One of the most promoted prevention strategies for the Coronavirus has been handwashing. It is, however, deeply saddening that there are 3 billion people globally who do not have access to handwashing facilities. This includes the basics; soap and water. Whenever I take my 3-year-old to wash her hands and remind her to sing our 20 seconds home composed song to wash her hands to, I don’t give it a second thought. I don’t imagine that there are parents who are possibly trying to come up with inventive strategies, to teach their children how to prevent the spreading of germs through their hands without access to water and soap.
Since the phasing in of the reopening of schools in South Africa, I have been a vocal advocate for the schools in previously disadvantaged communities who lack water and sanitation. I, therefore, have been aware of the problem and how it has affected the education of many young lives in our country. It would be a lie, to say the least, if I said I knew how widespread the problem actually is.
Last week, as I made my debut on the brutal streets of twitter, I was pleasantly surprised, after hearing all the horror stories, that the first thing I found was very positive. I came across the #sweat4soap initiative started by Mina Guli (@minaguli). Mina started this activation as a way to give everyone everywhere an opportunity to be part of the solution to the problem created by the lack of handwashing facilities in communities all across the world.
Global Handwashing Day is on 15 October and, as a way to not only celebrate the day and create awareness but to actively make a difference, Mina has come up with an amazing initiative that will run from 10 October – 17 October 2020. She chose to start this on 10 October in celebration of her 50th birthday. Her only wish is to get as many soap bars and water stations to those in desperate need.
#sweat4soap encourages everyone; runners and walkers to walk or run at least 1km this week. Your kilometres serve as the currency required to buy soap and handwashing stations for communities in need.
1km = 1 bar of soap and every 100km’s logged as a collective secures a handwashing station.
Running with a purpose
I’m a runner, hardly professional but I used to participate in official races and charity runs BC (before COVID). It was terribly hard to find alternative ways to keep fit during level 5 lockdown when there were stringent restrictions on exercise. Once those restrictions were released, getting back onto the road was extremely tough, however, once I got started again, I was reminded of the healing qualities of a good run.
I think part of the reason I was so taken by #sweat4soap is that it gave my running a real purpose and since we have been unable to participate in running events (except virtually) this felt like a good way to connect with other runners. In my case, to connect with other people, period. To, even if it’s just for this week, focus on something else other than myself and what I am going through. Just for this week, be part of something that will be of no material benefit to me or my immediate family. To run with the sole purpose of getting as many soap bars and handwashing stations into communities as possible.
Anyone who has ever met me will tell you that I am extremely competitive. Even when there is no one to compete with, I think I create competitors in my head just to destroy them. So I have done what I do best. I turned this into a team effort where my team would literally compete with the rest of the world. Shame, that time the rest of the world don’t even know they are in competition with a small group of runners and walkers from all across South Africa!
#teamAth will use their kilometres this week to get soap bars into communities and outside of the global collective; we will be chasing as many handwashing stations (cost:100km’s per station) as we can.
As it stood on day 3 (12 October). The team has already secured the first handwashing station by logging in a collective distance of 109,53km’s. In soap and handwashing stations currency that equals, 109 soap bars and 1 handwashing station.
Imagine what we can do as a team of VK followers. Yes, the activation is already three days in, as it started on 10 October. It will however still be running until 17 October. Why not all commit to doing at least 1km on 15 October which is Global Handwashing Day. That’s a possible 391 617 bars of soap and 3916 handwashing stations. Just from VK! (In The Bossman’s voice “dai is mos gevaalik”) #teamVK #sweat4soap
Save a child
On her blog, Mina Guli writes “even before COVID, they (hands) were carrying bacteria that can cause illnesses such as Diarrhoea; the cause of death in more than 297 000 children under the age of 5 each year.”
What a shocking statistic. One we can do something about with our contribution of a 1km run or walk.
In 2018 my then 1-year-old daughter was admitted to hospital for dehydration caused by seemingly harmless Diarrhoea. Just 24 – hours after hospital admission, she was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. This meant her kidneys had stopped working. This Diarrhoea was not caused by the spread of germs due to a lack of hand hygiene but still, I felt helpless at the sight of my gravely ill daughter.
I imagine that mothers, fathers, grandparents and guardians who know the reason for the rapid spread of germs in their communities feel even more helpless at the thought of not being able to do anything about the lack of handwashing facilities.
According to UNICEF, 43% of Urban South Africans (18 million people) lack basic handwashing facilities AT HOME!
On Global Handwashing Day, let’s give of our time and of ourselves to make a meaningful difference.
To join us click on the link and follow the simple instructions https://www.minaguli.com/