On the occasion of the World Toilet Day (WTD), the Hapee Commode organized a two-day fun workshop for underprivileged children in a slum colony in Chennai. The workshop was held on consecutive Saturdays in November 2015 in a public hall in the colony to make the children understand the importance of hygiene, particularly the need for washing hands before eating and after using the toilet, through modules in the form of engaging games and practical exercises. The workshop was a great learning experience for the participants as well as the facilitators.
On the first day of the workshop, we built a tippy-tap – a makeshift hand-wash – for the children who don’t have access to tap water. Before the children could experiment with the tippy-tap, we played with glitter to make them understand how germs pass from one hand to the other when they shake hands with one another. After that we went to the backyard to wash our hands. Children were brimming with happiness and excitement as they waited patiently in a queue to wash their hands. We spoke about Gandhiji and how he felt that sanitation was more important than political independence. We sang the national anthem to instil a sense of patriotism in them, telling them that sanitation was an integral part of national pride.
The second day was even more interesting as we conducted a painting competition for the children. It was a rainy day in Chennai and so we chose rain as the theme. First, we asked them to name the things they associated with monsoons. They said dirt, unhygienic condition, water logging, umbrella etc. A few them shouted ‘bajji,’ crispy vegetable fries eaten on rainy days. Once we felt that the children had enough ideas to work on, we asked them to draw and paint about the monsoon. It was amazing to watch their sudden transformation. The boisterous kids got into pin-drop silence as they started sketching their thoughts on the canvas and drawing umbrellas, homes, toddlers, clouds, flowers, trees, water, love, etc…Once they were done, we put up all their paintings so that they would remember this special day of their lives.
The closing of the workshop was marked by another interesting game for the kids…Triple O Studio, a design and architecture firm, had decorated the backyard, hanging mugs on trees and ropes. We formed teams of kids – one team for each colour of mugs – and gave them balls to be dropped in the mugs meant for their respective team. The team which managed to drop the maximum number of balls in 60 seconds would be the winner. This game was electrifying as children jumped up and down the trees to try and win! At the end, we gave away the mugs to all the kids for use at home.
The two-day workshop brought out the best in me as I learned a lot from the energetic and enthusiastic kids. I also realized that children do not need tutoring – especially when it came to inculcating in them a sense of sanitation and hygiene. They just need an enabling environment to learn and adapt. All the children were aware of what was good and bad for their health and overall well-being. I am sure that the workshop removed some of their mental blocks and brought about the much-needed change in them to yearn for better sanitation, health and happiness.
In addition to the workshop, we had an online campaign for WTD providing people a platform to write about sanitation, health and hygiene. Illustrators and cartoonists showcased their talent to present some awesome work for our facebook page and blog. Special thanks to Alicia Souza and Rajesh Rajamani of Inedible India for their work.
The two days also saw the best of the volunteering spirit among organizations and individuals. We had no funds for this workshop but we pooled in our time, resources and a little bit of money. I thank each one of you for your participation in the workshop. Among the volunteers were: Triple O Studio (Tahaer, Anupriya, Sabarish and others), Prajnya (Ragamalika), Pudiyador (Udayan, Ruby) and Ravi.
– Somya Sethuraman, Founder, The Hapee Commode
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/hapeecommodepage/