On the blog

Friday, 31 May 2013

Water wars or water peace?

Have you ever considered that twinning your toilet could make you an instrument of peace in our troubled world?

In the 21st century, water is being dubbed ‘blue gold’ and the prediction is that wars will be fought over it, just as they have been over oil and other resources. Certainly there are regions of the world, principally in the Middle East, where water is in critically short supply. Yemen has the dubious honour of being tipped as a country about to run dry.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the USA, is reputed to have said
‘When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water’. How much more true that would be if you had had to walk for several hours to reach the well in the first place. And how tempting to stop off on the way at a polluted source, leading to illnesses such as diarrhoea and cholera.
Tapping in: the journey to reach this water source may have been a long one
Photo: Layton Thompson/Tearfund

At a local level, tensions often rise where shortages are found: human nature makes sharing a challenge, and queuing for water can be one burden too many in an already difficult day.

Add into this mix the fact that one in four people in the world live in countries which are officially termed ‘fragile and conflict-affected states’. And they are the very same people who are most likely to be without access to safe water or improved sanitation. For shortages are not necessarily absolute as in Yemen: often they are down to poor infrastructure, and are entirely fixable.

In the DRC, the government is known to be an unreliable provider of services. As one man commented ‘Who is the government? Who are they? I have never seen them. They have not brought schools or clinics to the village.

Toilet Twinning uses a ‘community-led total sanitation’ approach to development - you could call it a ‘bottom up’ strategy. The local community identifies their own needs and resources, and are trained, helped and encouraged to achieve their goals. And it’s called ‘total sanitation’ because Toilet Twinning works to enable water supply, hygiene education and sanitation, not just latrines.

In Afghanistan, for example, locally-trained manufacturers have developed and installed water purification systems in a school, giving children access to clean and safe drinking water. The school has now seen a significant improvement in the health of the students and hygiene education has been integrated into their regular activities.

Educating and empowering people to come up with their own solutions brings dignity and sustainability. And that has to make for a more peaceful world.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Having your cake and eating it

Boris Johnson once said, ‘My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.’ Whatever your politics, it’s hard to dislike this statement: cake is, after all, one of the pleasures of life. And when it comes to fundraising for Toilet Twinning, it seems to occupy a pretty central role. Or should that be ‘roll’... and Swiss, naturally!

Here's a snapshot of some recent events that have raised plenty of dough, to help people living in poverty build loos and learn about hygiene:

Lenzie Union Parish Church in Scotland, along with three local schools and several associated youth organisations have all been baking furiously for Toilet Twinning funds. Parish youth worker Edgar de Blieck reported that one young girl baked all day Saturday and into the evening for a cake sale and raised enough for no fewer than nine twinnings. Another boy made shortbread and sold it on a friend's market stall.

A pupil at Kent’s Roseacre School acknowledged the serious message that underlies the humour of Toilet Twinning. She told her fellow students, “I know you are going to laugh but you can stop it right now, because this is serious.” They were certainly serious about fundraising: they held cake, toy and book sales and raised enough to twin all 12 of their toilets.

Craig Bishop, a vicar in the South Cotswolds Team Ministry, tweeted to tell us that his Lent lunch and cake and brownie sales had enabled him to twin two of his vicarage loos. His daughters were looking forward to taking the certificates to their school show & tell.

In Frome, Somerset, the launch of a community toilet scheme has been a good chance for Councillor Peter Macfadyen to encourage twinning as well. Several local businesses including The Old Bath Arms, have taken the plunge(r). Could this be the start of many town-wide twinnings? 

Girl Guides, Brownies and Rainbows from Slough celebrated World Thinking Day by hosting activities with an international flavour, such as African drumming and line dancing. They donated the entry fees to Toilet Twinning. 

Pupils and staff at Kemnay Academy, Aberdeen, sold fairtrade products in their tuckshop and are using the profits to twin with a school toilet block.

Visitors to Boscastle Rectory in Cornwall lobbed their donations into an old bed pan when they enjoyed a coffee morning and raffle at Rev Robert Thewsey’s home.

Malcolm and Lubala, a couple getting married in Sussex in July, have requested donations to Toilet Twinning in place of presents. They are also planning to have ‘spend a penny’ collection tins at the reception.

64th Glasgow Girls' Brigade raised £830 for Toilet Twinning, by cleverly using their 60th anniversary as a link to the £60 cost of a twinning.

Vale of Glamorgan environmental health officer, Rowan Hughes, took the direct approach by asking his local mayor to twin the town hall toilet - and was flushed with success, naturally.

Royal Holloway College student, Lucy Milne, made headlines in Surrey newspapers after she secretly twinned her mum’s loo as a surprise gift - only to find her mum had secretly done exactly the same for her. What’s more, they found their twinned Ugandan loos were only 300 metres apart.

Our supporters display a wealth of ingenious ways to raise their pounds so that others can spend their pennies in privacy, and they clearly have fun too. Thank you so much.

Maybe you feel your personal time is sliced up too thinly, or perhaps you sometimes find yourself at a bit of a loose end. But there’s one thing certain: enjoying the company of others while raising money for Toilet Twinning is a piece of cake!