Inter-American Water Day 1999DIAA / 99 2 OCTOBER 1999
"BOYS AND GIRLS IN ACTION" All Boys and Girls
Guidebook on Water and Environmental Health
for Schools and Communities of Latin America and the Caribbean
On Saturday 2 October 1999, the countries of the Region, together with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), the Inter-American Association of Sanitary Engineering (AIDIS), and the Caribbean Association of Water and Wastewater (CWWA), will celebrate the Inter-American Water Day (IAWD/99) by the seventh time.
The activities of this year will focus on the problems children face upon using drinking water. Children participation in these activities has always been promoted and their responses have been very positive. Every year, more schools join to the celebrations, which reflects the greater awareness children and families are having on the importance of water and sanitation.
The motto of this year: "The right of all children to safe drinking water Let us commit ourselves" will sensitize the public and interested organizations of the sector, who will join us in this event to point out the situation of the children in our Region.
Children, being more vulnerable, need attention and special protection. Water-borne diseases hinder the growth and healthy development of millions of children. Lack of access to drinking water consumes the time and energy of many adults and children.
This guide for schools, hence, emphasizes the right of the child to a better environment and health, and recognizes that drinking water access at school, at home, and at the community is a fundamental right.
The guide uses the language boys and girls speak. It envisions good conditions of water and sanitation, and healthy attitudes and behaviors to be practiced daily.
We are certain that the activities proposed in this guidebook will contribute to the purposes of the IAWD and will motivate in schoolchildren the desire to deepen on the importance of water for life and health.
Ing Horst Otterstetter
VII. Our School is a Model
|n 1990, the largest group of world leaders in history assembled at the United Nations headquarters for the World Summit for Children. There, they talked about boys and girls around the world, and the main problems we face, including how to care for us ensuring more opportunities in the future.|
|In short, we have many rights that are associated with life, education, the family, and a healthy environment. A healthy environment is one that is unspoiled, one that is cared for and respected by its inhabitants, where the rivers and oceans are clean and the air is pure, and where the forests, plants and animals are protected. In other words, an environment where we can all be safe and happy.We also have the right to be heard: to express our ideas, write down our thoughts and share our opinions about all things, great or small this is known as freedom of expression.|
There are some people who believe that children simply do not have opinions and that we just spend our time playing or having fun. This is far from reality, isnt it? While we play or enjoy ourselves, there are many ideas that occur to us that we can share with others about how to improve the world we live in and everything that surrounds us.Naturally, we have the right to think: to have our own beliefs and to practice the religion we choose. So, both boys and girls, whether white, mestizo, or black, tall or short, thin or chubby, all have the same rights it makes no difference.
Another important right we have is the right of association: to get together and organize activities. This is very important, because by joining together we increase our chances of achieving whatever it is we set out to do.
Of course, a lot of what we do depends on our health, because when we are sick we do not feel like doing anything. Likewise, when we do not have access to wholesome nutritious food, we go through the day feeling very weak and tired. As a result many girls and boys die of disease and malnutrition.
Let us get together and share our ideas about our rights as boys and girls. Are all our rights respected at school? By our families? By our communities? Together, let us come to some conclusions and suggest a way of letting others know what we think about this. Surely we can think of interesting ways to get our point across.
Now, let us follow through with our proposal.
II. OUR ENVIRONMENT
|hat is the environment? Is the environment something
we can touch? Do we breathe it? What exactly is it? Well, we do touch and breathe the
environment, but it is a little more complex to explain.
The environment has to do with the interaction of human beings with the elements of nature such as :
air, water,soil, the forests, plants, and animal life.One way to explain it is to say that the environment is the sum of the relations between society and nature at a specific time and place. In other words, the environment is the result of the activities that people (one or many) pursue using the Earths natural resources. For example, people fish or plant crops to feed themselves, build homes to live in, or mine the Earth for minerals in order to sell or use them. There are many activities that people engage to make a living and, logically, these activities have an impact on nature. However, it is nonsense to do activities that harm the environment. For example, activities that pollute rivers other people depend on as a source of drinking water, or inventing machines like the automobile made to get us from place to place rapidly with no regard for the air pollution they create, and which we must all breathe. Likewise, it makes little sense to build disorganized cities with industries that manufacture products while dumping waste and discharging harmful substances into the environment.
People that pursue these kinds of activities forget that we, boys and girls, need parks to play in and clean streets, that we need to see trees, flowers and birds that remind us of nature to love and care for it. So, we have a healthy environment when we have a healthy relationship with nature an environment where we are able to breath good quality air and drink good quality water, where there is no noise that hurts our ears, where we respect nature and our fellow human beings. That is why the environment is so closely related to health. Let us think for a moment on how the environment at our school is related to health. We can approach this by doing a little survey or test on some conditions related to the environment and health that we can observe at our school today: 1. AIR. It is obvious that we have air at our school, because if we did not we would not be able to breath. But, what do we know about the quality of this air? Does it smell bad? Does smoke come through the windows? Is there a lot of noise that comes in from the street? Do our classrooms have adequate lighting and ventilation? Are there many boys and girls that suffer from respiratory diseases?
2. WATER. We need to think about different kinds of water. One kind of water is water for drinking, while another is the kind we use for our personal hygiene. This includes the water used in the restrooms, the water used to wash our hands, or the water used in the school kitchen or cafeteria, if we have one.
Where does the water we use at school come from? Is it safe for drinking? What do we know about this? Is there enough water for all our needs at school?
Have any children fallen ill as a result of drinking water? Are there a lot of diseases we can get from water? What do we know about diarrheal diseases?
3. FLORA AND FAUNA. There are a variety of plants and animals in our communities that make up our native flora and fauna. Some of these species have been introduced from other parts of the world and have adapted to our habitat. What can we learn at school about our own native plants and animals?
Do we have animals and a variety of plants at our school? If we attend school in rural areas we are more likely to see a greater variety of flora and fauna, but there are also some to be found at urban schools.
Is there a garden or an orchard at our school? If so, what kinds of plants grow there? Who cares for them? Do we have any fish or birds? If not, can we at least see birds flying? What kinds of birds are these? Do we have any domesticated animals at school?
4. CLEANLINESS AT SCHOOL. Let us take a moment to get a general idea about the cleanliness of our school. In this sense, we need to determine whether the walls, floors and restrooms are kept clean, and whether classrooms, offices, hallways, recreational, and other public areas are kept tidy and make us feel comfortable.
Have we considered all the health problems related to hygiene and cleanliness?
5. REFUSE. A lot of waste is generated in the school. For example, in each classroom we throw away papers and food containers that we no longer need. We also throw away candy wrappers and peels of fruit. All the things we discard are known as refuse.
We may think that all of these things are trash and could not possibly serve any other purpose, so we simply throw them away. Many of these items, however, can in fact be useful and may be used again. For example, notebook paper, cardboard containers, and newspapers can all be recycled. There are many ways to reuse (use more than once) and recycle (to process into something new).What can we do? Have we already participated in reuse or recycling activities at school? Have our teachers spoken to us about this subject? What can we do with refuse? Does our school provide wastebaskets for refuse? Does our school have a program to separate organic from inorganic refuse and glass containers? Are we aware that when trash piles up it begins to smell bad and can be hazardous to your health?
6. SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT.Our social environment depends on how we behave with others at school, with our classmates, teachers, and administrative and support staff. By treating others with respect, we promote a pleasant environment, characterized by warmth and harmony. However, if we are uncooperative, if we argue and fight among ourselves, we are contributing to a poor social environment.
Do we enjoy the social environment at our school? Are we happy or do we sometimes find school unpleasant? Do we play contently? Do we have a good relationship with our teachers?
Do we know that we can become sick if we have a poor social environment, if we feel anxious or under pressure? Have we ever considered it important to express our solidarity with a classmate when he or she becomes sick? What do we do when we are sick to keep from passing germs to other people around us?
7. STUDY AND RECREATIONAL AREAS.These areas are the classrooms, laboratories, workshops, and places for recreational activities and sports. They also include hallways, balconies, and other places at school where we spend time studying, resting, playing, or walking. What are these areas like? Are they large enough for all of us boys and girls at school? Do we take care of these areas or do they seem neglected? Do we do anything to make our school a more pleasant and attractive place?
Based on the initial results from our survey on the seven subjects we have reviewed so far, we can organize several discussion sessions. For this purpose, we can ask our teachers for advice on when and where they think we should discuss the following subjects: air, water, flora and fauna, school cleanliness, refuse, and the social environment. While we have certainly studied several related subjects, let us take a moment to have a serious discussion about the social environment and health situation at our school.
After finishing our discussion sessions, we can come to some conclusions that can guide our actions in the areas we have identified as negative or that need attention. Certainly, we have lot of ideas on this subject, but let us try to concentrate on activities that we can accomplish with the resources we have and the help of our teachers, families, and communities.
lll. OUR CULTURE OF WATER AWARENESS
|any years ago, our ancestors had a profound respect
for water and made ceremonies to honor water and activities to protect water resources.
Let us ask our teachers and family, especially our grandparents, to tell us stories and
myths about water. For certain, they will have a lot to tell us.
Our ancestors indeed knew water is essential for life.
|But today, because the situation has changed so much
in our countries, we seem to have forgotten much of what was once considered so important.
We can see people who pollute our rivers, who do not care for clean water, and who treat
water as if it had no importance.
What do we mean by a culture of water awareness?
We may say that culture is a kind of knowledge that comes from human experience. For instance, our knowledge that water is indispensable for life and health should put us on the alert to protect our water resources, keep them free of pollution, and look for ways to ensure that there is always enough clean water for all of us. It sounds logic, isnt it?
Protecting our water resources just makes good sense. However, some people are not aware of it, or at least act as if they have no awareness. We, boys and girls, need to have a clear understanding of this situation, so that we can learn to be responsible with our water resources building a culture of water awareness from childhood.
There is something very important we need to understand: Water is a scarce resource. It means that we do not have water to waste. If we look out over the ocean, we might conclude that the supply of water is endless. However, there is barely enough water for our needs as human beings. So we must conserve the water we have.
Let us compare how our ancestors treated their water resources with how we treat them today. What differences do we find? What was good and bad about the way water was used in the past? What is good and bad about the way we use water today?
Divide the class into groups and act out how in the past our ancestors used water resources and how we use water today. At the end of the play we can discuss the differences.
Let us do something so that others can learn about the differences and decide what is better. For example, we could prepare a bulletin board, paint a wall, or something similar for our classmates, families, and communities to see.
IV. OUR DRINKING WATER
e have already mentioned that water is a scarce resource and that we must do our best not to waste it. In this section we will review more details about water.
The bulk of the Earths water is concentrated in the seas and oceans (more than 95%). There is also a good bit of water in the polar icecaps and glaciers (2.2%). Another (2.2%) is what we call freshwater. Unlike seawater, freshwater contains no salt. This is the kind of water we need for drinking and for other productive activities.
Water is a natural resource, meaning that it comes to us from nature. Water comes and goes in a constant cycle. This natural cycle renews our water resources and ensures that we always have enough of it.The water cycle can be explained as follows:
|The suns heat warms the surface of the oceans, rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, causing water to evaporate. This evaporated water takes the form of a gas or vapor and rises into the atmosphere. Later, the vapor cools, condenses, and forms clouds. As clouds become denser, they release water in the form of rain, hail, or snow. During a heavy rain, this water pours over the Earth it not only moistens the surface, but sinks deep into the underground layers of the Earth as well. This water also runs back into oceans, rivers and lakes, down hills and mountains, and through city streets. Once again, the water evaporates to form clouds, time and time again in a continuous cycle. Thanks to this cycle we are ensured a constant supply of water unless, of course, we do something foolish to upset nature. So, if we are not careful, we risk loosing water, which could disrupt the natural water cycle that ensures our constant supply.|
First, we will take a look at where the water we use at school comes from, and then we will see how we use water. Finally, we can discuss drinking water.
1. WHERE THE WATER COMES FROM? Let us investigate the source of water at school. It is not enough to say that water comes from a pipe or a well. We need to find where the water really comes from where it originates, how long it flows on the way to our school, what happens to it on the way, and so forth. We have to be good researchers to fully understand this subject.
2. HOW DO WE USE WATER? Let us make a long list of all the uses for water how it is used at home, at school, in the countryside, in the city, and other places.
3. WHAT IS DRINKING WATER? Let us think about the characteristics water should have to safely drink it, without risk to our health.
Once we have finished working on these three topics, we can turn our attention to learning more about potable or safe water.
The term "potable" water means water that we can drink without any risk. In other words, we are sure this water will not harm us. For this reason, potable water is also called "safe water."
As we have seen, from its source up until water reaches our hands (or our glasses), many things can happen. Water may become contaminated or dirty. Drinking water must be safe from a microbiological standpoint.
This simply means that drinking water must not contain harmful microscopic organisms (microbes). Though we can not see them, they can affect our health. Sometimes we can have a glass of clear water that looks perfectly fine to us, but inside there are microorganisms. Any water that looks clean and clear does not mean necessarily that we can safely drink it. Let us be careful!
is made in water treatment plants that comply international water quality standards. When
this service is not available, we have to disinfect water in our homes according to the
Just to make sure we understand drinking water disinfection correctly, here are three easy methods:
|Disinfect water by boiling.
Allow it to boil for three minutes
Disinfect water with iodine. Use three or four drops of iodine for each liter of water and mix thoroughly. Make sure to wait 30 minutes before drinking.
Disinfect water with sodium hypochlorite or common bleach. Use one or two drops for each liter of water and mix thoroughly. Wait 30 minutes before drinking.
Great! Now we know the exact methods, disinfectant names, and the number of drops needed to convert water into potable water that is safe for us to drink. We have to remember that when adding a disinfectant, we have to be careful to use neither more nor less than the number of drops indicated. We have also been reminded about boiling water in order to disinfect it, which continues to be a very good method.Now that we understand about the importance of disinfecting water, let us think for a moment about what can happen to the drinking water we prepare. What can happen? Well, it can become contaminated again after all the work done, because, unfortunately, many people forget to properly store disinfected water. That is why we have to take special precautions with the container used to store our potable water. As well, we must take care of how we fetch water, store it, and use it.
Now that we know where the water we use comes from, let us make a nice diagram showing all the stages the water goes through, as well as the places and times it may become contaminated.
Now we have a clear picture on how to disinfect water. However, it is always a good idea to test our knowledge. Let us ask our teachers to have practice sessions including at least three different methods for disinfecting water. Then, we should consider where to store the disinfected water, what precautions to follow with respect to the container, and finally, how to use the disinfected water. Once we have finished, we can form groups and diagram all the process on large posters so that everyone can understand it as well as we do.
V. OUR PERSONAL HYGIENEhere is nothing difficult about personal hygiene. We, boys and girls, should keep ourselves clean and tidy, but so should grown-ups, of course. They are supposed to set the example for us.
But personal hygiene is not simply looking clean on the outside. No, what is important is that we have good hygiene habits. Here are some behaviors that we know, but sometimes forget:
|We must wash ourselves well every day. It is best to take a bath or a shower every day, but when this is not possible, we should at least wash our face, hands, and other important areas of our bodies and take a bath or shower at least two or three times a week.|
|We must wash our hands before and after using the toilet.|
|We must wash our hands before preparing or eating any type of food.|
We must not eat food that has fallen on the floor or that we can not be sure is in good condition.
We must wash all fruit and vegetables with potable water before eating them.
|We must take care that our clothes are always clean, try not to get too dirty when we play, and change our clothes on a regular basis.|
|We must drink only water that we know is safe.|
|Almost all of us already know these behaviors. But what can we do to make sure that we never forget them, and let others learn them as well?|
|When we use the restroom,
sometimes we forget certain details about our personal hygiene. To avoid it, it is helpful
to have a classmate remind us. For example, he may say: "You forgot to wash your
hands!" When classmates make such a comment, we should not feel offended. On the
contrary, we should thank them for their concern.
3. LET US REMIND OUR FAMILY ABOUT PERSONAL HYGIENE
We can also be aware of personal hygiene at home, without having to be reminded by grown-ups. In fact we may even be more aware than they are. We can help promote better habits of personal hygiene in our families by helping our brothers and sisters. We can do this by setting an example and talking to everyone at home about personal hygiene.
Because people are often forgetful about personal hygiene at home and at school, let us help by making some nice posters to remind others about the basic principles of personal hygiene. We can place the posters in the restrooms and at the entrance to the school, where they are sure to be seen. It is important that the posters or signs have a positive message without criticism. For example, it is better to read: Congratulations on your good personal hygiene and for leaving this restroom tidy! On the other hand, we should avoid messages like: You must be clean: Those that do not obey will be punished. Or Dont be dirty, because this may be offensive. Besides, we need to trust that people want to do the right thing. After all, we do not want to go around scolding others all day.
Let us think of other activities that can help us to have better personal hygiene habits. For example, we can organize a contest and give prizes to the boy and girl with the best personal hygiene and to those who have helped others not to forget important aspects of personal hygiene. Other ideas we might look into include putting on a puppet show or play, or writing essays to get all the students talking about personal hygiene. We might also create a beautiful bulletin board with personal hygiene messages.
VI. OUR SCHOOL RESTROOMS
|hile it may not seem so at first, this is a very interesting subject. If you think about it, who wants to go into a dirty restroom with unpleasant odors and no water? In fact, this often happens in our schools. It is a pretty bad situation. Every time we find ourselves in similar circumstances, we think that someone else is to blame. We might say to ourselves,|
Because we are intelligent, we are not going to blame or shift the responsibility to others. Instead, we are going to think what is happening with the restrooms at our school.
1. HOW ARE OUR RESTROOMS?
First, we need to determine what type of restrooms we have at school. There may be different kinds of latrines, restrooms with flush toilets and sinks, or complete bathrooms with running water (sinks, showers, and toilets).
It is also a good idea to know whether there are separate restrooms for boys and girls, and if so, whether the design considers the needs of each. To be certain of these details, we need to examine the restrooms carefully.
2. WHO CLEANS OUR RESTROOMS AND HOW IS THIS DONE?
3. WHO USES OUR SCHOOL RESTROOMS AND HOW?
Besides the students, who uses these restrooms? Do teachers have their own restrooms? How do we, boys and girls, use these restrooms? Are we careless when we use the restrooms or are we careful?
4. WHO MAINTAINS OUR RESTROOM FACILITIES?
The school administration should be in charge of maintaining restroom facilities in good condition. This means that when something gets damaged or stops working, it is repaired immediately (for example, a leaky faucet, a rusty pipe, or other hardware). Parents can help with these tasks and so can we.
5. HOW WOULD WE LIKE OUR RESTROOMS TO BE?This is very important. Let us get a clear idea of how we would like our restrooms to be. We should include what we find about their present condition that we would like to see changed, and how we could go about this.
Now that we know the situation of our school restrooms, let us organize a campaign to improve them. We need to come up with a name for our campaign. For example, "Clean Restrooms Help Guarantee Good Health" or something like that. We can think about what we can do: design posters, speak to the people in charge of cleaning, organize a student group to verify that people are using the restroom facilities correctly, etc.
We can also set aside a special day for cleaning and improving the restrooms, obtain paint and paint the walls, fix leaks, make repairs, etc.
VII. OUR SCHOOL IS A MODEL
|t is great that our school could be considered as a model school. All of us, boys and girls, want our school to be the best and set the example for other schools. That is why we are working to make our school a true model for cleanliness, environmental health, water use, and for active students who are dedicated to learning and willing to teach others what we know.|
Three cheers for our school. Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
But wait a minute, before we do this, let us think of what improvements are needed to make ours a true model school.
A model school should:
|Have a good natural and social environment. This means that we must have a good attitude towards nature and our fellow human beings. Let us review the first six sections to get a sense of how our school rates in these areas.|
|Be well-organized in order to make progress in areas that do not work very well today.|
|Show concern about the boys and girls that make up its student body, as well as its teaching, administrative, and support staff to love and help them.|
|Show concern about students mothers and fathers to love and help them.|
|Show concern about the community to love and help it.|
1. ARE THERE ANY BOYS AND GIRLS ORGANIZATIONS AT OUR SCHOOL?
2. ARE THERE ANY TEACHERS ORGANIZATIONS AT OUR SCHOOL?
What kinds of teachers committees or commissions are there at our school? How are these organized and what causes do they promote? Do they operate efficiently?
3. ARE THERE ANY PARENTS ASSOCIATIONS AT OUR SCHOOL?
It is important for mothers and fathers to participate in school activities. Are there any active parents organizations? If so, what areas are they involved in?
4. ARE THERE ANY COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS WORKING WITH SCHOOLS?What kinds of activities do schools carry out jointly with the community? Do we students participate in these or only the teachers? Are there other projects we can carry out with the community? Once we have examined these questions, we will have a much better idea about how to turn our school into a model school. However, this will not be easy. We will have to prepare a plan.
Let us ask our teachers to meet with us at school to help us come up with a plan to improve our school and turn it into a model school. To do this, we can organize groups with our teachers, or even hold one big meeting. We can then decide on how to develop our model school plan in such a way that we can all participate. For this purpose, we can organize a workshop to reach an agreement on the main stages of the plan, as well as the main activities that need to be carried out.
Let us begin with the preparation of the plan. We need to make sure that all of us, boys and girls, have a role to play in improving water awareness and environmental health at our school. We will also need to spend a lot of time talking to people in our community so that we can help them as well.
ur work over the past few days to make our school a model school has set an example for our families and communities.
We, boys and girls, can do a lot toward improving our homes, making our families more comfortable, and sharing with others what we have learned.
Each one of us has a family and a place to live. Whether we live in a house, an apartment, or a room, our home can be clean, comfortable, and pleasant for the entire family, even though it may be very small or modest.By the same token, the place where we live and our family form part of one of the neighborhoods, which together make up our community. If we take it upon ourselves to improve conditions and help others to do the same, our community will be a much better place to live. So, let us look at some areas for reflection and action:
1. HOW IS THE ENVIRONMENT OF MY HOUSE?
Just as we have been working to improve our school environment, we can also work to improve the environment in which we live. Remember all the details we studied about air, water, flora and fauna, cleanliness, and refuse? Well, we can apply all of these to our homes too.
We can ask ourselves many questions about the conditions at home. What is the air and ventilation like? Where do we get our water, and how do we use it? How do we prepare food? What are our bathrooms like? How do we go about cleaning the different areas of our home? What do we do with the refuse we generate? How is our garden or orchard? How do we take care of our plants and animals? (if we have any)? Where do we sleep? How are the areas in our home where our family has its meals and where we socialize? How do the members of our family get along with each other? Who is in charge of organizing activities in our home? How are chores in our home delegated between men and women and boys and girls? Are responsibilities for household chores divided equally, or do some family members work more than others?
We are sure to have a lot of suggestions for our family that will help us to improve our health, ensure safe water, improve environmental health, and promote good relations among all the members of our family.
We, boys and girls, can propose to the rest of the family ways in which we can improve conditions at home. And by working together we can all accomplish what we propose.
2. WHAT DOES MY FAMILY KNOW AND NOT KNOW?
Through our analysis of our homes and family, we may have come to realize that some members of our family are unaware of many things or do not have a good understanding of some situations.
For instance, perhaps our family is a bit disorganized, is not overly concerned about cleanliness, or does not understand how to properly dispose of refuse. So, there are many things that could be improved.
Now that we are aware of the situation, we need to focus on proposing changes.
3. WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP MAKE IMPROVEMENTS?We have already examined problems related to environmental and health conditions at home and our families. Now, the first thing we need to do is organize a family meeting to discuss this subject. We can take this opportunity to tell our family our ideas for positive changes or improvements that we can make together. After we come to an agreement with our family on what can be done, we need to begin making progress. We must set the example. Things will be different from now on, not like before when mother and father would reprimand us for things we did or did not do. Now we, boys and girls, will be keeping an eye on our home and family to make sure the situation improves. We can do it.
4. THE COMMUNITY, ITS FAMILIES, AND ITS HOUSESOur home and family are part of the community, so if we all work to improve environmental and health conditions in our homes, we are certain to inspire the whole community to do the same. Even families in our community that do not have children in our school are going to take an interest in what we are doing and we can help them too.
5. THE COMMUNITY, ITS STREETS AND PARKSIt is great to live in a community where people are motivated and happy. This promotes interest in making the community a better place to live, since people are willing to work at improving health conditions and creating a pleasant environment for everyone. This is important because, in addition to improving the houses and living conditions of our families, the entire community wants our streets and parks to be clean and attractive for everyone to enjoy. We need to think of ways to enlist the support of everyone in the community, or at least begin by clearly identifying community leaders who can get people to participate. For example, every community has leaders. Our teachers are examples of community leaders. Oftentimes there are community organizations that conduct interesting activities. Our churches, priests, and pastors are also concerned about the community, as are the representatives of government agencies and other organizations. Let us think about the most influential people and organizations that could help us to carry out the activities we are proposing.
Since we are going to be examining our houses and families, we can share these experiences at school. We can organize meetings to determine the main problems we encounter in our families with regard to the home environment and health. We can then share possible solutions to these problems that we consider worthwhile. If we look at all of our ideas on this subject, we are bound to get better results. So let us set some modest goals and try to accomplish them in the coming weeks.
Make a list of influential leaders and organizations in the community that can mobilize people to improve our environment and the health of everyone in the community. Think of ways to approach these leaders and organizations so as to organize a joint activity in the future.
n the first section of this guidebook, we discussed the fact that boys and girls have rights; for example, the right to life, to health, to a healthy environment, etc. Another right that we discussed was the right of assembly to meet, to organize, and express our opinions.
As we have seen in the preceding sections, there is a lot we can do to improve our world. We, boys and girls, are willing to do whatever we must to achieve this.However, we are limited in what we can do if we are not organized. So in order to make progress we need to take a very important step: we need to get organized.
LET US GET ORGANIZED!
How do we organize ourselves? That depends on the ways people are organized in our community or region. People often prefer to form working committees or action boards. Clubs or associations are other options.
We, boys and girls, can be very creative. We can organize ourselves any way we like and choose a fitting name for our organization that expresses the idea of whatever it is we want to achieve.
Once we have decided what kind of organization we want to form and have chosen an appropriate name, we need to turn our attention to how our organization will operate.
In this sense, the organization or group we create should not be bureaucratic, but simple since we know how grown-ups like to create lots of positions and other things in their organizations, which sometimes work and sometimes not.
|That is why we need to set a
good example and not be so concerned about who wants to be the president and other
officers of our organization. Instead, we need to concentrate on developing ways of
working together, so that all of us, boys and girls, can work as equals and with the same
It is always a good idea to designate a spokesperson for an organization, someone who can speak on behalf of everyone. If we all speak at the same time, nobody will understand us. Another good idea would be to rotate the spokespersons job, so that all of us, boys and girls, can have the chance to be leaders.
In order to have a democratic organization where we can all participate in decision making and activities, we need to organize meetings and discuss how to go about this. In these meetings we can establish an orderly system for speaking so that we can all share our opinions not just the people who yell or like to talk a lot. Although some boys and girls may be a little shy and not wish to speak, it is important that we listen to what they have to say and get their opinions.We do not hold meetings just to talk. No, we hold them to make decisions and develop plans. What kind of decisions should we make? For example, we need to make decisions regarding the problems we want to solve, the activities we want to carry out, who will make the decisions, how we will organize ourselves, who will be responsible for the different tasks, how teachers will participate, and the kind of support we will ask the community, and other issues.
|One activity that would be interesting is to celebrate some important events. This would be a good way to capture the interest of the boys and girls in our school, as well as that of our families and the various members of our community. In the next section we are going to look at an important event and see how we could celebrate it.|
Let us form an organization to improve the environment and health at school. We can hold a meeting to decide what name to give our organization, who its first members will be, and ways to recruit other boys and girls who may want to participate. We can also decide on a strategy to get our teachers involved in what we want to do.
Now that we have established our organization and given it a name, let us propose some activities. We can begin with the activities we mentioned in the previous sections, or we can propose others that we would like to carry out. We can propose that we celebrate a special event as an interesting way to begin the work of our organization. Some such events are the Inter-American Water Week and the Inter-American Water Day, which we will explore next.
X. OUR CELEBRATION
OF THE INTER-AMERICAN WATER WEEKAND THE INTER-AMERICAN WATER DAY
|hese organizations, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter-American Association of Sanitary Engineering (AIDIS), and the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA), collaborated to create the Inter-American Water Day. This celebration has served to raise awareness among people of Latin America and the Caribbean about the importance of water.|
This special event is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of October!Moreover, another special event is celebrated at the same time: The Inter-American Water Week Of course, a whole week is better because it allows more time for activities. The commemoration of this event helps to promote awareness among boys and girls, our teachers, and the entire community about the importance of water to our health. That is why we should take advantage of the Inter-American Water Week and the Inter-American Water Day to help teach others about the rational use of water. These are excellent opportunities for us to conduct activities at school and in our community to promote the conservation, preservation, and protection of our water resources. It is also great to know that many other boys and girls from all over the Region of the Americas will be celebrating these special events too. This sense of solidarity is wonderful. Since the inauguration of the Inter-American Water Day in 1993, many people have been mobilized to action, taking part in activities aimed at raising awareness of the importance of water resources as a fundamental element of life. For the commemoration of the Inter-American Water Day of this year, the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Childrens Fund have taken into account the awareness of boys and girls and families on the importance of water availability and sanitation. Thus, the motto for this year is:
|"THE RIGHT OF ALL CHILDREN TO SAFE WATER - LET US COMMIT OURSELVES"|
It is reassuring to know that the participation of us, boys and girls, in this event, both now and in the years to come, will help many others to learn more about this important theme. We are committed.So, now that we have studied the subjects in this guidebook and have created our organizations, preparing for these celebrations will be easy. To accomplish this, let us remember the motto. During this week we should: Raise awareness about the problems related to drinking water as well as the need to conserve and protect water resources. We will do this so that everyone will understand that
EACH OF US CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE CONSERVATION AND PROPER MANAGEMENT OF WATER RESOURCES
Tell as many people as we can about the Inter-American Water Day and the Water Week. To accomplish this, we need to talk to our teachers, our school administrators, and other boys and girls at school so that we can inspire them to organize some wonderful celebrations. This is called motivation.
Once we get them motivated, we need to focus on how we can celebrate these events at school and in the community. There are a variety of activities we can propose. We can:
sponsor a water fair in a park or plaza near our school;
sponsor an exhibit of drawings by boys and girls from our school on the theme of water and health;
hold painting, poetry, and essay contests related to water and health;
put on a play about water and health;
put on a puppet show about water and health;
have teachers or other people who are knowledgeable about water and health give informative talks or conferences;
have some of us, boys and girls, who are also knowledgeable about water and health give informative talks or conferences;
hold a parade with banners, puppets, music and other things that attract peoples attention;
offer workshops to teach people how to disinfect water (we, boys and girls, can do this with the help of our teachers); and
any other activity that we may think of.
Once we have decided what activities to carry out, it is important to organize ourselves to achieve our goals. This will include contacting the people that can help us, forming working groups for each activity, requesting support from other organizations, etc.
Once our activities are under way, we must not forget to conduct a publicity campaign so that people will come to our activities.
To publicize our activities we can prepare some flyers for distribution. Another idea would be to make signs and place them around schools and nearby. We could also try to get some airtime on a local radio station or broadcast our message over loudspeakers so that people could learn about our activities. If that is not possible, we could tell people in the streets or organize some public meetings to inform people that these special events are going to be celebrated soon so they can make plans to attend.
Let us not forget about our mothers and fathers, because they can help us. We need to tell them all about the activities we are considering and ask them how they can participate in these celebrations.
We will hold our activities and afterwards, meet to discuss how successful we were, how many people participated, what did they say about our activities, and arrive at some conclusions about our experiences. This is called evaluation.
We will probably have a lot of work to keep on with because there are always new tasks that arise from the celebration of these events. In this sense, it is very important to continue with the work, because people can be forgetful. This is known as follow-up work.
We will also continue to work on many other activities, both fun and important, so that we can have water of good quality, good health, a good environment, and good environmental health.
If we work together on the 2nd October to improve the quality of water in our schools, our homes, and our communities, we can put into practice our commitment to work for the right of all the boys and girls of Latin America and the Caribbean to safe drinking water.
To sum everything up, we are going to work hard to ensure better living conditions and a brighter future because
BOYS AND GIRLS IN ACTION CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!
|Division of Health and
PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION PAHO
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION WHO
UNITED NATIONS CHILDRENS FUND UNICEF
INTER-AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SANITARY AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERS AIDIS
CARIBBEAN WATER AND WASTEWATER ASSOCIATION CWWAÓ Pan American Center for Sanitary Engineering and Environmental Sciences CEPIS
Lima, Peru, 1999
CEPIS Director: Sergio A. Caporali
CEPIS Project Coordinator: Dr. Nora Salazar Polo