Personal hygiene lessons in pictures, both in cities and in remote villages: how to teach good habits, how to learn good habits

Personal hygiene tips for children

Our interest is preparing guidebooks for children in remote areas to be inspired to learn how to improve their life via improving their personal hygiene. We would like to have these friendly illustrated books in Spanish plus the 21 Mayan languages of Guatemala, and also Xinka (one surviving non-Mayan language in Guatemala) and Garifuna (an Arawakan-related language on the coast).

Here I list just a few of the topics which should be covered:

  • How to teach personal hygiene to children (for parents and grandparents)
  • How to learn personal hygiene (for children (and parents and grandparents))
  • Educational pictures to help children learn personal hygiene
  • Washing your hands
  • Bathing
  • Cleaning your teeth (this list is just a starter; lots more is available from our team)
  • Cover your mouth when you cough (but if you use your hand, wash it; so best to use your arm when you cough)

Special aspects of personal hygiene out in the real world
(not often admitted in Internet returns on Search Engines).

  • If you walk without shoes, be aware of worms
  • Be aware of insects that spread local diseases: Chagas, Leishmaniasis, bot flies, etc (I can speak from person experience, since I have plucked several fat, wriggling larvae of bot fly worms (maggots) out of my body).
  • Be especially careful about entering caves or any area where animal feces collect. This kind of tip is not in 99% of the impressive web sites shown from Google returns. As a child I played in caves in the karst geology of the Ozark Mountains; and as an adult I really enjoy visiting caves of Mexico and Guatemala. But do be careful with cleanliness during and after such visits.

I initiate this page with this historical anecdote because 90% of what I found on the Internet (when I Google personal hygiene for kids) are children in cities with ample bathrooms complete with modern toilet, wash basin, plus tub and/or shower.

I too was spoiled as a child; when not at our Ozark Mountain property in summer or on weekends the rest of the year, we had three complete bathrooms in the house, as are common in many urban houses in much of the Americas and Europe (or at least two complete bathrooms). When I was a student for eight years in Austria, I was not with a family, so needed only one complete bathroom in my apartment in a house in Graz. Apartments tend to have fewer bathrooms than a separate house, especially in Europe and Asia.

But when I visit remote villages, often you find an outhouse with two seats. If you find that offensive, in the military, on a large navy ship, everyone has a communal trough: that’s right, not even a piece of plywood between you and the adjacent sailor. Sorry, that is reality. The other part of reality is that the shower and tub in more than half of many countries is the nearest river or lake. I have bathed in the spring-fed creeks of the Ozark Mountains as a child, so I feel in synch with people in equally remote areas who do the same today.

And no matter what your DNA, your ancestors in the past also used outhouses, or simply squatted on the ground. Again, sorry to be blunt, but we humans are in some aspects not all that different than some animals, and food comes in one end and goes out the other end.

So our personal hygiene tips are for the real world in the gorgeous mountains, rain forests, and yes, also in desert areas. Guatemala has a remarkable diversity of eco-systems of every elevation from sea level (both Pacific on one side and Caribbean Sea on the other side).

Many non-profit organizations in the countries of Mesoamerican area are helping to build latrines, or are helping people to catch and store rain water from their roofs so they don’t have to hike several miles to a muddy (and increasingly contaminated) river to get water. Realize that some areas are so remote that there is not even electricity yet.

And again, in case anyone things that “Americans” are advanced in everything, on our farm in the Ozarks, still today, in 2016, there is not even cellular phone service yet! And we are nowhere near as remote as rain forest or mountain villages in Guatemala (most of which do have cell phone service).

Plus, we had no running water whatsoever, and no electricity when I was a child. This experience has been very helpful to me to understand the manner in which we can assist with people elsewhere in the world to overcome the same situation: being far from a city.

Even more importantly: moving from a remote area to a city is not always an ideal solution. Frankly I would much more prefer to live in a far away rain forest than in a cosmopolitan area. I have lived in Bejing for six weeks; and I lived in Osaka, Japan for six months. I enjoyed the hospitality of the people in both of these culturally very distinct cosmopolitan areas; but I really enjoy being in remote areas of Guatemala.

I have also lived in Zurich for three years, former Eastern Germany for several years and then Western Germany several more years after the wall came down (I was giving a lecture in East Germany the day the wall came down!). And already I have mentioned my time in Graz, Austria (eight years, since my PhD thesis was rather monumental in length and the published version has over 500 illustrations).

Yet my most remarkable years were living 12 months at Tikal, Guatemala (in 1965, while a student at Harvard, living in the national park of Tikal while a student intern in archaeology). We used an outhouse there; and had to sweep the scorpions away from under the “toilet” seat before we could safely sit down. More of a challenge was to get the scorpions away from under the box that the toilet seat was bolted onto.

Then I lived for five years on the shores of Lake Yaxha (not far from Tikal). During these five years, with the assistance of capable Guatemalan archaeologist Miguel Orrego and capable Guatemalan assistants) we mapped the entire site plus I was able to work these five years to have it declared a national park during our final season. We certainly did not have a tile-lined bathroom with faucets here in the jungle. And yes, just as the Maya people do today, all us gringo students used the lake for washing and shower! So my discussion of personal hygiene is a bit different than people sitting in an urban area elsewhere in the world whose experience with the jungles is via Discovery Channel or Nat Geo channel. Fortunately there are many NGOs who are led with people also with in-situ, in-person experience in the real world (far from an ivory tower university or urban institute).

I must admit that I also was in an ivory tower for years: had three post-graduate research positions at Yale University. But I spent much of those same many years doing research in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and Belize. Yes, I had a huge library in New Haven (my own plus that of Yale), but my entire life I have preferred to learn from being out with local people and in the actual villages of Mesoamerica.

Here is part of my library from when I was at Yale (several metric tons). Even when I am at a university with its own awesome library, I prefer to do my research in my own office and my own apartment and my own personal library (and not waste time asking to borrow a book in a library).

Speaking of libraries, here are part of the literally FOUR METRIC TONS of my personal library, just for my eight years of PhD research and related studies while living in Graz, southern Austria.

I look forward to using 54 years of experience in Latin America (plus over a decade of my childhood in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri) to provide educational material for children AND THEIR PARENTS and grandparents also. Still today the highway road to our house in Missouri is not even paved. But we do have water now, since my father put a pipe from a cave behind the house which had a spring.

I feel at home in the aldeas, communidades, and areas so remote that the houses are widely separated (no streets, just narrow trails). We have been to people’s homes SIX HOURS HIKE (one way) on foot through forested mountains in Alta Verapaz (Guatemala): no roads not even for a motorcycle or bicycle.

I am inspired to help the friendly and hospitable people of all eco-systems and cultural areas, a goal which can be achieved when funding is available for the team who are available at FLAAR Mesoamerica, ready to work on projects of this nature.