I am nearly at two weeks here in Panama and I am excited to share some photos from my project, host family and daily life in Bastimentos. I have had hygiene classes for the community on germs, how water is contaminated, why we should wash our hands, how we should wash our hands, shared the story of the broad street chlora outbreak in London and taught how to build “Tippy-Taps” for hands-free hand washing at their homes. I am having the classes scheduled around other events the Wood family hosts for the community. No one will come to just hear me talk about germs, but they will come to a cooking class, a craft class or- better yet – a movie night (biggest attendance by far!) so I have been sharing my lessons before the “fun” events start so those attending are forced to listen to me 😉 The only stand-alone hygiene class I did was the tippy tap construction class. At first, only one little boy had showed up. After waiting for about 30 minutes, Ellie went to the village to remind people. We ended up starting class about 90 minutes late, but by that time we had kids from 10 different families. We had the tippy tap construction class on Thursday, so I went to the villages on Friday to see who had actually installed (hung up) the tippy taps at their houses. 50% (5 out of the 10 that were constructed) were hanging in the two villages. I will be in the villages daily for the other aspects of the water/sanitation project (drilling a well and building a latrine) so I will be able to encourage (“encourage” may also be interpreted as “nagging” if it takes long enough 😉 ) the others to hang up and use their tippy taps. It is difficult to help people see the correlation between [lack of] hand-washing and illness. There isn’t a solid understanding of germs and how they are spread, so practices such as washing hands after going to the bathroom, before preparing food and before eating are not common. This is typical for a lot of the communities I visit abroad, but I feel like this particular indigenous community is one of the worst for hygienic practices (or lack thereof). For example, Ellie and I were walking through the village and a few kids came over to tell us (and show us) a goat that had died. They didn’t know how it died, but they were poking at it, touching it and moving it around. By this time, the dead goat was pretty nasty. Those same kids will touch us, each other, their baby brothers and sisters and they might all eat dinner without washing their hands because the idea of that goat having a disease that could spread to them would never come to mind. The Wood family has been impacting the community over the years, so there are very positive habits forming. For example, the locals know they have to wash their hands when they are at the Wood’s house before one of Shirlene’s cooking classes. That is a great habit! The plan is for those habits to transfer to each individuals house and not just when they are with the Wood family. The tippy taps (if used) will make it easy for the families to wash their hands when needed.
Here is a video showing a demo Tippy Tap I built last week for the community to try (prior to my building class) to encourage them to want one for themselves and to come to my class to build one.