90 Minutes for Dramatic Lifesaving Mass Behavior Change
It sounds like a dream come true doesn’t it but it actually happened and we don’t consider it was an accident. We’re talking about a hand washing with soap event which Health Songs International ran in Central Java and its dramatic conclusion but let’s start at the beginning. The idea for this special event came after numerous discussions with local community health workers who repeatedly told us that the lack of hand washing was the single biggest cause of preventable illness in Indonesia. We thought ‘time for a great song about hand washing with soap’ and so we gathered a team together and wrote and recorded the song ‘Mari Cuci Tangan’ or ‘let’s wash our hands’.
Designing a Special Event
We decided that we’d hold an event at a local primary school with activities and games based around learning the lyrics of the song which explain why we should wash our hands, who should wash hands (everyone of course) and also when we should wash our hands. We started promoting the event with a colouring competition two weeks before the day. On the back of the colouring competition was a crossword made up of the words to the song. The colouring competition sheet also included some interesting facts about germs and hand washing which we included to help engage parents.
We trained around 15 university student volunteers from the local Christian university as well as a drama team from the local Muslim university. All volunteers received a certificate in recognition of their support.
Accelerated Learning Principles
The program for the morning was based on accelerated learning principles combining word game and running games, short dramas, competitions, challenges and our song of course. The range of activities provided opportunities for the children to work together in teams to solve problems related to the hand washing with soap message. There were also prizes, snacks and Health Songs International certificates for the children who had completed the colouring competition from the week before.
We wanted to leave a lasting reminder for the children to always wash your hands so we invited two graffiti artists to join us for the morning. They painted two works. One was a spin on the game “Hopscotch” but using bubbles, bars of soap and clean hands instead of the traditional boxes. They also painted a wall with a happy looking boy eating with clean hands and included some of the words from the song.
The Dramas. Rahmat the boy who wouldn’t wash his hands
The 4 dramas told the story of a boy called Rahmat who was very resistant to the idea of washing his hands. He was looking forward to going to his friend Budi’s birthday party in the weekend. During the dramas Rahmat shows his lack of concern for hand washing as he eats his lunch without washing his hands, plays goalie for his local soccer team but doesn’t wash his hands before eating and worst of all doesn’t wash his hands after using the toilet. Well it seems that Rahmat gets sick and by Saturday he is too ill to attend Budi’s birthday party. The kids loved the dramas and had an opportunity to shout out to Rahmat to wash his hands and not to forget to use soap but of course Rahmat wouldn’t listen to them.
The Game Frame
We made the Game Frame out of PVC piping and nylon cord. We used this very durable apparatus in several of the games and it gave us the opportunity to involve running games with learning the words to the song. In one particular team relay game the children had to run towards the stage and pin the words of the song (which was looping over the PA system) on the Game Frame in the correct order then demonstrate to the assigned referee how they washed their hands and then return and tag the next person in their team. The first team to get the order correct was the winner. The Game Frame could be assembled in most parts of the world.
THE RESULTS WERE STUNNING.
Two weeks after the program we returned to see what the impact had been. The Headmaster was pleased to see us and explained what had happened. He told us that each day just before lunch the local town water supply would be cut off. On the first day after Health Songs had presented our Mari Cuci Tangan program the children refused to eat their lunches as there was no water to wash their hands with. The children said that Health Songs told them they would get sick if they didn’t wash their hands. The children refuse to eat their lunches again on the 2nd day and for days after this. The Headmaster eventually approached the school board who hastily arranged to have a new water tank built assuring the children they would always be able to wash their hands. The cement was still wet when we arrived.