Scene 3: All Hands on Deck


We had gotten the boards prepared; they were cut, painted, and ready for handprints.  Nobathembu had contacted the crèches for us and they would be arriving at the WaSH facility today at 11am and 1pm prepared to participate in the activity.

Cast of Characters:

Nick & Katelyn, Caretakers, Nobathembu, Children of Langrug, and Owetu (“Jack”)


The laughter of children filled the air as they gathered around to get their hands painted on. The wind was gusting haphazardly, occasionally causing the black tarp to flutter and gently kicked up the dirt and dust surrounding the area. Looking around the area, a line of children formed and they were waiting anxiously for their turn to leave their mark for the WaSH centre’s new work of art. As the first little girl to lifted her hand to reveal the print a smile erupted ear to ear. That was only the beginning.

Actions & Observations:

Nick pulled out the “banana milkshake” yellow painted plywood we painted last week and set it down on the black tarp. As one of the caretakers noticed the wind blowing the tarp, she brought over six rocks of all sizes to hold it down. I brought out the paintbrushes and four paints we purchased for the children – orange, blue, green and purple. The stool and hand towels were in place in the WaSH facility waiting to be used by the many children with rainbow painted hands. I called Nobathembu and invited her to join us to help out and observe the event she helped put together. All that was left was the arrival of the children from the crèches at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. After 11:00 am had well passed, Nobathembu told us she just found out the crèches wouldn’t be able to make it today.


In order to not waste a day in Langrug, we decided to invite any child who was around the WaSH facility to join us for hand painting. There were children hovering close by, curious about what we were doing with the boards and paint. When we waved them over, they cautiously came closer and closer until we could tell them what we were up to. Luckily, one of the caretaker’s daughters was able to speak English and understood what we were saying. She excitedly told the other children what we were doing and invited them to join us in Xhosa. These four children got in line, picked their colors and painted their hands on the board. I then took the first girl, the caretaker’s daughter, to rinse off her hands in the outside bucket. We stuck our hands up in the air to keep her hands from dripping paint in the facility and ventured to the sink to finish washing her hands. She knew how to use the soap and water faucet on her own. She scrubbed and scrubbed until there was no sight of the orange paint. I then helped her dry her hands. From this point on, she was our right hand woman, directing and helping the other children with washing their hands, while helping us cross the language barrier with the other children, too.


As the day went on, we expected the children to come and go as they painted their hands on. However, the children were so excited about this project that they stuck around for the whole day. Other children were helping us with this project, too. One of the girls claimed the bucket hand washing station where she scrubbed everyone’s hands that had a speck of paint on them – even Nick and I were taken by the hands and cleaned of all paint. One of the boys was also adamant about helping dry hands for all of the children. The caretakers were a big help with facilitating the washing of hands inside the facility. With all of this help, Nick and I decided we should invite more children to paint their hands.  The caretaker’s daughter asked the kids to go get other friends to join us in hand painting. They all dispersed quickly and came back with new smiling faces within a few minutes.


Once all of the children who were around printed their hands on the board, Jack came over to join us and suggested we paint the children’s feet too. A few kids got to put their feet on the board before the mess became too big. Coming from the facility with black and blue markers in his hand, Jack gestured and spoke to the children in Xhosa telling them to write their names next to their prints. A few of the children, with the help of Jack and the caretakers wrote their name and age next to their prints. At this point, Nick and I took a step back and let the children, caretakers, and Jack take the lead of their own project. It was a wonderful sight to see, as they were all so enthusiastic and supportive about the children writing their own names. After name writing ended, we brought our day to a close by packing up the paints, tarp and boards and saying goodbye to all of the children after a great day.

scene12-2        scene12-1


Looking back on our day, we didn’t plan for the crèches to not be able to come, but we made the best of the situation and had a great day with the children of Langrug. All of the children appeared to have a blast and enjoy their time at the WaSH facility with us. The children were able to leave their “print” on their WaSH facility, with our hope of encouraging them to come back more often to show off their contribution hanging in the children’s toilet stalls. The children were also able to wash their hands at the facility without having to be picked up by anyone by using the blue stool we brought them. We hope that this will encourage the children to wash their hands independently.  The caretakers stepping in and working with us was a step in the right direction for our project. We are hopeful that involving them with the rest of our hand printing projects will help them learn how to facilitate something like this on their own after we leave. They also seemed to enjoy their time working with and teaching the children about washing and even writing their names. Overall, Nick and I are grateful for the connections we were able to make with the caretakers and the children of Langrug and we look forward to doing this again!