Field Notes

Glitter Helps Save Lives in Guatemala

by: Meredith Maines
January 15, 2013

So you never thought glitter could have life-saving properties? Well, get to know the glimmering confetti in a whole new light. When our hygiene coordinators enter schools like this one in Guatemala, they use glitter to connote germs. Imagine a game of telephone, but instead of a message, what's spread is kids' association of their hands with the transfer of germs. A quick investigation of the sparkles stuck to their fingers shows them they're all culprits, so we follow up the exercise with some hand washing techniques. Clean water, sanitation, combined with hand washing with soap have the greatest impact on individual health—kids can impart this principle to their families!

Walking through the community of La Maquina, we met Milton's family and invited them to our health and hygiene trainings for the week. His mom explained they couldn't attend because Milton was sick, the same illness that took the life of her 15-year-old daughter. Blanca, our hygiene coordinator, recognized symptoms of dehydration and hurried to gather supplies—an Oral Rehydration Spoon (ORS), ibuprofen, salt, and sugar. Using the spoon to measure the correct quantities into boiled water, Blanca demonstrated to Milton's mom how to mix the solution that could help his health improve. And it did! The rest of the week, Milton and his family were some of our most enthusiastic participants. That's the kind of thing we want to keep spreading!