When I joined the celebration in Na Dan #1 village for their certification as a “Community with outstanding achievement in obtaining Open Defecation Free status”, I could see the happiness and excitement on the face of each person I met, especially Lo Van Nhoi, the young head of the village. Before the celebration day, Nhoi had worked very hard to make it happen and I was happy for him, and all the Na Dan #1 families, for his efforts. In reviewing the journey to the certification day, Nhoi told me this: “Just last year, there were only about 20 families using sanitary latrines. As the head of the village, I wanted to encourage other families to do so as well, but it was hard, and I did not know how to do it efficiently”. Then, Nhoi added, “When I heard that CWS would work with villages in the commune, I was glad to be chosen to join the four-day training course about Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which I came to see was a very efficient method for mobilizing people to improve their knowledge and changed their attitudes and thinking for safer behavior”.
Once he finished the course, Nhoi immediately registered with the commune People’s Committee to have a start-up event in Na Dan #1, and it was a big success. As planned, by the end of the gathering – which is designed to shock people about the dangers of open defecation – his neighbors and friends were, truly, surprised to learn that open defecation is responsible for transmitting diseases into the environment and onward to them and their children, especially. The start-up event was then followed by a sanitary latrine-building session in the village so that people had hand-on experience, confidence and motivation, including peer pressure, to build family latrines.
Now, with the outstanding achievement of being 100% open defecation free, Na Dan #1 village decided collectively to use their small cash award to refurnish their Culture House with new tables and chairs for more pleasant community gatherings, meetings. “It is great that we could decide together what we needed the most, and we all wanted tables and chairs, so we can use our Culture House more often for meetings and gatherings, instead of having to impose on one family to use their house, as we used to do,” Nhoi explained.
And, for me, a field-based CWS Project Officer, I see once again that donor support for sanitary latrine promotion is not only for healthier living environments and good basic hygiene, but also as a catalyst for us to return to help facilitate more community development in the future.
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