By: Denise Cristobal
On October 15, 2014, people around the world celebrated Global Handwashing Day. Of course, we at Pandoo Foundation – Cebu and It Matters jumped at the opportunity to take part in an international celebration. And since we thought that hand washing is a very important thing for children to learn, we decided to hold two celebrations – one at our own community center and one at the Mercy in Action drop-in center.
The proper hand washing technique is so simple that it can be taught to and learned by children as young as three years old. But despite being such a simple action, proper and frequent hand washing can protect us against so many infectious diseases. Knowing the proper technique is like having an affordable and versatile vaccine right at the palm of your hands. This was the main message of our celebrations and the children were more than receptive to it.
The kids at the It Matters Community Center became the audience of a live talk show, which Pandoo Bear hosted. The guests of the show were Jessie Germ and Wiz. While we weren’t particularly thrilled with Jessie Germ’s presence, we all welcomed the great information she gave about the causes of common infectious diseases. Wiz was our resident hand washing expert who came to pass on her skills to the children. After the talking part of the show, the kids got the chance to showcase what they learned during the game portion. And in addition to the information they gained, everyone went home with snacks, prizes, and loot bags that had a sticker (designed by UNICEF) and a bar of soap.
The next day, the celebration continued as we – Kuya Jun, Em, and I – took Beep Beep Books Mobile Library to the Mercy in Action drop-in center. The children there were just as eager and as participative as the children at It Matters. After showing the kids the proper hand washing technique, we asked them if they wanted to try it out for themselves. Without the slightest hesitation, they all rushed to the sink to show off their hand washing skills. Before we left, we gave all the kids their own bar of soap, which they absolutely loved!
Teaching children to wash their hands can’t be anything but empowering for them. They are given the chance to take an active part in their wellbeing. They also learn that even though they are young, they can be active players in the community. By teaching our children something as simple as the proper hand washing technique, we are telling them that they can change their lives and communities in positive ways. Instead of being carriers of disease, they can be agents of health and wellness. Children are more powerful than they know and it’s up to us adults to show them just how much their small hands can really do.