By Ryan Hyland, Rotary editorial staff
Rotary leaders received a surprise visit Monday from Raya, one of Sesame Street’s newest puppets, during their annual training exercise in San Diego.
Raya joined past RI President Bill Boyd on stage during the third general session of the 2015 International Assembly, joking about how cool Rotary’s emblem looked and chatting with Boyd about toilets.
Sesame Workshop introduced Raya last year with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to teach the TV show’s millions of young viewers in Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria about sanitation and hygiene.
Here’s a slice of their conversation:
Raya asks if the assembly is all about “rotary” phones.
Boyd: Raya, Rotary isn’t an organization about shapes or phones. We do important things like helping people and communities around the world. We’ve even helped get rid of polio.
Raya: Wow! That’s amazing! You guys are like superheroes!
Boyd: Well, we’re not exactly superheroes, but we do feel pretty great about our work. Speaking of super, I understand you know a super lot about important topics like keeping people safe from germs, right?
Raya: Yes, I do! Nobody likes germs. They’re microscopic bugs that get into your body and make you really sick. But don’t worry, Mr. Bill. We can start to get rid of those germs by just washing our hands with soap and water.
Boyd: How do you know so much about staying healthy?
Raya: Well, germs make a lot of people sick. In some places, lots of people don’t have access to safe toilets, so people poop out in the open, well, because there are not a lot of options. That spreads germs, which makes people, especially children, very sick.
Boyd: I know. That’s a huge problem, isn’t it? So how do you teach girls and boys how to stop spreading germs? Is it difficult?
Raya: I love a challenge, Mr. Bill, but this is going to take more than just a little 6-year-old green girl. My friend Elmo and I tell our friends how important it is to always use a toilet when we need to go. And we always wash our hands with soap and water after.
Raya (asking the audience to applaud if they have used a toilet today): See, Mr. Bill, we need to stop being so embarrassed about using a toilet. We all go! It’s not like it’s a secret. Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about hand-washing and water, well you know …
Boyd: Well the ladies’ room is that way.
Raya: No, silly. I’m going to the pool! I’ve got my sandals and sun block. See ya pool-side.
Look for Raya at the World Water Summit on 4 June in São Paulo, where she’ll talk more about her mission to keep children clean and germ free. Read The Rotarian magazine’s conversation with Raya and Stephen Sobhani, vice president of international projects at Sesame Workshop .