Hygiene Training in Sierra Leone

It’s important to understand the audience when bringing training into a remote village in Sierra Leone. My insecurities surrounding the fact that I’m 1) not a nurse and 2) don’t have the ‘proper’ education to teach others about hygiene were quickly squashed as soon as I visited the village and realized just how basic the training would need to be.

In the village, simple things, like hand washing, are not such simple concepts.

Germs are an unknown. Often times witchcraft and curses are blamed for illness. Once an illness sets in, often the witch doctor gets paid a visit where he hands out charms to worship, pray to, and ask for healing from. The work we do is both to educate the community about the very basics of hygiene, but also we have to work to break down the belief that illness and death come from someone casting a spell.

Before a trip to Sierra Leone, I work to develop a curriculum, something to cover 2-3 days of training in the village. The training is both for the children, and for the adults. The training is simple, and important. On our last trip to Mankneh we brought glitter and showed everyone how quickly ‘germs’ (the glitter) spread from person to person. This visual was both fun, and impactful. We also taught the community a hand washing song and had several people try to wash off their glitter in a bucket of water…where they could see that not all the ‘germs’ left their hands. They saw that after a dip in the bucket the germs were then floating on top of the water, easily attaching to the next person to stick their hands in the water. The next part of this demonstration was to have them use soap and rinse under the flowing water at the well. Everyone was amazed at how quickly they were able to remove the glitter from their hands when they used soap and running water. The concept of germs and the importance of hand washing was a big theme for the week.

A big fear about coming into a village, teaching them new concepts, and then flying home, is the fear that they will not retain what we’ve taught and that they will soon go about their day the same way they always have…forgetting about germs, forgetting about the importance of drinking clean water, and staying in the patterns they’ve lived in for generations. Change is so hard.

A benefit of how Impact A Life works overseas, is that we empower the local leaders and we trust them to lead their communities. Their job is to promote the curriculum we’ve brought and to set an example of good hygiene for others to follow.

Through the years that Impact A Life has worked in Sierra Leone, we’ve seen the number of illnesses decrease in the village. We’ve seen healthier men, women, and children. We’ve witnessed the community members taking action, making changes, and bettering their community together.

Our work is certainly not done, but with your help, we are making a huge IMPACT in Africa! Please keep the people in Mankneh Village in your prayers!

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