Aug 26, 2014
By: Ellen Agler, CEO
When I was in school, I remember well the kinds of student clubs that my friends and I would join: maybe Yearbook or Debate, French or Math, or the newly launched Computer Club. There were so many options. But there is one student club that I had not come across until a few weeks ago: the Sanitation Club.
Now why would a group of young students come together to create such a club? Well, the students at the small, rural Tanzanian school that I recently visited with a group of END Fund supporters grapple with what many young people face across the developing world – they go to school every day to a building that has classrooms, but no electricity, running water, soap, and very primitive (or more often, no) toilets. Globally, over 2.5 billion people do not have access to toilets. And the leading cause of death for children in developing countries are hygiene-related illnesses, which claim more than 1.7 million lives per year. These deaths can most often be prevented by using soap. And the kids in this club are well aware of these facts.
We arrived at the school on the dry, western slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, greeted by over 30
enthusiastic Sanitation Club members dancing and joyfully singing an incredible repertoireof songs about the importance of hand washing, the health miracle known as soap, and the excitement felt about the new school latrines. We received a before and after tour of the old, ramshackle, unhygienic outhouses, and the new latrines which featured real toilets, running water for flushing and hand washing, and – they proudly displayed – SOAP! They also had hand-washing stations in back of the school with hanging jugs filled with clean water known as “Leaky Tins” (or sometimes “Tippy Tins”) for easy hand washing with soap.
This club was in charge of educating all of the students in the school about hygiene andsanitation practices (done through songs, short plays, and talks to the whole student body). The leaders of this club had the aura of true social entrepreneurs and humanitarians, passionately committed to making their world a better place and acutely aware that their work saves lives.
Often it is the high-profile, globally recognized humanitarians who get the light shined on their important contributions to society, but these elementary school Sanitation Club members were truly heroes on the front line.
Thanks to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Tanzania and the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology for helping make this day possible.