Drink and Grow: Healthy hydration in Kindergartens

Drink and Grow: Healthy hydration in Kindergartens

By Michele Rankin, Palms participant in Balibo Timor Leste since 2016. Featured image: Batugade Kindergarten installation – [from the left] Kindy teacher Elen, Michele, Anjelica and two volunteer teachers assistants.

The Balibo 5 Community Learning Centre delivers a range of projects and initiatives subject to community needs. One of my favourite projects in 2023 was H2Osborn project. This project was delivered by Balibo-based Project Manager Ella Soares under the guidance of myself as the Project Manager Mentor and my daughter Anjelica as the Communications Mentor.

The team looked at how a small project could make the biggest impact on schools/communities. With my involvement in the Kose Nehan (oral health and prevention program), I have seen a huge increase in oral disease amongst young children since 2016. Drinking water is excellent for oral health because it prevents plaque build-up.  Studies also show that drinking water will help children improve mental and physical health – improving cognitive clarity, muscle function, blood circulation, food digestion and maintaining body temperature.

Balibo is affected by water shortages in the dry season, flooding in the wet season and overall poor water quality. The main barriers to addressing the water problems are the cost of infrastructure, inadequate governance and poverty. Water taps, wells and pipes that deliver water are not always maintained, accessible or affordable. Unfortunately, the lack of access to safe drinking water at schools and kindergartens in Balibo is a sad reality.

The H2Osborn project was implemented to mitigate water issues at a grass roots level. 

Logo Design and Kindy Poster design by Anjelica and Ella

Fifteen classrooms were fitted out with a water filtration package and kindergarten staff were trained on how to maintain the units. Each installation package contained a water filtration unit, drinking cups, tables, tablecloths and cleaning materials. All products were locally sourced or created by community members and groups, such as the tablecloths which were made by the Balibo Women’s Centre. Approximately 396 kindergarten children between the ages of 3 to 5 years benefitted from this project.

Unit maintenance training by Ella [far left] at Leohitu

St Antonio kindergarten was also given access to water by installing onsite infrastructure. Previously water was carried in daily with a small bucket to only service the toilets. The current water infrastructure was dilapidated/non-existent. Under the project a pipeline to a water supply was connected. A water tank, stand and pump were purchased and installed. Now the kindergarten has full access to water.

Mentoring Ella throughout this project has been delightful. Her increased self-confidence was evident when training others and negotiating access to the water supply for St Antonio Kindergarten clearly demonstrated advanced negotiation skills. Another plus of the project was being able to contribute to the economic growth of the local community. 100% of supplies and materials were purchased locally. I believe that it is a basic human right to not only have access to water but to have access to safe drinking water.

Despite distances and terrain (sometime challenging my driving ability!), our project team was determined that all kindys in the area would benefit from this project.

Although I am involved with a few other water projects on a bigger scale this project affected me emotionally on all levels. I count myself as very fortunate to be part of this project thanks to Cherrie Osborn, Palms Australia, Balibo House Trust and my wonderful team at the Balibo 5 Community Learning Centre.