The students at Patzilin Abaj Primary School sang, danced and celebrated because, for the first time in 15 years, when they pushed the lever on the toilet and twisted the faucet, running water splashed out.
Patzilin Abaj Primary School is the ninth school to implement our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools Project. Before this, each student had to carry water from their house to fill up a communal barrel, which was used to flush and wash their hands. Towards the end of the week, when the water supply dropped, flushing and washing hands was limited to only the taller students, who could reach the bottom of the barrel. This method of (sometimes) flushing and washing from the giant barrel of standing water put the students at high risk of getting diarrheal illnesses and as a result, missing school.
Implementing our WASH in Schools Project is a lot more than just building and renovating bathroom infrastructure. To create sustainable change, we work with and train the school director, teachers and students and parents on the importance of practicing proper bathroom hygiene and how to take care of the facilities. One of the trainings includes working with teachers to brainstorm ideas on how to incorporate sanitation and hygiene into their curriculum and using the facilities to encourage leadership and responsibility from the students. For example, talking about germs in science class and assigning students to be WASH Ambassadors and monitor that their classmates are washing their hands and that the soap dispenser is not empty.
We look forward to working with Patzilin Abaj Primary School to help students develop lifelong habits that will keep them healthy and ready to learn!