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Clean Hands and Empowered Communities

Guest Post by Jenna McAnulty

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It’s a warm Friday afternoon, school is out, and 200 children are gathered around a plastic bucket on a rust-colored stand. This is Asante Africa Foundation Program Lead, Mary Kwena’s homemade hand washing station — and the students are there to learn how to scrub between their fingers, and so much more. The natural curiosity within each child draws them closer as they listen to Mary explain how things like the common cold and stomach flu are spread.

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Most of these students have siblings, so the knowledge they gain here will not stay here. Mary hopes her lesson will create a ripple effect that spreads a new skill — a new power — to hundreds of children and adults throughout the community. The children’s expressions are varied, but focused. Some are confused, but most are curious and excited to learn.

Their opportunities to learn are underscored by one of Asante Africa Foundation’s central beliefs: knowledge is a gift and should be shared. Very quickly these students understand it is their responsibility to their community, to “pay it forward” — to use what they know to help a friend, or teach their own families.

The hand-washing lesson was about empowering each child to take pride in, and ownership of their own body — to protect themselves and their community. Mary’s approachable, fun, and relatable way of teaching encouraged the children to ask questions. They could ask questions that are silly, serious, or even scary. What is most important though, is that they walked away feeling stronger than before.

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The work being done through Asante Africa Foundation goes far beyond building academic knowledge. This simple lesson on hand washing techniques created many new leaders and a much healthier community of learners.

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