Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A school day in Hato Juli

Yesterday we spent a couple of hours teaching basic hygiene and nutrition to a kindergarten class. We focused on hand washing, teeth brushing, and nutritious fruits. There are mango trees everywhere, as well as coconut, grapefruit, and orange trees. The grocery stores here in Chiriqui do not sell fruit; instead, a fruit truck drives through the community periodically with fruit for sale. However, most of the fruit falls to the ground and is allowed to rot, as fruit is not generally included in the indiginous diet. So we introduced the concept of vitamins A, B, C, D, and E by holding up paper with the letter on it and linking it with a fruit. Several minutes into our presentation, we learned the children only knew vowels, so we also introduced them to consonants! Then the children were all given different fruits which they had to toss at the person holding the appropriate vitamin letter. These normally reticent and impassive kids were very enthusiastic with this activity! Hand washing techniques were improvised as best as we could, given that we had to bring our own bowls, soap and towels. Our group, in Hato Juli, was very fortunate in that the teacher had a large pot of water ready for us in the classroom when we arrived. Compare this with the groups who valiantly attempted to teach handwashing skills without the benefit of anything with which to rinse! Our small, doe-eyed pupils gazed at us with wonder when we showed them how to clean their nails with a nailbrush, ultimately admitting that none among the group had ever attempted such a feat. Everyone received a new toothbrush after a demonstration on the most effective cleaning method for the prevention of cavities. Most of the adults and older children have uniformly straight, gleaming white teeth, but the primary teeth seem to be ignored in terms of hygiene - perhaps in a reality with such scarce resources, teeth that will be discarded by the body within a few years are not considered worth any expenditure in effort. Whatever the reason, our audience with their shy, gap-toothed smiles seem perpetually entertained by their "gringos!"

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