Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Flushing for Cash - A Quest for Latrines

Today is World Toilet Day. You are probably surprised that such a thing exists. You might have even laughed at the name. We live a life in which the thought of sharing a bathroom is enough of a reason to pass on a gorgeous 3 bed-1 bath apartment in SoHo. Where a dirty rest stop bathroom warrants an hour's worth of complaints and fears of what diseases you contracted. Where your biggest toilet problems are running out of paper or having to use two-ply.

But for a minute, try to imagine what it would be like to live in a one-room, bamboo house with all of your family. You have a well out front that provides water, though you can't drink directly from it. Your father has jerry-rigged a filter that resembles a shower when you pour buckets into it. You do your business off in the bushes away from your home. When you get sick, which is more often than you think should be normal, you have to run out to the nearest tree and sometimes end up soiling yourself.

This scenario is the norm here in rural Cambodia, as it is in much of the developing world.

A typical house in Ampil Commune, with CCDO water well.
Trust me, I've had my fair share of toilet jokes. As a plumber's daughter, I never got the shit kicked out of me, but I did hear about a lot of shit, and cracks for that matter. But I speak with pride about to my father's occupation. He boasts that plumbers were really at the forefront of public health. In many ways, he's right. I've always been a Daddy's girl, so I'm following in his footsteps. By building toilets. By trying to make a small improvement in health in a country where diarrheal disease is still the #1 killer of children under 5. This is 2013, folks. That's not only completely incomprehensible in the developed world, it's totally unacceptable.

My organization, the CCDO, works in a commune of 10,000 people. When we asked families what they needed the most, the unanimous response was latrines. Thus, following our successful waterwell project, we now want to build latrines.

The project goes like this...

  • Each latrine costs $250 and includes all that is necessary for a successful, long-term project.
  • The latrine is made from high quality underground IDE tanks with 4 concrete rings atop each other, a ceramic Asian style bowl and an outhouse structure made of bamboo and palm fronds.
  • We also provide educational hygiene workshops for each of the families receiving a latrine, in which we discuss handwashing, toothbrushing and general cleanliness. We provide soap and tippy taps for handwashing.
  • We have included in the cost provisions for repairs and pumping the tanks when they have filled up.
  • Each family will be asked to contribute $25, half up front and and half after the latrine is built to add personal ownership. They will help build the outhouse as part of our partnership with the community.
  • We work with the Commune Chief to determine which families are in the most need. 

What I'm doing...

As In-Country Director, I manage all of our programs. But this one has special meaning and is something I believe to be massively important. Thus I want to do more than provide my time. My contribution to kickstart this new project is to fundraise $5,000. As an organization, our initial goal is to build 100 latrines in 2014, costing a total of $25,000. If I can personally raise enough funds for a fifth of our goal, I can ensure that the project gets off to a strong start.

What you can do...

  • Donate a latrine: $250 will provide the latrine and all the fixin's. This includes a signboard next to the outhouse with your name. We'll send along a photo of the family and their details so you know exactly who you helped.
  • Donate toward a latrine: If you can't donate a whole latrine, any amount you can contribute will be most appreciated! If you'd like a photo and family information as well, I'm happy to provide that. 
  • Spread the word: We need help getting the word out about our campaign. Whether it's social media or talking to a friend, the more who know, the better!!

As our President, Jenni, wrote: "We are launching a new campaign to build latrines in our villages. November 19th is, no kidding, World Toilet Day and we say very impolitely:


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