One of the most delightful activities that both the Hesperian Foundation and Project Piaxtla have become involved with during this past year is the so-called CHILD-to-Child Program.

The idea of the program, in brief, is to interest and involve school age children in helping meet the basic health needs of their younger brothers and sisters. This is especially important in poor countries and communities where the families tend to be large and where older children do much of the caring for the younger ones.

At the invitation of David Morley of the Institute of Child Health in London, I joined an international group of educators and community health people in England last April in order to plan the CHILD-to-Child Program, which will be a part of the International Year of the Child (1979). Together we drafted a dozen or so possible “activities” based on our diverse ideas and experiences from working with village children in many corners of the earth. The activities looked good on paper—but they still needed to be tried out.

The Hesperian Foundation and Project Piaxtla have become involved with during this past year is the Child-to-Child Program.

Back in Mexico, the health workers of Project Piaxtla, the primary school teachers, and the school children of Ajoya helped in the pilot testing of several of these activities. The response of the children, teachers, and health workers was enormous. I have included with this newsletter an English translation of an article on the Ajoya school children’s involvement in the CHILD-to-Child Program. (I recently prepared this article for inclusion in El Informador, a periodical publication of the Guatemala-based “Comité Regional de Promoción de Salud Rural,” of which Martín and I are members.)

The most exciting outcome of the CHILD-to-Child trials in Ajoya is that these Mexican village school children have taken tangible action to help school children in other parts of the world. They are doing this by making special measuring spoons out of bottle caps and old juice or beer cans. These spoons are used to measure and mix the right amounts of sugar, salt, and water to give to a baby (or anyone) with diarrhea in order to help prevent or correct dehydration. Because the dehydration that results from diarrhea is one of the major causes of death in infants in the world today, it is extremely important that the children and their mothers know how to prevent and correct it. It is safe to say that if the school children (and their mothers) of the world learned how to make and use these “rehydration spoons” correctly, these simple spoons made out of old bottle caps and beer cans could do more to reduce infant mortality today than all the hospitals and doctors on earth!


Simple ‘rehydration spoons’ made out of old bottle caps and beer cans could do more to reduce infant mortality today

But first, there was one big stumbling block. Although the school children, teachers, and health workers had been given instruction sheets showing how to make these spoons, no one had taken the initiative to make them. Not until I made one myself and gave it to them. With the sample in their hands, the children began to make more spoons for themselves and had a great time doing it. They demonstrated to their mothers how to use them, and later put on a public demonstration.

The children of Ajoya, recognizing the importance of having an actual sample spoon and not just instructions, determined to make sample spoons to be sent with the CHILD-to- Child activity sheets to school groups around the world. Already they have made several hundred spoons. These have been sent to the CHILD-to-Child headquarters in London, whence they will be mailed to Ministries of Health and Education throughout the developing world, to health program leaders, and to anyone who will put them to good use. With each spoon will be sent a cover letter from the children of Ajoya asking that the spoons be given to classes or groups of children, encouraging them to in turn produce yet more spoons, and so on, until through a pyramid of children to children, a great many schools and villages are reached.

School children from the Peninsula School in Menlo Park, California and from a few other schools in the U.S.A. have also become involved in making and dispatching these spoons.

Whether or not this pyramid of children helping children across international boundaries will succeed remains to be seen. If it doesn’t, it will not be for lack of good will or hard work on the part of the children…

And even if the spoons do not reach far and wide, the making of them has helped give, school children in both a Mexican village and a few U.S. towns a sense of active concern for the well-being of other children in other lands. Also it has been loads of fun!
—David Werner