Making Handwashing Child-friendly (translation of Westdeutsche Zeitung article)

Westdeutsche Zeitung article screen captureWestdeutsche Zeitung article screen capture Note: This is a translation of an article that appeared in Westdeutsche Zeitung, a large regional newspaper in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, on February 8th. The original article is available on the website or as a screencap here.

By Sabine Schmitt

The flu is going around Monheim. Why? It is in part because not many people wash their hands correctly—though the concept is easy to teach, even to children.

Paula and Candela are 9 years old. They rub their hands with soap under the sink, singing and smiling. Their song sounds like the nursery rhyme “Are You Sleeping?” but the words are different—they’re about washing your hands.

The song is being taught by hygiene experts from the Ecolab team in Monheim, and knowing the lyrics to this tune could also help adults in this cold and flu season. Whoever sings this in their head or out loud, automatically washes their hands the right amount of time to wash bacteria and germs away.

Why is Ecolab helping children in Monheim learn to wash their hands correctly? The world’s leading provider of technology and services in the specialties of water, hygiene and energy, Ecolab has been working in the USA, Mexico and China to bring education about water, hygiene, and sustainability to children four years old and up since 2014. Ecolab and U.S. nonprofit organization the Project WET Foundation developed the Clean and Conserve Education Program together. Yesterday, the program in Monheim—and indeed throughout Germany—was officially launched, with 100 students visiting the Ecolab offices in Baumberg. Kids from the Armin-Maiwald school will come next.

Hygiene, germs, water, and sustainability sound like unwieldy themes to start off with, but they really aren’t. Twenty-five of the Ecolab’s 500 Baumberg employees volunteered to learn how to teach kids on these topics, how to make the lessons child-friendly and how to become official water and hygiene “ambassadors” for Ecolab.

For the employees, the lessons weren’t over after these students had left. They had already committed to continuing to teach children through these fun activities—voluntarily and outside of standard working hours.

Ecolab employee Tobias Personke is one such water and hygiene ambassador.

“I have kids myself. They are three and seven,” Personke said, adding that it was a personal issue for him to bring young people closer to the topics.

It is also because water is eternally valuable. That’s why Ecolab volunteers asked the students, “Do you have any ideas about how someone can save water?”

The kids knew this answer. “Shorter showers,” said one.

“Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth,“ said another.

Meanwhile in a big room where employees would otherwise hold meetings, the secret of how soap works to carry away germs was revealed—and naturally everyone would wash their hands. Was it fun to learn?

“Yes,“ said Paula and Candela. And did their hands get cleaned well?

“Yes,” and a simple test showed them the results: Paula and Candela held their hands under a UV-light that would make the “germs” visible. There wasn’t anything there.

Translation prepared by Katherine Morrison, Project Assistant intern


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