By Eva Jiménez, Volunteer, PWW Honduras
La Mosquitía is located in the easternmost part of Honduras, in the Gracias a Dios department, the second largest department in the country. The area is remote and virtually inaccessible by land. The Lonely Planet explains it as “one of the region’s last frontiers of untamed wilderness”; an area often referred to as “Central America’s Amazon.” (source)
Families who live in La Mosquitía represent indigenous groups (Miskitos, Tawahkas, Pech and Garífunas) and an important Afro-Honduran community. These families and communities continue to practice and preserve their traditions and communicate using their indigenous languages.
La Mosquitía is an area very rich in culture and biosphere. But it is also experiencing significant difficulties, partly due to low school attendance rates and very limited access to health services, safe water and sanitation systems.
To help support schools and the communities, UNICEF has been working in this area, most recently in partnership with Honduran NGO, Agua Para el Pueblo (APP). They are working to bring water and sanitation to schools, installing toilets and filters, with the goal of reducing school absences and grade repetition rates. They have experienced complications with upkeep of the facilities and the implementation of safe hygiene practices. To help overcome these challenges, UNICEF/APP brought PWW’s WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) Training Team on board.
To address the issues, PWW’s WASH Training Team scheduled a series of workshops, to be delivered in El Merendón, a mountain chain in San Pedro Sula that was one of the first protected areas in Central America. These workshops are part of a broader project that San Pedro Sula Rotary Club is carrying out, which includes building latrines and installing biosand water filters in five communities in La Mosquitía.
One of the workshops being taught by PWW is WASH in Schools. Teachers are a very important part of the community. They are not only responsible for educating the children, but they are also a primary source of community information and are very well respected. Therefore, it is essential to have teachers directly involved when working in a community to create change.
The WASH in Schools workshop has two different parts:
PART 1 is for the teachers to learn all of the technical aspects of WASH, including what kind of organisms produce waterborne diseases, how they are transmitted and how to control the transmission (water treatment and recontamination avoiding techniques), and how to maintain a latrine and sanitation system. *NOTE: Most of them already know some of the information, but it is important to make sure they have a solid understanding of the basics, so no incorrect information is spread.
PART 2 of the workshop is for the teachers to learn and practice how to share these lessons with the children in a way that doesn’t take time away from the mandated school curriculum. Teachers learn how to integrate WASH teachings into their existing curriculum, so that this information ultimately becomes a standard pillar of their education.
In order to adapt this workshop to La Mosquitía, the PWW Wash Training Team enlisted the help of Lurvin Guardado (Assistant on La Mosquitia District Education Office), Evelio Maxwel (APP Health Promoter for La Mosquitia), Giovanni Rodriguez (APP Project Director) and Lisa Mitchell (CAWST Acting Director of Education Program Development).
After the initial workshop was shared, the teams began to work collectively toward adapting it. Lisa Mitchell, of CAWST, showed the group how to create a Theory of Change.
We started with the results we wanted to achieve, with regard to improving the health and livelihood of the students, families and communities, and, specifically, how to reduce absentee and grade repetition rates at schools.
Next, we identified key behaviors we want to see happening, to measure the intended results. These behaviors include infrastructure maintenance, children treating drinking water, girls attending class during their menstruation period, teachers consistently promoting WASH in curriculum, and more.
After that, we identified what the teachers will need to know in order to be able to change undesirable behaviors. This list would later mark our lesson plans and workshop structure. We also listed the motivation triggers needed to have them committed to the programs — in this case, there were not many because the teachers in La Mosquitía are already very motivated.
Finally, Lisa explained how the process of absolving information works (working memory and long-term memory), so we could develop our lesson plans accordingly.
We amended our workshops to adapt to the new information. It took us three days and many hours (much more than the eight per day I was used to) to build the main body of the workshop. Yet, it still needed some tinkering around the edges. But we all could see that a La Mosquitía-customized workshop was unfolding.
Since our initial workshop adaptation session in El Merendón, PWW’s WASH Training Team has already gone back and delivered the WASH in Schools training to 18 teachers, 4 school district teachers, and 4 APP employees in La Mosquitía.
The participants were so happy with the training, they are asking when the rest of the teachers will receive training!
PWW’s WASH Team will be doing a follow-up in mid-October.