Proper hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way to prevent infectious disease from spreading. In Ecuador, children living in poverty who attend our partner’s early childhood development centers are taught how to properly wash their hands, and are helped to do it several times a day. Volunteers participate in these lessons! Read on:
As a volunteer in Ecuador, you can have a significant impact teaching at-risk children about proper personal hygiene, especially the practice of washing hands with soap and water. Proper hand washing is the most cost-effective preventative health measure readily available to virtually everyone. The Global Handwashing Day Planner’s Guide http://www.who.int/gpsc/events/2008/Global_Handwashing_Day_Planners_Guide.pdf states: From a cost-benefit perspective, washing with soap is three times more effective than building latrines, nearly 60 times as effective as providing clean running water, and more than 300 times as effective as any single immunization.
Children are eager learners and “agents of change” with their positive energy and openness to new ideas. They enjoy playing with water and bubbles, and are especially receptive to volunteers’ personal attention. Further, the lessons they learn about proper hand washing can cause a change in habits in their homes – improving their families’ health. Children, who suffer the most from diarrheal and respiratory diseases, also have the most to gain by adopting good hygiene habits. Latrines, clean water, and immunizations are all important and necessary health initiatives. The children we serve in Ecuador benefit from these resources through our generous partner. However, washing hands with soap will save more lives than any single vaccine or other medical intervention.
Perhaps the most important health contribution volunteers make in Ecuador is to model hand washing with soap and water at the early childhood development centers and to help children reach the soap, and scrub and dry their hands. Such lessons may seem small, but the children’s long-term health depends on these interventions.
For more information about hand-washing projects around the world, read the Global Volunteers Essential Services Prospectus.
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