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Kate's Story: Hygiene champion

Kate's Story


When disasters strike, true leaders, however young, will often emerge

Championing hygiene in schools

Young leaders|Teaching others|Staying healthy

Kate is a hygiene champion protecting her fellow students from water borne diseases in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

Kate Buenaventura was already a natural leader in her school before Typhoon Haiyan struck her community of Leyte in the Philippines. 

At 15-years-old, Kate is soft spoken but sharp and confident, which explains why she was elected student president of her school in 2013. She was just a few months into her last year of school when Typhoon Haiyan hit. Large stretches of the school’s tin roof were ripped away and the towering courtyard trees were uprooted through the concrete. Books, papers, chairs and desks were drenched by the torrential rains.

Determination to help

Kate’s extraordinary determination pushed her forward despite the destruction surrounding her.

All was washed out, all facilities were devastated and we bore in our minds 'we cannot graduate.’ But I am strong. I must be. I uphold the name of the school. As president, I had to make plans to go back to before Yolanda.

Sickness from the storm

hand washing in the Philippines saves lives

In the aftermath of natural disasters such as typhoons, water related illnesses are one of the greatest risks to public health. Hand washing stations, latrines and systems to deliver clean water can be lifesaving. During the weeks following Typhoon Haiyan, the absentee rate at schools across Leyte increased significantly as students fell ill and stayed at home.

International Medical Corps installed new water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and repaired damaged facilities at 141 schools in just eight months in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, including Macarthur National High School.

Spreading the word

Yet shiny new hand washing facilities would not, on their own, keep the students safe from dangerous diseases. Installing new taps and water systems is just the first step towards recovery because communities, particularly children, must be trained how to use them properly.

Kate was selected to become the hygiene champion for her school and received training from International Medical Corps nurses and WASH experts on topics like food preparation, rubbish disposal, hand washing and hygiene while using latrines. She then went on to share these lessons with the students in her school.

Now, Kate says, student absences due to illness have dropped thanks to the new hand washing station and hygiene promotion activities, which have helped prevent the spread of infectious diseases between students. She recalls:

Before, we had no hand washing station and we could not ensure sanitation for ourselves. We are so glad that our school was chosen.

An International Medical Corps volunteer teaches handwashing to students after Typhoon Haiyan

While parents, teachers, students and other community members affected by Typhoon Haiyan began to rebuild their lives and clean up homes, markets, roads, and schools, International Medical Corps sought to support these efforts, and those of the Government of the Philippines. In coordination with the Department of Education, we identified 100 priority schools across Leyte Province and an additional 44 schools across 12 municipalities to receive WASH assistance, reaching nearly 60,000 students in total. Schools with damaged latrines, water supplies, and washing facilities were repaired and schools that lacked such amenities received them brand new.

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