Stories of Change

Arceia (right) and her siblings wash their hands at home.

Past learning about handwashing is keeping families safe in the face of COVID-19

Arceia is a student living in the Tana Toraja district of Indonesia. Her community is called Se’seng, and it’s in the mountains. It’s an area that is prone to landslides, so CWS has teamed up with families here for years. 

Back in 2015, we worked with students, teachers, parents and community leaders for a program called Safe Schools and Safe Communities. We shared information about emergency preparedness with students in 16 schools, including Arceia’s. Students learned about handling some of the risks they faced at school, including where to seek safety in the event of a landslide or how to avoid illness by washing their hands properly. It was a wide range of topics, but valuable information that is still helpful today.

Fortunately, students have not had to use what they learned about landslides. But the information about washing their hands has been helpful every day for the last five years. “Now, five years later, our teachers and students still wash their hands often with running water and soap,” the headmaster of Arceia’s school said recently. “Hand washing is a habit for students in our school. They learn the correct six steps for proper hand washing with soap from Grade One. We could not have done this without our CWS friends, who helped us install water tanks and sinks.”

Fast forward to March 2020, when Tana Toraja decided to close its schools to slow the spread of COVID-19. Because of our past work together, hundreds of students in the area–and their whole families–already knew the key prevention strategy: frequent hand washing with soap. 

Arceia recently told our team, “Our family feels grateful that CWS helped us learn how to properly wash our hands.” And one of her parents added, “This is so important now with the spread of COVID-19.” Their family, like millions of others worldwide, has heard about how important washing their hands in recent weeks. But just many of their neighbors, they were already prepared because of longstanding CWS programs.