ONE TOILET AT A TIME



  • WHY TOILETS?:
    Many people around the world don’t have access to sanitary bathrooms, especially in Cambodia
  • THE SPARK:
    During January of 2006, I went to Cambodia and found out how badly sanitary bathrooms were and are needed
  • WHY?:
    People in Cambodia (particularly young women) need sanitary bathrooms
  • WHO’S AFFECTED:
    Young women in Cambodia are most affected by not having proper lavatories
  • PURPOSE:
    To raise money to build toilets in Cambodia, while doing everything at a local level.
  • HOW I OPENED THE DOOR:
    I raised funds for toilets in Cambodia. I then traveled to Cambodia,
    through a RCTC cultural communications class, to build toilets
  • YOU OPEN THE DOOR:
    You can help out too! Start volunteering today!
    Contact us at: doors2cambodia@hotmail.com

Description of project to our MN
State Representatives Demmer and Welti

 


 

WHY TOILETS?

Toilets are something that people take for granted. Do you realize how many times a day you use the restroom? Some people use the restroom as a place to get away, to take a couple of seconds to catch their breath. Well, imagine not having a place to relieve yourself during the day. Many people don’t have sanitary bathrooms, especially in third world countries. Cambodia is one of those countries where, in some cases, the field is the bathroom for many people. When I discovered this, I knew that I wanted to help out in some way, so I created the project, “One Toilet at a Time.”

THE SPARK:

During January of 2006, I had the chance of a lifetime: I was able to be apart of a delegation that went to Cambodia through RCTC. The purpose of the delegation was to see if it was possible to bring students back to Cambodia as a service learning class. I had a blast being with the people, working and learning. We did many things, such as visiting Angkor Watt, touring the cities and visiting schools. My favorite part of the trip was traveling to some of the provinces to visit the rural schools. While we were at the schools, our group of around 6 people (plus a monk or two) would talk with the teachers, play games with the students, and we would ask the school as a whole how we could help them to succeed. Some of the students asked for school supplies, but more often than not, the young women would ask for sanitary bathrooms. When I heard this, my brain started to turn. We went on to ask other questions, but the subject of bathrooms kept coming up.

According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children’s Report for 2005, only “34% of Cambodia’s population uses improved drinking water sources, 14 % of Cambodia’s children die before reaching the age of five, and around 9.7% die before age one.” They also state that “Many of these deaths could easily have been prevented. A key part of preventing child deaths and improving survival is providing access to clean water and sanitation facilities.” This means that it’s important to have places for the young women (men, children, and adults as well) to go to the bathroom. Forget the research for a second, and imagine having the urge to go to the bathroom, but there is nothing. You are a young, menstruating woman, and there is no bathroom. You look around at your classmates, embarrassed to leave because you want to play. You need to get away for a few seconds to take care of yourself, but have no bathroom. So, you look for a tree, but the school grounds are open, flat dry lands with rice fields surrounding the school and school grounds. There is no other option (well, unless you want to be humiliated for relieving yourself right behind the school building where children play) but to trudge out to the fields and use the bathroom, along side the snakes and possible predators. I don’t just mean wild animals. In fact, LICADHO recorded over 140 cases of child rape in 2004.This means that there are chances for the students to be attacked.  No human should have to use the bathroom where it’s dangerous and not sanitary.

WHY?

It is important for humans to use a clean bathroom for sanitary needs. I’m sure we all have had to “squat” over a toilet seat sometime in our lives because it was dirty, but imagine not having something to squat over except for dirt, sand and weeds. Health issues come into play when there are concerns of diseases. UNICEF, a reputable source, “believes that investing in latrines and hygiene promotion in school is critical for changing behaviors at an early age and creating the demand for sanitation in the next generation of parents.” Most of the toilets in Cambodia are like outhouses, but instead of a toilet lid to sit on, most have porcelain holes in the ground and a contained water basin on the side or in the middle of two combined toilets under one roof that are split with a piece of wood. Although this bathroom may seem old fashion and just plain weird, it works for the Cambodian population and is the norm. In fact, they are very easy to maintain. We didn't want to change the type of bathrooms they use - just build more, and cleaner bathrooms.

WHO’S AFFECTED?

The populations of young women are most affected by not having proper lavatories. They are the most affected because of changes a woman’s body goes though. This is referred too as menstruation. It is extremely hard to live in a third world country while menstruating, and with the sweltering heat on top of it all. It is even harder when there is no place for the women to use a lavatory. Some of the girls are shy and choose to stay home rather than go to school and deal with their menstruating problems in front of their peers. Because I am a woman and I know how hard it would be to not be able to use a bathroom during the day, especially at school, I started the campaign, “One Toilet at a Time.”

PURPOSE:

The campaign “One Toilet at a Time” was created to help out at a local level. It was not created to save the world, but rather to connect with people and help them by starting small and eventually growing to a larger scale. My goal was to help out at least one school by building them a bathroom. This one bathroom would improve sanitation and daily life style for around 800 students. When I came back home from Cambodia the first time, I wanted to get involved, so I started to fundraise. I asked people to help out by volunteering and helping me with presentations. My brother (also on our Doors2Cambodia Team), Braden Barber, my parents, Kim Sin, Country Work, and Lok Sokhom, along with numerous supporters, and all of people that believed in me helped get this project up and running. No longer was this project just mine, it now was theirs as well...OUR project.

HOW I OPENED THE DOOR:  

We raised money by giving presentations, serving super at churches and by asking for donations. I also sold souvenirs from our first trip to Cambodia in order to raise the funds for the new bathrooms. The website www.youthnoise.com sponsored “One Toilet at a Time” for their just-one-click project during the month of November. For every click, they donate one penny, and I ended up receiving $1,000. I was very grateful to have them donate to this campaign! I was interviewed by The Star Record (my school and town’s newspaper) and by the Post Bulletin (Rochester, MN’s local paper). The story was taken into the Associated Press and thus, printed in many other towns and cities (see our media page for more information). The campaign was so far going well, there were so many “doors” being opened! My plan was to raise $1,500 for this project. As we fundraised more, we raised more money, and between February 2006 and December 2006, the running total was around $3,700. This meant that there could be more than one toilet built! The last part of the project was to actually build the toilets. This was to be done when we returned to Cambodia. This time, though, there would be a group of students through RCTC that would be going to learn and participate in service learning. During the second trip, the toilets would be built. Step one was to fund raise, and step two consisted of getting the toilets built. Once we were in Cambodia, Kim Sin and Courtney Work interviewed the local residents of the villages where the bathrooms were to be built in order to keep everything at a local level. We hired workers that knew how to properly construct the toilets so the waste will decompose. The bathrooms were built in several different locations. It was amazing to see my dream come to life. Although I was not able to stay and watch the bathroom constructions all the way to the end, I was able to help start them. Kim Sin’s brother was the designated person to watch over the progress of the toilets because he lives in Cambodia. I have seen and heard about projects in Cambodia (and other places as well) that only get half finished. With “One Toilet at a Time” we made sure the toilet money landed in the right spot and that the construction was finished by having people that are trust worthy watch over and by checking in until the toilets were finished. As I found out, the work didn’t stop in Cambodia; I still see it happening every day. The work can still continue today and tomorrow, with many new doors opening up, but just in a different way.

YOU CAN OPEN THE DOOR TOO:

            When I returned home from Cambodia for the second time, I realized that things didn’t have to stop just because I already accomplished one task. The way that I thought about it was this: What if everyone worked for a cause and volunteered some of their time? I also thought of what could happen if people like you spent maybe 2-6 hours each month volunteering for some cause. Volunteering is not necessarily spending money, but instead spending some of your time. Even participating and volunteering in your local town could make a difference in someone’s life or living style! I ask you not to give up your life to try and change the world, but to instead help out and make a difference in one person’s life by starting out small. Eventually, you will end up with something bigger then when you started. You can continue the vibe by picking up the phone and just talking to your elderly neighbor, or better yet- you can make even more the difference in your elderly neighbor’s life by brining her or him cookies. If a 15 year old girl, with the help of others, can raise $3,700, just think what a bunch of adults and children can do together, if everyone decided to work together to make a difference!

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO).

03 Mar. 2007.  <http://www.licadho.org/>.

United States' Fund for UNICEF. UNICEF. 03 Mar. 2007.   

       <http://www.unicefusa.org/site/c.duLRI8O0H/b.25933/k.8DDD/

US_Fund_for_UNICEF__US_Fund_for_UNICEF.htm>.

Youth Noise. 03 Mar. 2007. <www.youthnoise.com>.

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