Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Kianda Foundation, through Kimlea Girls’ Technical College, has been running an initiative known as Smartika Mimi, a hygiene and nutrition training program for primary school pupils in Limuru area. The public schools provide education for many children of labourers in the tea plantations in the area. Most of these families live at subsistence level and it is common to find a family of 5 cramped in a one roomed home.
The aim of Smartika Mimi is on personal and environmental hygiene for the preservation of dignity as well as the prevention of communicable diseases. Communicable diseases, like typhoid, dysentery and diarrhoea, are prevalent in the area for lack of proper sanitation, a situation made worse by shortage of clean running water, inadequate toilets facilities – one toilet normally serves a number of families on the plantation. Children bear the brunt of these diseases because the little food and nutrition they get cannot be properly absorbed into their bodies. So Smartika Mimi was conceived to promote general hygiene through practical sessions that point out to the students’ details of good hygiene, how to improvise with readily available materials such as ash and sisal and how to recycle small scraps of old soap.
The initiative has been a great success. The children who have attended the sessions are called “Agents of Change”, and they live up to their name by practicing what they have learnt and instructing others at home and in school - even adults on what they have learnt. There are visible changes in the children and the teachers note that they are more careful about oral hygiene, bath-taking and care to keep their clothes clean. They also are concerned to keep their classrooms clean, and ensure that the compound is clear of trash as they have proper garbage disposers and re-use what they can.
The effects of the program are being felt even at home. Parents became curious about the program, and reached out to teachers to learn more. The trainers therefore organized a training session on soap making for the parents at ‘Kibubuti Primary School’ and at ‘Limuru Mission Primary School’, and an impressive 100 parents participated in both sessions. Soap, so usually taken for granted, is something many families in the area cannot easily afford, although it is a key element for proper hygiene. The parents were therefore eager to learn how to make liquid soap so as to save the money they would otherwise use on commercial soaps and to earn some extra income. They were taught how to produce the soap in commercial quantities for sale to colleagues, friends, neighbours and local shops. The sessions were held in the open air, with masks on as a precaution during this time.
At the end of the session, each parent received a bottle of liquid soap for domestic use, and with the knowledge that they have, they can top it up.