Wednesday, 9 September 2015

1 Unusual Toilet Experience - 100s of Lives Changed!

Before I begin, I would like to say I am not writing this in order to ‘big myself up’ or ask for your recognition, I am writing this because I am so proud of what our church has achieved over the past 12 months.

Some Background and the Toilet Incident

In August 2014, I was one of the leaders who took 10 members of Girlguiding (Aged between 15 - 17) to India for a unique trip. We spent some time at the Guide World Centre, Sangam, however we then spent a week in Leh, in the Himalayas. Originally we were supposed to be volunteering at a Tibetan SOS school, however plans changed and we ended up spending 2 days working with children at the Sankar Government School. 

Now, children who attend government schools in India are seen as the least important people to receive education- standards are low and it is incredibly unlikely that children from the area would ever attend a University or receive further education. During our second day at the school, I needed to use the bathroom. After being pointed to a small shed like building at the top of a set of metal steps I encountered something I had never imagined.

As I pushed the door open, the smell and the flies hit me. At this moment, I wondered whether it would be possible for me to ‘hold it in’ and not bother going any further… However needs must and I found myself stepping into the shed. The toilet was, as expected, a hole in the ground in the middle of this structure, however it was quite a large, long hole which I imagine a small child could easily get stuck down (And there were some very small 2/3 year olds at the school!) The door had no lock, nor any lighting or windows, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to use when it wasn’t light outside. The floor was covered in both human and animal poo, there were flies every where and there was screwed up pages from test books- which I imagine was being used as toilet paper. The ‘toilet’ had nothing underneath it to catch the waste, so things just fell to the floor outside.

But, these children had one thing that many other people in the world don’t have- somewhere safe and private to go to the toilet. However uncomfortable I felt in that shed, I realised that many others don’t have this luxury and that it needed to change. People deserve to have a shed like this, rather than having to go to the toilet in the woods, or in the grass where there is so much that could go wrong/happen to them.

What Happened Next?

When getting home from my trip, I knew that I wanted to do something about this, and wanted to raise some money. I had heard about the ToiletTwinning charity before and really liked the fact it was a novel idea of getting toilets and sanitation education into some of the most needy places in the world. I registered for more information and started to put a certain amount of money aside to raise £60 for a toilet.

Every year our church – West Wakefield Methodist Church- chooses a charity to support over the course of the year. Without my knowledge, my Mum took the ToiletTwinning idea to the church council as a suggestion and it was chosen… Charity of the Year!

The people at ToiletTwinning HQ sent me lots of information and literature including leaflets, posters, stickers and t-shirts which I used to create a notice board to track our progress. The charity was introduced by me during the Church Nativity Service. Whilst Mary was in the stable, there were a lot of animals… And a lot of Animal poo! I told my story about the toilet incident and shared some examples of what work the charity do and where, and then it took off…

What did we do?

I was genuinely amazed at how people got involved with the fund raising (Not to mention with how much we raised!) I hoped that we would raise enough for 11 toilets- the number that we have in the building, however I didn’t know whether this would be achievable or not!

There were donation plates at the tea and coffee hatches at the end of each service, refreshments are not paid for at our church, a donation for the charity is asked for. This is how most of the money has been raised I believe, weekly small donations (And obviously, lots of small donations add up to something incredible!)

After the first 3 months, we had raised enough for 7 toilets- my doubts were put aside at this point… I was pretty sure we would reach my target of 11! Receiving the images of the toilets really helped people visualise what we were achieving (And the children loved to compare them with their own toilets at home!)

Each year, a coffee morning is put designated to raise money for the charity, I got involved in organising this years’ coffee morning. We had a bric-a-brac, games, tombola, cake stalls, teas/coffees, Bacon Sandwiches and more. The hall was full of people and (From memory) we raised enough for about 4 toilets in that one morning alone!

People got involved in their own small, more independent ways too, making and selling jewellery, badges and donating the ‘taxi fares’ given to them for giving lifts to church. We even had one lady give us a large pile of foreign currency, and asked to have it changed in £s and donated! Everybody really seemed to want to get involved, want to help in their own individual ways.

After my trip to India, I was invited to some of the groups who meet at the church to give a talk about my adventure and experience. I always made sure I explained the toilets explicitly, as its something people can really relate to. I received donations for these talks, all of which were given to ToiletTwinning.

Some of the most amazing moments for me though were when people, friends, members of the church family came and gave me a cheques or money totalling £60. These people bought a toilet on their own, one of the ladies gave me the reason of ‘Well, I got up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night and I was glad that I didn’t have to go outside into the dark to do so!’ £60 is a lot of money and will really help someone’s life.

In the end

The year is now at an end, but i’m really proud of my church, between us we have raised enough for an amazing 24 toilets- that works out at 2 a month!

(And we kept putting that little bit of money into a tin at home, and raised enough for 5 toilets too!)

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