Poop: An enclosed superstructure at the stern of a ship... Oh how I wish I was serving in a country where that definition was the focus of this post, but that is neither here nor there. No let's look at google's number two definition (oddly appropriate): Excrement. Hehe :-). Yes since the time of the dinosaurs poop has been funny. George Carlin has a wonderful rant about it, and Peace Corps volunteers will often bring it up as part of dinner conversation or quite literally show you a sample that they're about to send to the Med Office. We lead strange lives here. Yes we can all agree that poop is very very funny.
Unfortunately the poop in this post is no laughing matter. I'm talking about poop out in the fields, poop outside your front door, poop on the bottom of shoes, on ropes, on animals and eventually in the human digestive system where it causes all sorts of problems most of which lead to more poop! This is what happens when you live in a village where only 30% of the population uses latrines. Where do they poop you may ask? Refer to sentence number 2 of this paragraph. In case you didn't get that, they poop everywhere, and animals end up dragging themselves and ropes through it... they aren't pooping on animals directly... although you probably got that already. They don't mean to eat it either it just kinda gets on hands and.. ok right you get it, moving on. (I've been watching too much West Wing lately so I'm emulating Aaron Sorkin's comedic timing... or at least attempting to. What's next?)
I just so happen to live in said village and it's about time I did something about it. Now lest you think I'm trying to be the big bad westerner changing native culture when its not really necessary let me explain my motives. I'm not doing this because I want to. I don't want to in fact, its a heck of a lot of work and I really have other things I'd much rather be working on... hmmm that makes me sound heartless. I just mean that while I love dealing with other people's sh... stuff, I have quite enough of my own right now. The fact of the matter is, my village has been asking for this project and trying to get it done for 6 years. They're the driving force behind it, I'm just the facilitator.
So what is the project you may ask? Well I considered lessening the food intake of the village by burning down the gardens and thus reducing defecation, but something said that conflicted with my Ag sector work so let's move on to solution #2. We want to build 62 latrines in my and a neighboring village to get universal coverage for the entire population. Is that really so much to ask? They just want a place to poop. No gold toilets, no toilets at all for that matter, just a functioning brick lined latrine with a hole in the cover and a PVC pipe for insulation. Most people in America wouldn't even consider that a latrine, but stick up a few meters of millet stalk fencing around it for privacy and it gets the job done. And that job is important. This is about more than dignity, this is about health and wellness. With a place to poop, and almost more importantly a kettle and bar of soap for afterward, comes a general lessening of poopy bacteria spread out across the village. That means fewer instances of diarrhel diseases, especially among children who can die from them, and a much lower chance of outbreaks of the really bad diseases like cholera. Poop's funny, cholera isn't.
Is a brick lined latrine really better? Yes. The bacteria is contained out of the general food chain and all the poop eventually breaks down. They are slightly elevated to avoid flooding and have mosquito netting over the vent and a removable plug for the hole to prevent flies and mosquito from going in and out and spreading disease as they do. It ain't glamorous by any means but its better than open defecation.
Now that you're thoroughly disgusted and eager to help let my tell you how you can! I have written a Peace Corps partnership grant which is essentially a grant that Peace Corps administers but that folks back home have to fund. The total is a little over $7,000, which is actually pretty reasonable for 62 latrines, and I need all the help I can get. I can be flippant and crack jokes on here but I really do appreciate everyone who reads and I feel a tremendous guilt for asking you all so many times for money. There are a multitude of worthy charities in the world today and everyone is going through hard times, but if there's anything you can spare these folks really need it. It doesn't have to be a lot. If 1,400 give five bucks we're there. If a few people give a little more we're there faster. I'm young and a lot of you reading this are my friends just out of college. Don't give more than you can, but if you can go without the Starbucks for a few days I'd really appreciate it. I mean come on I'm going without Starbucks for two years! That's a lie I have a pile of Starbucks Via packets in my hut courtesy of all your lovely care packages. By the way as much as I love you all giving the USPS 50 bucks a pop for care packages I will be just fine without them. Next time you feel the urge to give me something delicious, donate that money to the project. Believe me you're still helping to make my food in village a little less shitty ;-). Thank you all so much. Here's the link if you're interested, and please pass it on if you can: