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Clean hands, healthy children

When we first introduced Bako one year ago he was an avid student with a love of math and reading who aspired to be a teacher. He told us then how much he enjoyed getting his hands dirty working in the school garden.

That continues today, but when we caught up with him again last month, his new focus was on getting his hands clean as an enthusiastic advocate for community-wide improvements in hygiene and sanitation! Along with his peers, Bako’s now leading the charge to dramatically reduce infectious disease among children and families.

A smiling youth

Bako is helping keep his community healthy

Most communities in this region do not have water and sanitation facilities, and that was true of Barouéli before Community Sponsorship began. As a result, waterborne diseases such as diarrhea are among the major causes of illness and death among local children.

With new investments in clean water systems and latrines at schools, there are new opportunities to turn that around. But simple as it seems, it takes a change in local practices, and that’s where children like Bako come in.

Latrine use and hand washing dramatically reduce the spread of disease, and there has been a big push to have children lead the way. Teachers are engaging the students, who are making changes at school and then taking their new practices home to share with their families as part of a community-wide awareness and education campaign.

“We must wash our hands with soap before eating and after using the washroom, at school and at home,” says Bako, who clearly relishes the opportunity to pass on what he has learned to others.

A family poses together for a photo

Bako takes pride in teaching his family everything he is learning

“I’ve noticed that the number of sick students from diarrhea and stomach aches has decreased,” he adds, clearly proud of his role and getting an early lesson in what it means to be a teacher and an agent of change for the better.

The result is that children like Bako are healthier and spending less time away from school, while younger children like his baby brother and sister have a much better chance of survival.

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