Getting toilets to orphans in Mzuzu, Malawi

Our favorite thing to do at WASH Canada is to help make connections in the water world. In return, we always hope for some good WASH related progress. Our guest blogger this month, Lisa Bailey, brought us some. Lisa tells us about her experiences getting toilets to Orphans in Mzuzu, Malawi. Lisa’s family foundation: ‘The Martin Family Foundation’ has made a commitment to the global water and sanitation crisis and is a WASH Canada donor.

Installer and Orphan beneficiaries in front of their new toilet

Last September I attended a WASH (Water +Sanitation+ Hygiene) Canada event that was largely focused on the need for better sanitation globally. I learned that proper toilets not only improve the environment and health of the community, but also the safety of girls and women and indirectly the level of education. It sparked my interest and made me think about the 250 orphans in Mzuzu that are sponsored by my church, St. Peter’s Anglican in Cobourg.

Through e-mail correspondence with James Mtafu (the Project Manager in Mzuzu) it was confirmed that the situation was inadequate, that there were no facilities for orphans to use at the feeding program at St. Mark’s and the latrines at many homes were dilapidated so people use the nearby bushes.

This begged the question – how could I, sitting in my kitchen in Cobourg, help orphans in Malawi get adequate toilets? And then – how can it be done in a way that doesn’t disempower the people? An excellent book on this topic is “Toxic Charity” by Robert D. Lupton.

Starting with WASH Canada I corresponded with almost a dozen people around the globe. Thanks to the Internet within 48 hours I had the answers. In the end I was directed to the newly formed Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation and SMART Centre, a department of Mzuzu University run by Dr. Rochelle Holm.

I was told that 100 toilets would be needed for the orphans. At my request Rochelle put together a proposal for the first phase – eight

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demonstration quality toilets, two at St. Marks’s and six at neighbouring orphans homes. The project included training older orphans, and sanitation education for everyone. Half-day training session for toilet users and enthusiasts She recommended that we use four different toilet types (pit latrine, pour flush and two composting varieties) and that each household be consulted and type based on many factors. I obtained $8,400 in funding and the first phase was carried out. The Mzuzu Committee at St. Peter’s has been very supportive and helpful in all aspects of this project.

Already we’re seeing interest from other households in improving their toilets and this will improve the level of sanitation not just for the orphans, but also for all of Mzuzu. The future will see evaluation, more sanitation training and toilet development and later, hopefully, water filters and rainwater harvesting.

Lisa Bailey

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