Unhealthy culture

Being kept aloof for decades from health services cause them to get caught up in unhealthy living cultures. Building a healthy village is not enough by establishing a physical health facility. By building a public toilet, does not mean the population will necessarily switch from old habit of defecating into a new healthy living culture. The installation of clean water channels does not create frequent hand washing habit quickly.

There is a clear example of the rooted and rusted unhealthy culture. The married couple the Asep Fulan (not his real name) and his wife Anin (not her real name) with their three children, lived in a mound of the stinky local waste dump. The shack was very unhealthy. Garbage leachate seeped into the hut soil floor.

Hundreds of flies flew inside. The youngest toddler slept covered with gauze to protect him from mosquitoes and flies. They kept dogs and python snake as their pets! The elder son every time hugged with the dirty mutt. In the corner of the room was a dirty laundry. They wash clothes once a month and rarely take a bathe because the water source was about two kilometers away. So they piled up dirty clothes in the corner.

The family was spotted by the Odesa Foundation volunteer. From this shanty area, they were then transferred to a decent house with an abundant clean water. The foundation gave them jobs of drumstick (moringa oleifera) planting and cleaning the garden. But oftenly the couple were out of duty. One of the reasons was: they must wash clothes. They were often also reprimanded for poor work like not having the initiative to dispose of garbage. Plastic waste remained scattered everywhere. The cleanliness of Asep and Anin bodies remains neglected. The nails are dirty. When the meal time, they do not wash the hand.

The old habit of piling up dirty clothes remained intact, they washed it once a month despite the abundant clean water. Cleaning the house was not done because the garbage was still part of their mental life as if they still live in the shack of garbage mound. Hardly they had bathed, tooth brushing and hand washing despite the adequate bathroom and lavatory.

The cases of the Asep and Anin as well as that in the Cadas Gantung on the reluctance to use this new toilets prove that if humans have been deeply trapped in an unhealthy living culture, then inviting them to enter a healthy culture is not as easy as turning the hands. The dirty practices were rusty in their subconscious mind.
To fight against this unhealty life, Odesa foundation put on the cultural strategy.

By cultural strategy we mean introducing some improvement steps again and again so it become a new habit of a small group of people. We have been campaigning for a healthy life continuously so that their minds are filled with understanding about the importance of preventing disease. Local food and medicinal plant campaigns are continuing. Odesa also campaigned for the consumption of kelor leaves (moringa oleifera). Kelor is superfood because it has a large nutritional content.

We mobilize the local people to get involved in square foot garden movement by planting moringa oleifera in their small piece of home yard. The aim of this movement firstly that the family consume this local superfood. The foundation urges people to rely on their local food first for the nutrition intake. The massive campaign are being done. On the Independence Day commemoraton, we launched moringa oleifera and African leaves (Vernonia amygdalina) eating contest. This leaves prevent high blood pressure, cure diabetes, lowering cholesterol, and others.

And the most important is how to introduce a healthy culture from an early age. For that Odesa made English courses in two places, namely in Kampung Sekebalingbing and Kampung Cisanggarung. There are about 150 children participating in this course.

This course is an activity for collecting children. They are taught about healthy living, through reading, YouTube and story telling. Those who attend the course must be clean, wash their hands, cut nails and others. Occasionally they are served rice porridge with kelor and chicken. They began to used to drinking tea or to eating kelor for meal.

Under the leadership of Odesa volunteers, Andini Putri, there is health cooking training for mothers. Andini found that many mothers did not wash vegetables and other food items properly. Or sometimes the wash the stuff but don’t cut nor slice it well. For example, kangkung (Chinese water spinach) is not well cut so that leeches and eggs of earthworms are eaten accidentally.

The ongoing campaign on the importance of healthy living is a cultural strategy. Healthy living must become an individual habit which must then become a collective habit, and enter into the subconscious of the population. This effort is not easy, it takes the stamina and patience of the volunteers. In addition, it needs a network of people who have an interest in empowerment efforts, especially in terms of healthy living. (Budhiana Kartawijaya). ***

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