James Bourne’s hand washing project

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Since 2008 the Global Handwashing Day is raising awareness of the importance of washing hands with soap for better health. James Bourne, a project engineer at Kohler Mira in the UK, extended the one-day event to a life-changing project.

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Every year on October 15, millions of advocates promote easy ways to clean hands and provide educational resources for people who do not yet practice regular handwashing with soap. James Bourne used his sabbatical and good ideas to turn hand washing into a mission.

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From February to April 2018, James Bourne went to the faraway island of Flores in the eastern half of Indonesia. In his blog post that he wrote for Asia P3 Hub with whom he and Kohler Company partnered on this project, he mentioned that only three foreigners had been to the village of Randoria in Flores before.

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James Bourne participated in the Innovation for Good initiative of Kohler Company where associates ideate, initiate and tackle tough problems related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In workshops, associates use their experiences from everyday work to address these global challenges and come up with early prototypes.

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With a head full of ideas and concepts, James’ adventure started with a co-creation workshop with Asia P3 Hub and the local World Vision office Wahana Visi in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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During the workshop participants were alerted that globally 443 million school days that are missed each year by children. 272 million of them due to diarrhoea*. Developing Indonesia is one of the countries that is most affected by it as hand washing with soap is not yet a common practice and facing some challenges.

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Clean hands are a recipe for health and the washing hands with soap is a ‘do-it-yourself’-vaccine that prevents infections and saves lives.

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Wahana Visi has supported eleven villages in Flores since 2013 to improve villagers’ lives. Through interviews with stakeholders, the team has identified a need for better hygiene and ensuing changing behavior, especially helping to instill basic hygiene practices in schools and at home.

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One challenge is access to water. In the summer months, water around the village dries up and families have to walk long distances to fetch it from wells and streams several kilometers away. A first measure was to capture rainwater and grey water from crops and gardening. The later will be filtered through stone to be reused for these tasks again.

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With the help of bamboo, rock and other readily available materials in the village, rainwater was captured and an innovative, child-friendly hand washing station was built. Although the schools are very poor in this part of the world, some soap is available to use in a central location.

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The infrastructure part of the challenge was addressed, but the ‘software’ asked for creative solutions. The behavior of the children and the villagers had to be changed to increase the hand washing frequency. During the two months in the field, James and the team employed new ways, provided solutions, and educated the local population in workshops about the benefits of frequent hand washing.

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Once the sabbatical was over, James returned to his ‘old’ life as a changed man. His passion to build handwashing stations continued and he got to participate in the 2018 Handwashing Behavior Change Think Tank in Manila, Philippines, in October 2018. The Think Tank was organized by the Global Handwashing Partnership in collaboration with Procter and Gamble, World Vision, and Splash. James talked about his experiences on the ground and also increased the participants’ awareness and understanding of human-centered design.

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At the time, Asia P3 Hub and James also had a chance to visit some villages in the Philippines and firm up the partnership between Kohler Company and World Vision for a multi-country agreement of collaboration to tackle educating students about sanitation and access to water challenges. The project comprises schools in Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines and about 3,000 students.

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Closer to home, not geographically for James, but professionally, he participated in the first-ever Innovation for Good iPrize event in Kohler, Wisconsin, USA. Shark-tank like seven life-changing ideas and solutions were evaluated by senior management and an external innovation consultant.

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The contestants presented their project in concise 15-minute presentations to the jury and made their case why their concept should receive substantial funding for further development. James Bourne’s experience and passion topped the seven great ideas and he is the lucky winner of the first Innovation for Good iPrize.

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We cannot wait to see how this will impact the ongoing hand washing project. We will follow James’ journey and invite you to check back here for upcoming news.

*according to Global Handwashing Partnership

Source: some photos photos are courtesy of Asia P3 Hub, James Bourne, Global Handwashing Partnership

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