On the blog

Monday, 13 December 2010

Water and sanitation bringing hope in Burundi

Niyonzima Jnanvière is from the Rutana Province of Burundi. She is 33 years old, has seven children and walks 6 km every day to get clean water for her family.

After years in a refugee camp, Niyonzima returned home to nothing.

Innocent victims of a twelve-year civil war in Burundi caused by a political fight for power, thousands fled. They came back to land damaged by the fighting or taken by someone else; schools and homes razed to the ground and no means to earn a living.

Toilet Twinning partner Cord is helping Niyonzima and other refugees returning home to the Rutana Province of Burundi, rebuild their lives.

Niyonzima says ‘the achievement of the last year I am most proud of is to have a house covered with iron sheet and a decent latrine.”

More than just third world aid or the provision of the things we often take for granted, Niyonzima and her children are being equipped and empowered for the future, to ensure this transformation lasts.

Our water and sanitation programme in Burundi will make sure Niyonzima and her children stay healthy, and can look forward to a future full of hope. Niyonzima and others like her are the reason UK based charities Cord and Tearfund are partnering together on Toilet Twinning.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Guest post: Toilet Twinning volunteer Simon Vasey on his visit to Burundi

I volunteer for Toilet Twinning and Cord, and recently returned from a week in Burundi visiting some of the African water and sanitation projects we help fund.

My first hours in Africa were spent sitting in the back of a basic four-wheel-drive utility, driving firstly from Bujumbura airport through the city and then eastwards through Burundi until we reached the town of Rutana as night was falling.

View Larger Map

Our driver was Serge, a native Burundian and Country Director for Cord, which along with Tearfund is one of the partners behind Toilet Twinning. Serge had said very little over the few hours we were travelling through the bush. He had kept his eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel and he had made good time. Burundi was still a place where it was important to reach the hotel compound before night.

This was Africa, and I will tell you how it was and it might surprise you.It was raining. The landscape was mountainous and there were crops growing on every available hillside. The roads were filled with people walking or on pushbikes, and everyone walking or cycling was carrying something to drink or eat or burn. We drove for hours, and as I looked out of the back of the utility I watched on one side of the road a long line of backs and on the other side a long line of faces, all looking at me. Every few miles there was a village and in the villages we slowed because the streets were full of people and goats.

But the next day we drove slowly on dirt tracks so rough I tried not to get sick from being thrown about in the back. There were less people living off these minor roads and the walls of the small houses had turned from crude mud bricks to just mud.

We passed a lone woman in a field. She was young and the colours and the pattern of her bright clean dress were the same design as her headscarf. She had put down her bundle and was waiting for us to pass. We were going slowly and as we moved up the steep track she couldn’t wait any longer and lifted her dress and crouched down. She watched suspiciously as we drove away. She was shy and alone and in pain and she was going to the loo in a field because she couldn’t hold it in and had nowhere else to go.

Later we visited water and sanitation schemes, including latrines of different designs, made by Burundians with component parts made by Burundians. I learned the basic economics. I sat out of the sun in a dim classroom made of rough mud bricks and listened to a lesson with a class of women students. I admired the mixture of laughter and seriousness that the young teacher created. The class would chant the word ‘yes’ as she taught, and it sounded beautiful in their Kurundi. And Serge whispered a translation for me.

What do you see in the picture? Yes, a man drinking from the stream. What else do you see? Yes, a cow pooing in the stream. Yes! The man will be sick. What else do you see? A woman collecting water. Yes! But who is she collecting the water for?

The young teacher waited, and then after a moment, the sound of a dozen women softly singing ‘yes’.
Yes, the water is for her children, she says quietly. They were learning, I guess just like you and I had to learn.

Poor health, the chance of violence, poverty. If you go to the toilet in the fields you are risking rape, snake bites, illness. If you are hurt or ill or fearful of going to the fields then you can’t walk for water or tend your crops, and you find it hard to help yourself.

There is little point just building a latrine. To make a difference, a tremendous difference as it turns out, then you have to work with a community; on water, sanitation and health education, and you have to stick around and see it through, like Tearfund and Cord. I was lucky enough to see it for myself.

And I love looking at my Toilet Twinning certificate.

You can check out more of the photos from my trip on Flickr.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Guest post: ActiveDad on Toilets and Childhood

Toilets and childhood are linked from the very start of life although we prefer to skip past memories of Nappies of Mass Destruction. We teach our kids to use potties and toilets and they proudly show off the contents of a plastic potty like a pageboy carrying wedding rings on a velvet cushion. As they get older, parents are led by the hand (YUCK!) to the toilet to inspect the contents that have been dropped by the mini-Master Bomb Aimer.

The earliest jokes that they learn are about poo, wee and bums.

Why did Tigger look in the toilet?
He was looking for Pooh.

Girls seem to grow out of it while boys become men and are just as amused by poo jokes.

At ActiveDad we loved the idea of toilet twinning. Dads and their children giggle at toilet humour to disapproving looks. 'Pull my finger' might be disgraceful in polite company but a tug on a digit to elicit a parp will always amuse a kid (but not their mums). ToiletTwinning has hit on a winning formula for anybody who thinks that poo jokes are funny (so that's dads and kids).

We teach our kids to wash their hands, we teach them to wipe, we only take them to nice clean toilets and they know about germs making them sick. It is only a small step from that to understanding how awful it would be never to have a flushing toilet. Having a wee in the woods once in a while is very different to never having access to nice clean toilets. We ran the idea of Toilet Twinning past some kids and they loved it. They found the map of toilets that have been funded and they are desperate to get a "Twinned with a Bog in Burundi" certificate.

It is very easy for a child to understand the importance of a toilet and their imaginations are sparked by the idea of synchronised pooing. Will they be experiencing splashdown in the suburbs of London while a child in Africa gets to use a nice clean toilet at the same time?

As they get older, they will think about other matters like civil wars, third world debt, famine and disease but for now: pocket money has been offered and toilets will soon be twinned. ActiveDad will not have twee poems or dodgy doilies in the downstairs loo. Visitors (both young and old) will be able to sit on the throne and know that their toilet trip is being mirrored 5,000 miles away on a Burundi Bog.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Are you ready for Toilet Tuesdays?

Today is a very exciting day! You want to know why? Because from today, Toilet Twinning is bringing back toilet humour in a big way.

A toilet humour renaissance, if you will.

The best part is, we are going to be awarding prizes to anyone that tells us the best toilet joke, funniest toilet related story, video, or even just photos of your loo! Yes, even your toilet can be judged, a bit like ‘Bog-Idol’.

The contestants line up for the auditions in Manchester,
hoping to impress Simon Bowel.

We will be running this competition for the next two weeks in the run up to World Toilet Day on Friday 19th November. We want to celebrate the toilet and raise awareness of how 1 in 3 people across the world don’t have somewhere safe to go to the toilet.

Submit your joke, story or photo to us on Tuesday 9th, Tuesday 16th and finally World Toilet Day on the 19th.

Each week the prize (a £25 iTunes voucher) for the best photo, joke or funny story will be awarded to one entrant.

To Enter on Twitter:

• Post a link to your photo on Twitter here including an @reply to @ToiletTwinning on Twitter or using the #tag #toilettuesday

To Enter from the Toilet Twinning Blog (that’s here, obviously):

• Post a link to your photo in the comments on the Toilet Tuesday blog post

To Enter on Flickr:

• Add any photos to the “Toilet Tuesdays” collection on the Toilet Tuesdays Flickr Page here.

See the terms and conditions here, and get cracking on those entries, we can’t wait to see what you’ve got!

Good luck!

Guest post: Lis Martin - Durham students help more people access toilets in Africa

2.5 billion people don’t have access to adequate sanitation. That’s a horrifying statistic and in July last year, whilst working on a water project with Tearfund in Kigaze, Uganda, I quickly learnt that daily life without a toilet is extremely unpleasant. In the community in which I lived and worked it was totally normal for women and children to walk for four hours a day to collect diseased water. Girls miss school, carry phenomenal loads and are vulnerable to rape. Without basic toilets people lack dignity and safety. But I also witnessed the transformative impact that taps and toilets can have. I saw first hand how improving water and sanitation is at the heart of tackling poverty and building a better future. There’s less illness, children can attend school and women can work.

However, despite another appalling statistic: 5000 children die each day as a result of waterborne diseases, many governments around the world are ignoring this issue. After witnessing the daily struggle of that community in Kigaze and experiencing life without a toilet for just one month, I am passionate that this issue be given the attention and the finance that it has so far been deprived of. That’s why, on my return to the UK, I wanted to do everything in my power to raise awareness of this scandal and what we, ordinary individuals, can do to tackle sanitation poverty.

That’s when I came across Toilet Twinning, a partnership between Cord and Tearfund that provides a unique way to help transform lives in poor communities in Africa and across the world.. As a student at Durham University, I asked the student union to pass a motion to twin a toilet from each college with a toilet to be built in Burundi, Africa. The motion passed unanimously and so the Charities Committee and I organised a rag-raid on the streets of Edinburgh. £600 later and we placed our order for 10 toilets. Last week I delivered the certificates – each with a photo of the twinned latrine – to the Durham colleges and invited the local press and radio to cover the event.

Toilet Twinning is guaranteed to give countless people in this country a memorable trip to the loo. Not to mention the impact that it has for communities in Burundi. It’s novel, practical and long lasting. I thoroughly recommend getting your family, work place, school, and place of worship to twin their toilets. To have so many people in this world without life’s essentials in the 21st century is out of order. Toilet Twinning is a fantastic way to save and change the lives of many. Trust me – you’ll never find more grateful recipients.