After handing out 1,500 bottles of water , dozens of men surrounded her. I could see something interesting was going to happen, so I joined the crowd. They started off by learning a few English words with the help of a translator in the crowd. Amazing how these men are hoping their dreams will come true in a country where they don’t even speak the language. She then continued about cultural practices, like how you never ask a woman how old she is in our culture. The men listened attentively to the translator, who was speaking with such conviction that the crowd kept getting larger. He spoke like a preacher when translating our words, seemingly in much more detail than what we said. We saw a chance to spread even more information so the impromptu session turned into an educational moment which included health and personal hygiene.
The following topics were addressed: Always say ‘please’, be polite. So instead of ‘give me water’, say ‘give me water, please.’ Don’t throw your trash on the ground, but put it in the available containers that are nearby. Clean up your mess and keep the area clean. This is better for your health. Keep your nails short. When we hand out items, don’t rush to snatch everything up but stand in line and wait your turn. We promised to come back that afternoon with soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and razors, if they keep to these agreements.
So we quickly went and bought 500 tubes of toothpaste and the same amount in soap, toothbrushes and razors. We made toiletry sets from ziplock bags in the dining room of the hotel.
When we came back at 17:30, we were pleasantly surprised by the 3 queues that had been formed to receive the toiletries. A good translator was once again present. After happily receiving their items, the men dispersed in all directions once again.
To end the day we cleaned up the area with several willing volunteers. We filled dozens of trash bags together. I hope some of these lessons and practices will linger on.