The saying goes that we “always take our health for granted until we lose it.” No one yearns to run knee-pain-free quite as much as grandparents with their grandchildren! We know that if we do, it will probably mean enduring 2 days of moans, groans, and Tylenol!
But what if “taking your health for granted” sometimes could mean a good thing?
Recently, in the community of Miguel Cristiano, a Community Advocate, Walmaro, visited numerous families to talk about how health and cleanliness are integrated. Here in Nicaragua, it is just harder to maintain cleanliness due to the open nature of most of the rural homes. Not only do dogs and cats wander in and out of homes, but also chickens, roosters, turkeys, and the occasional pig. It is not uncommon to see a hen laying her eggs inside the home, next to the bed or the kitchen table.
The yard serves both as the patio for the garden and as the ‘run around place’ for all of the animals. Pigs are in their happy mud wallow next to the bathrooms, while roosters and turkeys strut their stuff in the front yard next to the lime trees. All of this leads to more challenges to keep children clean and food uncontaminated.
So Walmaro sat, patiently listened, and talked about what this set-up REALLY means for the family and for their health. Simple solutions were shared as the group brainstormed ideas:
“We clean our bathroom with Clorox.”
“Yes, at least 3 times a week.”
“Could you build a small gate on your door to keep the animals out?”
“We will build a small chicken coup, so they can sleep and lay their eggs there!”
“Maybe build an area at the back of the property for the pig?”
“Why is it so important to sweep your yard each day?”
“Do your children always wear shoes and wash their hands?”
“Do you enclose your pots and pans or at least place a towel on top to not let flies touch your plates and cups?”
As I watched, a little boy ran up to his mom and gave her a hug. He was wearing his new blue Crocs. Walmaro congratulated the mom, telling her how happy he was that she was incorporating some of the latest health lessons into their daily life.
She smiled and said that the little boy NEVER takes his shoes off now.
At another house, a little girl peeked shyly out from behind the shiny new “animal gate” at their front door.
I pondered this small reality. In the USA, all of my children never even considered that they could go somewhere without shoes – especially if there were animals! We HAD chickens, and they never came into the house. My children always washed their hands and took a daily bath. They always had access to clean bathrooms and kitchens. It was never even questioned. These simple and accessible health habits and norms enabled my children to grow up strong and healthy.
For the children in these families in Miguel Cristiano, this too will be their new reality. They will “take for granted” that these are the norms for health and hygiene.
What a lovely thing to ponder in the future for the families in Nicaragua.