Michelle is a handwashing champion

Michelle (left) with Reuben Baptist Primary Head Teacher Janet

Meet Michelle, a 14-year-old student and a member of the Handwashing Club at Reuben Baptist Primary School. The club is part of a larger Fresh Life initiative known as the School WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) program that aims to raise awareness of and promote hygiene practices among school children. Among other activities, the children are taught proper handwashing with clean soap and water. The club members also gather every Friday to hold debates around hygiene and sanitation.

Why handwashing? In Kenya, an estimated 17,000 child deaths occur each year due to sanitation-related diseases. The simple practice of washing hands with clean water and soap can go a long way in mitigating these deaths. This October 15, Michelle will be joining the Sanergy team and other community members in Mathare to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. The theme of this year’s celebration is Make Handwashing a Habit, underscoring the importance of incorporating handwashing into people’s daily routines. Children like Michelle are powerful agents of change in the community because they take the positive hygiene practices they learn at school back into their homes and communities.

Michelle hails from a family of five, and she admits that of all her family members, it is the youngest girl in nursery school that has been most enthusiastic about handwashing. “There are a number of essential steps in handwashing. These steps should be strictly followed so that hands are properly cleaned, and most of the bacteria is eliminated,” she says. To be effective, hand hygiene needs to be observed regularly throughout the day, such as after using the toilet or before and after contact with food. Michelle and other club members make sure to teach the student community this important skill at every available opportunity.

Reuben Baptist Primary students love their Fresh Life Toilet!

The provision of sanitation facilities is also key to promoting the practice. Michelle was introduced to Fresh Life Toilets when she joined Reuben Baptist Primary. The toilets have played a major role in encouraging a handwashing culture among the students. All Fresh Life Toilets are equipped with a handwashing stand that has clean water and soap. Michelle further adds that she loves using the Fresh Life Toilets: “I love the fact that the toilet is always clean; the waste cartridges are replaced daily with clean ones.”

One day, Michelle would like to venture into the media space. “I’d like to be a journalist someday. I think my confident and inquisitive nature qualifies me to be one.” And how does she plan to get there? “By working hard, working smart, respecting my seniors, and being prayerful.” We couldn’t agree more. Way to go, Michelle!

Global Handwashing Day is celebrated every October 15. It is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

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