IMA World Health/staff
tudents and teachers at the “WASH-friendly” St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Torbeck, Haiti, say they enjoy practicing good hygiene. They are also healthier since learning about the importance of healthy water, sanitation, and hygiene practices from IMA World Health’s Healthy Schools, Successful Children project.
Funded by IMA member Episcopal Relief & Development, the project’s primary goal is to encourage healthy WASH practices by increasing access to safe drinking water and sanitary latrines at select schools, including St. Paul’s in Haiti’s South department. In addition to providing sanitation infrastructure and supplies such as water taps, handwashing stations, latrines and water filters, the project also teaches students how and why to use them.
The ongoing behavior change activities targeting students are among the most importance components of the project. Through weekly hygiene lessons in class, students have learned basic “WASH-friendly” practices like washing their hands at appropriate times.
According to their teachers, the students have taken to these practices enthusiastically.
“It’s automatic now for students to wash their hands,” says Joseph Jean Russel, the school director. “Before we had WASH instruction, students were often sick with diarrhea. Now the students aren’t sick and can study regularly.”
Other teachers agree that absences from school have decreased since the students started washing hands with soap and drinking clean water.
Empowering WASH Change Agents
One motivating factor is that the students feel a sense of responsibility and leadership. Peers have a powerful influence on children’s behavior, so the project has helped students understand that modeling healthy WASH practices will reinforce the lessons among their classmates. The students also know that as agents of change, they can practice healthy WASH behaviors at home to help change the behavior of their families and wider communities.
“We were in a critical situation prior this project,” Russel said. “We thank Episcopal Relief & Development and IMA World Health for choosing our school for their intervention program.”
Founded in 1960, IMA World Health is a global, faith-based nonprofit that works with communities to overcome their public health challenges.