Meet Sanergy’s hand washing champion – Marketing Assistant James Mbugua
Proper hand washing is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. For the last three years, Marketing and Branding teammate James Mbugua has been teaching community residents about the importance of regular and thorough hand washing. In this month’s teammate spotlight, he shares more about his role and how it contributes to hygiene promotion in the community.
Tell us about your typical day at work.
I support Fresh Life Operators at 82 locations in Kamukunji area. I spend most of my days in the field visiting Fresh Life locations and ensuring that they have a prominent presence within the community. This helps our franchisees run successful businesses. In addition, I help plan Sanergy’s edutainment events, during which we teach community members about the importance of good hygiene practices.
You often facilitate hand-washing exercises during trainings. Please tell us about your experience.
I am always honored when tasked to teach hand washing. When I joined Fresh Life, the first skill I was taught was proper hand washing. Growing up, washing hands was not a big deal. When I discovered the risks I was exposed to, I knew I had to adopt the practice. I am keen to pass on this skill, particularly to as many children as possible. I believe it is a game changer in promoting hygiene.
What are some of the practical exercises you teach your pupils as you train them on hand washing?
I work closely with Rose Nyawira of the School WASH program to design particular exercises to train different audiences. We take our trainees through the different tools that can be used for proper cleaning. For instance, in the absence of soap, we introduce ash as a good cleaning agent. We also emphasize the importance of using running water while cleaning hands. Lack of adequate clean water is a common challenge in the informal settlements, and we train community members to use simple innovations such as tippy taps or storage buckets fitted with taps as a solution.
The majority of our trainees have implemented these alternatives, which is a good indication that we have some impact. However, we still have many more residents to train.
Any challenges you have encountered while facilitating the hand washing exercises?
Most adults are stubborn about learning proper hand-washing techniques. They feel that they already know how to do it. During our trainings, we show them the importance of doing it the right way. As for children, I have realized that repetitive training is vital for them to internalize the skill. We have to keep reminding the teachers to always emphasize this skill every single day during school hours. They also have to ensure that there is enough running water and soap for the children. Most schools have budgetary constraints, and maintaining adequate supplies is not always an easy task.
Share with us some hand washing success stories from the field as a result of your training.
Fresh Life Operator John Kitetu has always impressed me with how he has been keen to ensure his customers wash their hands after visiting the toilet. He always directs the customers to the hand-washing stand, which he says compels them to wash their hands. During very cold seasons, he offers warm water to his customers, which adds a little luxury to cleaning their hands. As for the children, he is always available to take them through the exercise. With these deliberate actions, John’s toilet business is constantly crowded with customers and his is frequently named the cleanest toilet in Viwandani.
How has your time at Fresh Life helped you grow professionally?
Before joining Fresh Life, I was a very shy young man; over the years, I have really improved my public speaking skills. As a result, I have found myself having an easier time during my training sessions and during Sanergy events where I now often serve as MC.
What are your aspirations in the years to come?
I want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Through Sanergy I have learnt a lot of hands-on skills in marketing, and I have grown to love my career. I hope to begin my training next year.
October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of hand washing with soap and clean water as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.