Transforming lives on four continents

Can a better toilet really change your life?

Loo slabs are creating jobs and improving health in 20 villages in northern Uganda.

It’s not very British to talk about toilets. But if yours got taken away and replaced with a crumbling, festering long drop, made from mud and sticks, you’d probably have a few things to say.
In northern Uganda, a lot of people don’t have access to clean toilets. In northern Uganda, a lot of people die from diseases related to poor sanitation. A survey that BMS World Mission workers recently carried out in Gulu District showed that diarrhoea is the third biggest killer in the region.
That’s why BMS water and sanitation engineer Tim Darby is passionate about… (you guessed it!) toilets. He’s been helping Christians in villages across Gulu District and beyond learn how to make durable and affordable concrete latrine slabs, so that everyone has the chance to have a cleaner, safer toilet.
Watch this three-minute video to find out how this project is impacting the lives of communities and newly trained business people.
Tim has helped train 40 people from 20 villages in how to make the latrine slabs, how to market and sell them, and in budgeting and book keeping. These people now have skills and businesses that will enable them to provide for their families. And, as part of their contract, each business has agreed to give eight slabs away to the poorest people in their village for free – ensuring that the blessings are shared and the most vulnerable people are benefitting from this project.

The chicken-slab industrial complex

The slabs come in two sizes, the smaller of which can be purchased for the price of a chicken, which means they should be affordable for everyone. In fact, that’s part of their marketing campaign – if you have a chicken, you can have a clean toilet! Some of the businesses are even doing a straight exchange: a chicken for a slab.
Omgom Robin is one of 40 Ugandans running new businesses, thanks to this BMS project
Another aspect of Tim’s marketing campaign for the new businesses is to run a launch event in each village (as you’ll have seen in the video). Loud music booms to attract the crowds – and as many as 100 people have been known to crowd around to see what’s going on. During each launch, certificates are awarded to entrepreneurs, a local community leader explains why good sanitation is important, four young people from a local Baptist church perform dramas (much to the crowd’s enjoyment), and one lucky person wins a free slab in a raffle!
The launch creates the buzz these new businesses need, and many of them are already running successfully.
“I’m now raising some funds that can make my family also to be fed well,” says Omgom Robin, one of the entrepreneurs making the slabs. “I could even be able to pay the school fees of my daughter.”

When toilets are the pits

Most people in Gulu District use pit latrines – deep holes that are dug in the ground. When the ‘seat’ is made from mud and sticks, like it is for most families in rural areas, these toilets 
are very hard to clean and are prone to collapsing. Disease spreads more easily when faeces and waste can’t be safely washed away. By placing a large concrete slab over these toilets, they instantly become more hygienic. They provide a safe place to stand and they can be washed clean. It sounds simple – and it is. And yet these slabs are having a massive impact on people’s health.
Tim Darby is a BMS water and sanitation engineer
“The health benefits are actually very hard to quantify,” says Tim. “However, the natural bi-product of improved sanitation for most people will be better health. Ultimately, it can prevent some people from having very serious illnesses, or even death in some cases.”
So, can a better toilet really change your life? For the 40 people who now have jobs and are getting an income to feed their families and send their children to school – it can. And for the potentially hundreds of men, women and children who are less likely to get sick or even die from diarrhoeal diseases – it can, too. 
All of this has happened because of your giving. From Tim, Robin and all those benefitting from improved sanitation in northern Uganda – thank you!
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