It’s about the children

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When you come right down to it, it’s for the children. We were able to sit with these young children here. We also spent time sitting and talking with teen boys and girls like these.

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When you do that, you can see the universal hope that parents have for their children.

Today in the village of Bugya we saw the incredible efforts that families, teachers, health promoters, government officials and others are contributing to make lives better for these children. And the children and teens were so impressive. Well-behaved, articulate, smart, fun. They spoke at length with us in groups. They held our hands to guide us around. They made sure we had chairs to sit on. One boy spent an hour figuring out how my Apple Watch works. (I only stopped him when he found my credit cards in Apple Pay!)

We witnessed a village that has embarked on an ambitious program of integrated development and community improvement, with the assistance of CRS, the government, especially the education, health, and water and sanitation departments.

CRS has been in this northern part of Ghana for decades, often helping families with school feeding programs. Now CRS is assisting this community, and 138 total communities, in an integrated program called I-SHINE (The Integrated Sanitation, Hygiene, and Nutrition Project).

Some of the highlights that we witnessed today include the community-wide effort of eliminating open defecation and transitioning to household latrines.

We also learned about the addition of changing rooms for girls where they can change their pads when they menstruate. Without these rooms and the education of girls (and boys) about this natural part of life, these girls in the past would skip school during those days of the month or drop out altogether.

Other aspects of I-SHINE that we witnessed were efforts to improve water quality through sustainable wells. The importance of proper hand-washing is stressed in school. The children learn how to use, and even build, tippy-taps (pictured here) at school and home.

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Bugya, where we visited today, is just one of 138 communities in northern Ghana that is part of the I-SHINE project. At the end of the day, we 11 university faculty gathered CRS staff here in northern Ghana to express our admiration for the coordinated efforts by the citizens of this village, along with support from CRS and the government officials, all working together so that these children and young adults will have substantially healthier lives and futures.

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