When establishing a school dental program in the Shree Himaljyoti school near the village of Bhattedande in 2006, the school principal requested some of the dental funds be used to install taps and sinks at the school toilets.
The principal explained there would be no school based toothbrushing unless these essential units were in place. The school had toilets but no facilities for hand washing let alone for tooth brushing.
The dental program paid for the sinks and taps, which meant the children could now wash their hands, and the tooth brushing program commenced.
In a sense this was the engagement that led to the future teeth and toilets marriage.
Further discussions with the villagers of Bhattedande revealed a lack of sanitation in the whole village. A handful of houses had ageing toilet systems, and water for washing and drinking was available for one hour per day from communal tap points.
With the expert guidance from Paul Pholeros of Healthabitat and working with CHDS Nepal, a local NGO, the whole village was involved in a toilet and waste system construction program which used local skills, labour and management teams. Water was later provided to the village by the local municipality.
The project was registered with the Rotary Australia World Community Service, through which tax deductible (in Australia) donations are processed. Donors are matched directly with families receiving the toilet systems, and other funds are used directly for the village and school dental programs.
The teeth and toilets program expands to other villages.
The sanitation program moved next to two nearby villages – Arubot and Dandagaun. The children from both villages attend the Shree Kali Devi School and when discussing the possibilities of a school dental program with the principal and staff, sanitation issues at the school again were highlighted.
The school has 400 children enrolled in both primary and secondary classes, with no functioning toilets or taps. Two previous projects had left behind a combination of blocked old toilets and incompletely constructed new toilets.
The village toilet management and construction teams swung into action to rehabilitate the old systems and complete and connect the new ones, resulting in five working toilets at the school. Taps and sinks were also constructed, and the school contributed rainwater collection tanks.
Once these works were completed, we were able to start the dental program at the school.
The construction teams then returned to the job of building toilets and waste systems in the villages.
Slowly the teeth and toilets layers were built up
- villagers now have working toilet systems, taps for handwashing, small racks for soap and toothbrush storage
- CHDS Nepal provides information sessions on the importance and techniques of handwashing and toothbrushing
- children at the school have working toilets, the ability to wash hands, and a daily toothbrushing program
- teachers are involved in both the sanitation and dental aspects of the program
- dental camps are run to provide preventive dental care for the school children and their families.
In December 2015 the program became known as the Nepal Village Health Improvement Program.