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Lave Men Ou Ak Savon, Ak Savon!

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Department of Community & Behavioral Health

College of Public Health,

University of Iowa

Out of all the incredible experiences I’ve had here in Haiti, I think this was my favorite.  Liz, Alin, John, several of the community health workers (CHWs), and I went to a school in the Raypool district and gave a lesson on safe water and hygiene.

The school does have a Gadyen Dlo safe water system bucket and uses it (and the chlorine) every day.  But, we still brought them another one (in addition to two free bottle of chlorine) because the school has over 300 kids.  We also gave them a Gadyen Dlo bucket that we fashioned with two bars of soap attached by rope, and wrote “Lave Men Ou Ak Savon” (wash your hands with soap) on it. This was also conveniently one of the main lines in a song we made up and taught all the students.  We used the tune of the “Head, shoulder, knees, & toes” song, and made up this song about hand washing.  Since Alin has lots of experience teaching in schools, he was excellent in his role as translator/teacher.  Specifically, he was able to inspire the boy students, the “baritones” as he called them, to let loose and belt out the “ak savon” (with soap) phrase at the end of each verse. They took this job very seriously – it was adorable.  I should note that the week after we gave this lesson, I was doing surveys in this district, and whenever kids saw me they ran up and start singing that song to me.  Talk about heartwarming.

The school has kids from age 3 – 16, but we were able to divide them into three different age groups, so we taught our lesson a little differently for each group.  However, the main messages were the same: wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating, and always drink treated water.  We also taught the songs (we made another song to the tune of “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” that was about always drinking treated water) to both groups, we played a game with glitter which demonstrated how quickly germs can spread, and explained the concepts of germs (best translation in Haitian Creole is ‘Mikwobes’) and water contamination with multiple posters we made for each of the three groups.