Clean Hands For Healthy Kids

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Mission Guatemala

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Putting it to the test

Over the past spring, our Community Outreach Supervisor, Marily Matzar, visited each of the 18 schools within the municipality of San Andrés Semetabaj.  In the course of each visit, she both observed the schools firsthand and also talked to the teachers and principals at each location, in order to get a more well-rounded view of projects through which Mission Guatemala could best help and serve the communities. By doing this, we hoped to not just select projects to do in the communities that reflected only our observations and assessments alone, but ones that also incorporated and valued the schools and communities’ opinions, as well.

Sinks (no caption)While the needs in the schools were many and diverse, one deficiency that surfaced repeatedly was that of adequate locations for the school children to be able to wash their hands.  Many of the teachers related to us how, over the last several years, there had been an effort to incorporate sanitation and personal hygiene training into the school curriculum and the daily activities in the classroom.  However, despite this new focus, the reality for many of the schools was that there were not sufficient facilities available for the students to actually put into practice the principles that they were learning.  In the case of the community of Las Canoas Bajas, in particular, the school had a student body of over 350 students, but less than 8 functioning faucets.  And in many of schools, the water flow within the communities was so intermittent that, on some days even the functional faucets were useless since the community had no running water.

The water holding tankSo, this past summer, with the help of 8 volunteer groups that worked with us through the months of June and July, Mission Guatemala was able to provide handwashing sinks, or lavamanos, for the community schools of Las Canoas Alta, Las Canoas Baja, and Tocache.  Each of communities had identified their lack of handwashing facilities as one of their primary necessities, and they firmly believed that through these projects the education and health of the schools and communities would be directly impacted and improved.  And, as part of the construction of the lavamanos, we also constructed a concrete platform to support a large plastic holding tank, which we provided to the schools as well.  This way, the school could always have a quantity of water in reserve, so that the sinks could still be utilized on days when the community was without running water.

Boys in traditional clothingEach of the groups who worked with us on the these projects not only got to be involved with the actual construction of these important facilities, but during their weeks of work, each of the groups got to daily interact and build relationships with the children, teachers, and parents from the communities and schools.  And at the conclusion of each of the three projects, the community invited us to share with them in an inauguración, or grand opening, to celebrate with them the new milestone in the improvement and development of their school.

Mission Guatemala is forever grateful to each of these churches who sent teams to work on these projects through this past summer, for without the hard work and support from each of them, these projects would not have been possible.  And to all those who have believed in and supported the vision and work of Mission Guatemala, we thank you each of you, as well.  Muchas gracias for joining with us to do all the good we can here in Guatemala, as together we love and support our neighbors here in San Andrés Semetabaj.

Boys in traditional clothing
Cutting the ribbon
Do all the good you can...
Putting it to the test
Checking to see if it works
Sinks at Las Canoas Bajas
Sinks at Las Canoas Altas
Sixth graders demonstrate a traditional dance
The sink decorated for the grand opening
The water holding tank

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