Participación adolescente

LACVOX Red Regional de Adolescentes Comunicadores, América Latina y el Caribe


Wash your hands. Everybody’s doing it !

© UNICEF/Suriname/2008/Windzak
10- year old Martin (left)confidently stands behind the big bucket, accompanied by his friend Dinesh. The boys explain what the right steps are to germ- free hands.

By Zarissa Windzak, Suriname, Member of the Regional Adolescent Communicator Network, LACVOX

They’re on the doorknobs, your toys, the bed sheets and even on your hands. Germs. Manisha and Martin are planning a complete elimination of these small terrorists. How? By simply washing their hands with soap. 

Suriname, 15 October, 2008 -“When I was much smaller my mother used tell me to wash my hands all the time. Now she doesn’t have to,” Manisha (11) says. As she strolls to the centre of the elementary school, she explains what’s about to happen. “We’re going to teach our friends how to wash their hands the right way so they won’t ever get sick due to germs.” Manisha is accompanied by Martin (10) and about thirty other schoolchildren. In the middle of the schoolyard there’s a table. On that table there are two buckets: A red one and black one. Even though all eyes are pointed to these buckets, everyone knows no treats will be jumping out of them.  “You’re supposed to make sure both hands are wet, squirt a bit of soap on one hand and rub your hands together. It’s important that your fingertips are clean too, because the germs like to hide under your nails,” school nurse Aretha explains.

As the “Global Handwashing day” starts in Suriname the kids at the Latour elementary school put up their drawings. Each of the drawings contains characters washing their hands. During the past week they’ve all worked on showing what they know about the importance of washing their hands. Next to the different colorful drawings posters are also put up, which show the steps to clean germ-free hands.

© UNICEF/Suriname/2008/Windzak

“In the whole world millions of kids are dying of diarrhea. Our bodies carry a lot of germs. Some are harmless, but others can be really dangerous. You can’t tell how bad they are because you can’t see the germs. The germs are transmitted to others through your hands. So if you don’t wash your hands, others get infected with your germs. Like you they also can get sick,” the school nurse continues telling the children.

Martin knows just what she’s talking about. Martin (10): “My big brother never used to wash his hands. Even though my mother warned him a couple of times, he’d never listen. If he went to the bathroom he never even wash his hands. When he got diarrhea he finally started putting his hands under the faucet. I guess he realized I was right.”    

The golden rule of this day is specifically to use soap when washing hands. In the school’s bathroom Manisha uses the hand sanitizer as soap. Afterwards she dries her hands off with towels. This is much different than what she does at home. “I wash my hands with Ozon powder soap. I don’t mind because it smells really nice.” She admits she never thought that drying off her hands with paper towels would be better than using cloths; but after school nurse Aretha showed how germs can stick to the wet cloths, she’s thinking about telling her mother to use towels instead of just cloths to dry off their hands.

“It’s just important to wash your hands before and after eating, going to bathroom or playing. Just because of all the germs on your hands. If you don’t clean your hands, you’ll get sick and probably won’t be able to play anyway,” Martin says.  After the little demonstration from the nurse how to wash their hands he and his friend Dinesh take their places behind the two buckets, with Martin behind the black one and Dinesh behind the red one. If the school nurse can do it perfectly, so can they. 

The other kids must have thought the same thing because not long after the demonstration the school’s bathroom is to crowded to even go in. Everybody feels like washing their hands.

(Zarissa Windzak, Suriname)

For more information
Ana María Ortiz,, UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.





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