Mission of Healing 2021: February's Theme is Personal Hygiene

A favorite pastor picking up January
Mission of Healing materials for 
his local congregation

We rolled out the Socially Distant Mission of Healing 2021 with an introduction in January, and now we are ready to get busy with some learning and fun with our first theme:  Personal Hygiene.  Let's begin with a little song in Spanish which has no need for subtitles.

The World Heath Organization has issued a #BabySharkHandWashChallenge to encourage proper hand hygiene as part of its campaign to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  My husband found this information just this morning, and you may thank him for the song now permanently stuck in your head.

We plan to share English language resources on the first Friday of the month and to distribute the Spanish materials in El Salvador during the first or second week of the month, depending on the pastors' meeting schedules.  As I explained in January, the idea is to create or find videos which can be pushed out for families to watch on their cell phones and to create or find print materials which can be used at home or in small church groups.  Each family packet of print materials includes an instruction page like the one below.  This page gives the video links, a list of the print materials, ideas for home activities and discussion questions for a family or small group. 

The February instruction page gives 3 ideas: 1) Review the hygiene
practices at church, especially around the bathroom or latrine; 2) If you
don't have soap at home, put a little laundry soap in water to make
soapy water for hand-washing and 3) A pinch of ashes can be used when
there is no soap to kill bacteria and viruses.

We try to be very aware of environmental, cultural and economic factors as we prepare materials.  For example, we can encourage everyone to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, but how will that work for families without running water, or when the water source goes dry, or if there is no ability to get soap?   Educational materials which are relevant and inclusive, whether created from scratch or acquired from reliable organizations, must be based in good research, scientific rigor, cultural respect and local expertise. Creating safe spaces for families to talk about their challenges and realities is an important work of the church.

By recording at least one video with Salvadoran and/or US Mission of Healing team members, we hope to keep the feeling of personal attention and friendship strong.  February's homemade video is only available in Spanish, but even if you do not speak any Spanish, you can see from the pictures what the general points are, and it gives you a sense of just how home-made our resources are.

When we look for educational videos created by others, sometimes we are lucky to find the same video in both English and Spanish, like this one.

Now, you might think this is sort of a boring video, maybe too much science for you.  However, if you think about the fact that all of the students in El Salvador are learning virtually right now, as are all of the students in my home city in the US, this video is perfect for providing a simple, biology-class explanation of how a virus replicates. Supporting school learning with health themes is a win-win in my opinion.

Here are the other English videos we are sharing to promote good personal hygiene.  The first one is a nice little story for young children and the second one is an experiment you can do at home:

As you can see in the image of the February instruction page, there is a large number of handouts which accompany the videos.  As I mentioned in January, each month has a prayer card which families are encouraged to use throughout the month.  The February prayer focuses on friendship.  In El Salvador, the month of February is called el mes de amor y amistad or the month of love and friendship.  We have traditionally held the Mission of Healing during February to celebrate the love and friendship we share as local communities and international partners working together to promote health and wellness.

The activity sheets which we have for children are gathered from various free online sources or from global public health departments.  Many states in the US have wonderful resources online on a wide variety of health topics.  Here are a few examples:

This story includes a coloring, cutting and pasting
story board activity with it.

By gathering multiple free site images, we
create coloring books of our own.  And
if we cannot find anything, we draw our own images.

We try to include coloring pages for adults
and for older youth as a way for them to have
fun and reduce stress. Happy month of love and friendship!

The educational materials for February include information about safe food handling.  We wanted to talk about personal hygiene not only as what we do for the outside of our bodies to keep us healthy, but also what hygiene practices we can use to keep us from getting sick by what we put into our bodies.  Our source for this information came from the US CDC (Center for Disease Control) Spanish language resources.  We tweaked the information to fit the local culture in El Salvador.  The English information on the CDC site is OK too!

One of the health challenges which is pervasive in rural communities in El Salvador is Typhoid.  In 2020, we included a teaching station* specifically directed at reducing the impact of Typhoid on families in the communities we love and serve.  Good hand and food hygiene do help to prevent Typhoid infection, and the Spanish language materials include a detailed tool for families specifically addressing contamination vectors and treatment for this disease.

Studies have shown that in the United States, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, about 40% of adults did not routinely wash their hands after using the bathroom.  Studies show that the impact of the pandemic has reduced that percentage to about 30%.  So, while we might think simple hand-washing is an important topic for Salvadorans who live in challenging circumstances, we might just want to take this month to consider our own behaviors in our own homes and public bathrooms.  Just listen to Baby Shark!

*The Typhoid teaching charla was led by Tim last year, which is why he is the featured narrator in the Personal Hygiene video this year.  Look carefully and you will see him holding a giant poop emoji.  More about poop next month!


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