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From: Help from children – Footsteps 4

How to involve children in community health and development activities

We know someone who is a teacher and a health worker. She looks after two children. One is four and one is two. She keeps them safe. She carries the little one and picks him up when he cries. She protects the bigger one from accidents. Yesterday, when the little girl went too near the stove, she scolded her. Today she helped her to cross the road and taught her how to watch for the cars.

She helps them when they are sick. She makes them comfortable, brings them food and keeps the flies away. Last month she saved the life of the little boy. He had diarrhoea and was very weak but she sat near him and gave him water through the day and long into the night. The little boy lived. Early in the year, before the rains, she noticed that the bigger girl had a sore on her leg. She took her to the medical post and the core was cured.

She helps them to grow healthy. She feeds the little boy when he is hungry; she helps the little girl to find sticks to clean her teeth. She teaches her songs to help her remember good heath habits. She plays with the boy and she plays with the girl. As they play they learn to use their hands and bodies to try out things. This teacher makes toys for them, invents games for them to play and tells stories to them. She teaches them new words.

Who is this teacher who does so much for her pupils and does it so well? She is their elder sister – and she is eleven years old”

WE KNOW A GROUP of community workers who know every bit of the village in which they work, who are accepted by everyone, who want to help their community, who will work hard (for short periods of time) and cheerfully (all the time). Last month the health worker used them to collect information about which children had been vaccinated in the village. Next Tuesday some of them will help to remind the villagers that the baby clinic is coming and they will be ready to play with the older children when mothers take their babies to see the nurse. Next month, they plan to help the school teacher in a village clean-up campaign. These community workers are the boys and girls of the village”

These short stories remind us of just how important the children in our communities can be. Often we think that improving health and developing our communities are so important that only adults can be involved. Yet children can have such an important role to play. In this issue of Footsteps, we are looking at how children can be involved in improving their communities

(Extracts from Child-to-Child by Hugh Hawes and Audrey Aarons published by Macmillans, 1979)

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