Upon arrival in Ichonde, we had not realised the extent to which teaching SWASH would make a difference in the lives of the young children here. The first thing on our minds was our new-found popularity with the children of the community and the second; adapting to our new surroundings. The goal for the project was to continue the construction of the children and teacher’s toilet; this included plumbing, plastering and preparing the cubicles for their final stage of construction.
Whilst we made headway on construction, we began to understand that the toilets would not be sustainable if we did not teach the importance of maintaining the facilities and handwashing practices. The children already had knowledge on clean sanitation but had not fully realised the importance of sustaining these practices. We started working to move from showing example to developing habit. Admiration from the children highlighted the importance of consistently setting an example, through SWASH lessons delivered and through our own visible handwashing practice. This quickly became a key part of our project.
In our SWASH lessons, we used creative means to demonstrate the consequences of handwashing malpractice. One of our most popular and effective exercises was the ‘Glitter Game’ which really captured the imagination of the children. One volunteer entered the classroom with glitter on their hands, pretending they had forgotten to wash their hands properly (with the glitter representing germs). They then shook hands with other volunteers and the children, showing how easily germs can spread.
The children were initially excited about the game and became stunned when they saw how much glitter was on their own hands, realising it had spread from two hands to a hundred in just a few minutes. Even though we taught the children the importance of handwashing, they also taught us the importance of education in sustainability. We hope that after the SWASH lessons, our project will create more lasting and meaningful change. Our project will not only give the children new and hygienic facilities, but will teach them how to use and maintain these facilities properly, so they can lead healthier lives in the future.
Although we had tough moments during our time in Ichonde, (the whole team including our Tanzanian counterparts was far from home and familiarity) the experience has changed our perspective on how to make sustainable change. We know that the lives of children in this welcoming village have been changed for the better, not just through the toilets, but also through their fresh understanding of germs and handwashing.
Words by Expedition volunteer Antonia Anderson. Edited by Communications Officer Lou McGowan.