Samaritan’s Purse is providing a better future for teachers and children through water, sanitation, and hygiene projects.
Alma Talipasan is a day care teacher in the Philippines who struggles to make ends meet. Yet she chooses to sacrifice the little she has because it pains her to see the children suffer.
“We earn little. It’s not even enough to sustain our daily needs,” she said. “But the children need it more than me.”
Alma spends her own money to buy bottled water for the children. Her classroom lacks clean drinking water, toilets, and hand-washing stations.
Access to clean water and properly built latrines is a problem in the Philippines, as more than 26 million Filipinos use unhygienic facilities. It’s not uncommon for septage to end up in culverts or in the ocean. Poor sanitation and hygiene can lead to waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
Children are one of the most vulnerable populations to these diseases, and maintaining proper hygiene practices can be challenging in day cares and schools, especially in Cotabato province. Samaritan’s Purse is improving the quality of life for Alma and other day care teachers and children in Cotabato, one of the nation’s poorest provinces, by providing clean water, latrines, and hygiene education.
Desperate for Help
Alma usually has no choice but to send children home to use a latrine because the day care lacks these facilities. She also enlists help from parents to haul water from a hand pump at a nearby home so the children can wash their hands.
“When children go home to use the toilet, they miss out on some of the lessons taught,” Alma said. “This hinders their education.”
Over time, the burden of responsibility for both the children’s education and personal well-being began to weigh on Alma. She didn’t know where to turn for relief.
“I have long been waiting for help, but it seems like nobody heard,” she said. “Every day is a struggle.”
Samaritan’s Purse helped move the day care center from an old, condemned building to a safe, permanent site. We then built latrines and hand-washing stations, and taught children and parents healthy hygiene practices.
Parents are relieved to finally have a safe, healthy environment where their children can learn.
“My child knows the proper way to wash her hands and brush her teeth, and she doesn’t want to skip classes anymore,” said Simeon Angkal.
Parents aren’t the only ones grateful that Samaritan’s Purse stepped in to help. Alma’s passion for teaching has been renewed.
“Thank you, Samaritan’s Purse, for giving me inspiration to teach and for helping the children,” Alma said. “I now realize that I play a big role in the lives of the children.”
Water Is Life
Narcia and Anisa teach at two different day care centers in a coastal area of Cotabato that’s far from the nearest town of substantial size. Neither of their centers have access to potable water.
Every day, teachers in this area carry water from a community well. Although the water isn’t clean, it’s their only sustainable option.
Sometimes Narcia and Anisa use their own money to buy drinking water for children in their classes.
Last year, Samaritan’s Purse constructed hand-washing and latrine facilities and hand pumps in both day cares. We also provided hygiene training and taught teachers how to filter the water so they can help children avoid waterborne diseases.
“I don’t have to fetch water from the unsafe wells, and my children won’t have to drink that water anymore,” Anisa said, her tears evidence of overwhelming thanksgiving. “Water means life to us. Samaritan’s Purse gave us hope.”
Changing a Family
Some day care teachers lack latrines in their centers and don’t even have the option of sending children home to use one.
“Most of their houses are far from our center, and I can’t leave them to walk home alone since their parents aren’t there to assist them,” said teacher Normina.
Even if the children lived near the center, that wouldn’t solve the problem because many don’t have latrines at home, either.
When Samaritan’s Purse built latrines at the day care, it wasn’t only Normina and the children who benefited—our emphasis on hygiene and health also left an impression on parents.
When Normina and the teachers led hygiene lessons, parents attended. When children told their parents about the new latrines at their school, they listened. Some parents have even started construction on latrines at their homes.
“For some families, having a toilet is a luxury,” Normina explained. “But when they realized the importance of a latrine in their homes, the luxury became a need.”