Working to improve hygiene and health in Bolivia

Water and sanitationStreet ChildrenYoung people

by Felina Albornoz, Paulina Rivas and Hermógenes Lizarazu

Part of the Mosoj Yan programme in Cochabamba, Bolivia, is a ‘Motivation Centre’ which works with young female street dwellers. These people have acute health needs as they live in unhealthy and unhygienic conditions and suffer from frequent infections and an unbalanced diet.

To address this situation, Mosoj Yan has started street-based health education which has three basic steps:

  1. We encourage girls and female adolescents to visit the Motivation Centre to wash their belongings, have a shower and enjoy a healthy meal.
  2. If one of them decides to join the Motivation Centre, we explain the conditions of joining and together we make verbal and written agreements. Then she is introduced to her new family and encouraged to take care of her own personal hygiene, to take part in the household tasks such as cleaning and to join in the daily activities.
  3. Once a girl or female adolescent has decided to stay and start to change her life, she is encouraged to gain educational, psychological and spiritual development and support, and take part in creative workshops.

In order to encourage a good routine, there is a timetable of activities from the time the girls wake up to the time they go to bed.

The house rules help to regulate behaviour and attitudes. Group meetings are organised periodically to discuss participation within the house. The girls can share their views in these meetings and this process helps to ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities. Repeating this pattern enables them to form good habits.

We provide staff members who act as ‘educators’ to work alongside the girls. The participation of educators in all the activities and tasks in the house is vital because it sets a good example, gives guidance and fosters good relationships.

The educators support the girls as they prepare meals which are based on a weekly menu. As the girls are often not used to certain types of food, we have worked hard to teach them about the importance of eating different foods in order to regain their health.

We try to make the girls more aware of the need to care for their bodies by setting health objectives with each girl, and by raising awareness of health and hygiene issues through talks, videos and interactive group activities.

Results

In our work over the past few years, we have seen girls begin to enjoy better living conditions and work opportunities, overcome their fears and insecurities and start a completely new life.

Lessons learned

  • To achieve the best results, it is vital to work with street dwellers in a holistic way, and consider their feelings and self-esteem.
  • We believe that ongoing support is an essential part of our work.
  • The girls should take an active part in the process of change and should be involved in decision-making.
  • It is important to establish clear objectives with each girl, which are achievable.

Felina Albornoz is the Motivation Centre Coordinator, Paulina Rivas is the Social Productive Unit Supervisor and Hermógenes Lizarazu is a Motivation Centre Educator. Email: mosojyan@entelnet.bo Web: www.mosojyan.com


Sofía’s* testimony

When I arrived at Mosoj Yan they showed me lots of things … how to prepare meals: breakfast, lunch and even food for the dog. We swept the sitting room, learnt how to dust, to put the rubbish in its proper place, to mop the floor and polish it with wax, to keep things tidy, to sweep and clean up the patio and to water the plants. They also taught me how to clean the kitchen surfaces, the shelves and the kitchen floor.

I know that everything they have taught me is good for me.

I also learnt about hygiene. I have a bath every day and really like it. I brush my teeth, comb my hair and change my clothes.

* Not her real name