Saturday, 29 June 2013

Making Healthy Choices... and Fun!

Last week in Naddi, we took over Fun Club (the after school program) in Sheney to teach the kids about what it means to be healthy and making healthy choices. The kids were all enthusiastic as we brainstormed what it meant to be healthy, but they were even more excited when we brainstormed unhealthy things, yelling out their favorite foods - ice cream, lollipops, chocolate! Eventually, we had the kids thinking beyond food and we began to talk about how happiness, work, and friends have to do with being healthy. Next we talked about "choices" and what it means to choose something. With folded paper and color pencils, we drew healthy choices on one side and unhealthy choices on the other - careful to avoid things that we did not have control over, such as the air we breathe or diseases we're born with.

Once the kids were thoroughly antsy, sick of sitting on the ground of the Fun Club room, we herded them outside to play a game about healthy choices. The kids lined up on one side of Sheney, divided into two teams, and we put the brainstorming poster on the other side with a line down the middle, dividing it into a healthy and unhealthy side. I stood in the middle with a stack of homemade cards - healthy or unhealthy choices on each (with an image, an English label, and a Hindi label). The kids had to hop on one foot to me, get a card, hop on the other foot to the poster, and stick the card in the correct column before hopping back to their team and tagging the next person. The relay race began with cheers and yells from both sides. (The kids can always be counted on to get a little competitive!) And as they hopped across the community, women came out of their homes to watch, smiling and laughing as the kids haphazardly jumped from one end to the other. At the end of the race - amid cheering, laughing, and overall confusion about which team actually won - we gathered around the poster to go over the cards. All the kids yelled whether each choice was healthy or unhealthy - vegetables, ice cream, sleep, water, visiting the doctor, visiting the dentist, fighting, going to school, cigarettes, soda, alcohol, many more - and we moved any out-of-place cards into the right column.

As the sun began to set and Fun Club came to a close, I pulled all the kids together outside and we pledged to make at least three healthy choices every day. "What should our healthy choices be today?" I asked. In the middle of the community, we did ten jumping jacks together, shouting the number of each one, choosing exercise for our first choice. Then I handed out lichis, and we stood together, peeling away the rough skin and sucking on the juicy fruit, choosing fruit as a healthy snack for our second choice. "What will be your third?" I asked, and everyone shared what they would do - push-ups, sleep, be nice to their friends, eat dal...

This simple activity may seem unimpressive to an outsider, but it was the first health activity with the kids and we all considered it a great success. Now they are beginning to think about health, what it means to be healthy, and how all the choices they make day-to-day affect their well being. Children are the future of course, and as this generation grows up, we want to ensure that the community will continue to thrive and develop even healthier lifestyles.





Betsy Hinchey
United States of America
Rural HealthCARE Project Manager
March – July 2013

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