday. My community along with communities around the world will be participating to various degrees. Let’s make our world healthier. Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap!

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