WASH United scores with children’s games to improve hygiene
Kids in India and Africa are joining an elite club that could save their lives! Recognizing the crucial role that sanitation and hygiene play in community health and national development, WASH United is using sports-based lessons and games to educate children and facilitate behaviour change around the safe management of excreta and prevention of diarrheal disease.
In communities where access to sanitation and hygiene is limited, the WASH sector has struggled to overcome the sanitation taboo and to achieve sustainable behaviour change, particularly with regard to handwashing with soap, the most cost-effective intervention to reduce diarrheal illness and death. WASH United harnesses the power of play and calls up some of sports’ most powerful role models.
WASH United is changing the game with a revolutionary approach to WASH in Schools education. Kids can join the Wash United Club by committing to club rules: use toilets and keep them clean, wash hands before eating and after using the toilet, and inform at least 5 others about the importance of safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. Many of Africa’s and India’s most famous football and cricket players are on the roster, and children who become members of WASH United play in the same club as their favorite stars!
Studies show that games can aid learning through positive associations, and WASH United combines Problem Based Learning (PBL) with fun challenges that teach kids about safe water, sanitation, and hygiene. By confronting a problem before any learning takes place, students are able to contextualize new knowledge instead of simply hearing stand-alone facts. PBL encourages independent learning with minimal intervention from a teacher and helps students incorporate the lesson more quickly.
WASH United trains teachers and coaches, who present messages and facilitate PBL games as part of the curriculum (in physical education classes, for example) or during extra-curricular school activities:
The World Toilet Cup Game safeguards cleanliness, , development, and dignity by ensuring that all poo goes into the loo! To be a champion in life and in sport, everyone must use latrines and toilets and keep them safe and clean. On a large game board, players take a shot at a poo-ball, aiming it at a latrine hole or a toilet.
The Blue Hand Game shows how easily germs are spread. The teacher’s hands are covered in colored chalk to symbolize the germs that remain if she doesn’t wash her hands after using the toilet. She touches a ball, covering it with chalk, and passes it around the circle. Children then show their hands, each revealing the chalk—or germs—that transferred. They learn that just one person not washing hands with soap after using the toilet can contaminate the entire group!
In the Handwashing Challenge, two players roll up their sleeves and cover their hands with turmeric powder or charcoal—again a colorful representation of germs. Both players get a plastic bowl filled with water to wash their hands. Player 1 gets soap, player 2 doesn’t. Both players then dry their hands on a white towel. The player who didn't use soap will leave a yellow dye all over the towel!
After playing their qualifying games, children receive membership cards for the WASH United Club. Participating schools then take part in the WASH United cricket tournament, where winning is based not only on cricket performance but on sanitation and hygiene knowledge and practices. Score!