Importance of hygiene learned, taught

By November 21, 2014
(Photo courtesy Reach Beyond)

(Photo courtesy Reach Beyond)

West Africa (RBD) — One lesson taught is another one learned.

When staff from the partner Christian radio station in the West African country of Burkina Faso prepared to lead a hygiene lesson in a nearby community, they never imagined it would draw more than 200 people. And they didn’t realize that their words would be translated into two to three languages so everyone could understand.

Although unexpected, these realities added to the richness of the training. Beneath the shade trees and bamboo shelters of this rural village, babies fussed and children fidgeted, but everyone was attentive and engaged.

Men, women, and children spoke in their native languages as they joined the conversation around posters of daily behaviors, categorizing them as healthy or unhealthy. Volunteers demonstrated effective techniques for hand-washing amid encouragement and laughter from their friends and neighbors.

This community meeting took place on the third day of a 4-day course conducted by Sub-Saharan Africa’s community development team that traveled from Ghana in early October.

The training was held for staff members from Radio Evangile Développement, Gospel Radio for Development or RED, a partner of Reach Beyond in Burkina Faso. The event focused on hygiene, sanitation practices, and management and maintenance of a clean water project. The goal was to train participants so they can teach these topics in villages where Reach Beyond and RED fund future water projects.

To further equip the participants to become teachers themselves, the course also covered principles of community development and the use of interactive lessons to engage adult learners.

In one such interactive lesson, learners watch a drama and identify the various ways that diarrheal disease is spread. Using colorful, culturally-appropriate posters, the learners map out pathways of disease transmission.

A second set of posters depicts behaviors that stop the spread of disease: hand-washing, boiling water, using a latrine. The learners identify where on the pathways that these behaviors block the transmission of disease and discover the information for themselves as they watch a drama and arrange the posters–an effective strategy when teaching adults.

By incorporating a community meeting into the curriculum, the three Reach Beyond trainers were able to see the participants put their learning into practice. Both groups learned from the experience: participants received feedback on their teaching, and trainers gained insight into adapting lessons for different settings.

“I think the training was perfect,” wrote one participant. “I learned a lot, and I pray that our good God will help me teach others what I have learned.”

“We work with partners because they are the people who live in the country, are part of the culture, and speak the [local] language,” said missionary engineer and trainer Adeline McCartney.

More than 60 languages are spoken throughout Burkina Faso, including 6 that are spoken by half a million people or more. And that’s only one of 48 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa Region. Reaching all these places and people groups would be impossible for Reach Beyond missionaries themselves. Working in partnership, however, dramatically increases their reach.

Already, RED and Reach Beyond have witnessed some fruit from the community meeting. After seeing a tippy tap (a simple device made from a gallon jug for hand-washing–especially appropriate in rural areas where there is no running water), a school girl replicated it for use in her home.

In addition, Reach Beyond’s partner organizations “are the ones with an existing Gospel witness in their areas,” added McCartney. For some people, it’s revolutionary to learn that God cares deeply about their health–even their hygiene and sanitation practices.

This knowledge, in itself, can turn hearts toward God. While clean water, hygiene, and sanitation impact lives directly, these lessons give the partners additional opportunities to share the good news of Jesus Christ, further changing lives.

Pray for people in West Africa as they continue learning the importance of health, hygiene, and the Love of God.

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