Through our public health projects, Squads Abroad has supported the campaign spearheaded by UNICEF to ensure that all children go to a school with water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. WASH in Schools (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) supports global efforts to realize the vision of a world where all children go to schools that provide a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment where they can grow, learn and thrive.
WASH in Schools improves attendance, health, and cognitive development; increased girls’ participation; establishes positive hygiene behaviours; offers the opportunity to introduce better WASH practices in families and communities, and addresses issues of inequity and exclusion. UNICEF has shown that promoting handwashing with soap in primary schools and daycare centers has reduced the incidence of diarrhea by an average of 30%, while school absenteeism has been reduced by over 50%. The promotion of good hygiene behavior at school can initiate behavior changes that last a lifetime.
As participants of our WASH project, a CCS Squad constructed a handwashing station at Coris Elementary School. Two months later, we visited the site with Juvel, Program Coordinator in Costa Rica to survey the impact that the station has made in the community. After a conversation with the principal of the school, we were able to see the incredible impact that our volunteers made.
What was the reaction when the project was finished?
When the project was first completed, you could see the look of gratitude on the principal and administrator’s faces. Parents gathered around in amazement to see the project, and took pictures of it. The students at the school joyously ran around the volunteers, thanking them, and they were so excited to start using the station. Since our volunteer also hosted hygiene workshops, the students understood the importance of washing their hands. When the volunteers left, the kids were sad, but grateful for the work that our volunteers did. They were left with both the knowledge and resources to maintain proper hygiene practices.
How have the students interacted with the WASH station since the Squad left?
After the Squad left, the children continued to use the WASH station, especially after they were done playing outside. Some of the children missed the hygiene, but their peers taught each other what they learned from the volunteers. By teaching some students, the impact continues to spread throughout the school and even the community. Having the station encouraged the students to remain healthy. They truly appreciate the new beautified space, and it has encouraged them to be proud of their school and continue to maintain the environment.
How has this project impacted the community?
This project has helped to uplift the entire community as a whole. It showed everyone–from the students to the parents to the administrators that there are others out there who care about the school and making a difference. It was an honor for them to receive assistance from the volunteers, and know that they were valued by the international community. Word spread around the community about the project, and everyone got excited to see the improvements being made. University students and professors from nearby towns even came by to visit the project site. They were impressed by the impact that volunteers made in only one week. The school is also used for community gatherings, so the entire community gets to enjoy the work that was done. It has really boosted the morale of the community.
How did this project help to boost the school overall?
In Costa Rica, schools strive to achieve a “Blue Flag” certification. This basically means that the school is ecologically friendly and supports adequate hygiene practices. This was the first step for the school in attaining this certification. This got everyone interested in seeing what other improvements can take place at the school, and excited to keep learning more about good hygiene and recycling.
How has the interaction with the Squad affected the students?
The students were so inspired by the Squad volunteers. By meeting people from the United States, it really allowed them to see the importance of learning English. It widened their perspective of the world in a way that they would not normally get to see. Even the Kindergarteners were so excited to keep learning English. By teaching them the importance of hygiene, the children truly realized that they are agents of change. They taught their parents and siblings all of the things that they learned from the volunteers. In this community, the people who grow up here rarely leave. By teaching the children these important practices in the school, they are prepared to be better leaders of the community in the future. The students keep asking about the volunteers and can’t wait to meet the next group!
Squads Abroad believes that good health is a fundamental right for all children.
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