When American parents get the note from school that someone in the class has lice, a bit of panic sets in. All sheets, towels, pillows, and even stuffed animals get sent for cleaning. And then the process of shampooing and picking out nits begins.
When I arrived at the volunteer house in Pokhara, Nepal, one of the volunteers warned me that all the children had lice. I cringed at the idea, and then asked what to do about it. I was told to wear my hair up. But that didn't really answer the question - what I needed to know is what were we doing for the children? The answer at the time was "nothing", but my new friend Grace and I set out to plan a "lice day". Quite a challenge with 54 children in a country where electricity is limited and the children are responsible for their own wash and care.
Grace and I set out throughout the town to buy lice shampoo and combs. We were continually told that there "are no lice in Nepal" so finding the supplies was not easy. But we went to every pharmacy that we could find and bought ALL of the small bottles of lice shampoo and the lice combs we could find. Then we set Sunday as the day to tackle this task.
We started the day by collecting all the sheets and towels from the children. These are all usually hand washed, but we took them to a laundry mat for care. Electricity is a scarce resource so our timing had to be perfect if we were going to be able to get all the sheets and towels washed and dried during the limited period when power was available.
At the same time, we started the children in an assembly line so that every child could get washed and combed while the laundry was being done. It was quite a project! But we got lots of help from the other volunteers. Unlike the lice outbreaks that I have heard about in the US, these children had been living with the critters so we were passed the nit-stage. It was a lot of work!
When we put the children to bed that night, they were so grateful! For the first time in a long time, their little heads didn't itch. The hugs were extra tight that evening, and I was glad that I had come to Nepal.