As my brother jokes when he returns from the loo, he just did the five minute diet. It’s a place that can be joked about because, for most of us, the experience takes place in a pleasant little room with a Glade air freshener, some magazines, and an effective swoosh of water at the end to make it all go away. As I’ve written recently, Haitians don’t enjoy such luxury. I believe that everyone deserves a nice place to shit, and fortunately, so does UNICEF.
We are applying for a UNICEF grant which will fund the construction of sanitation systems at twenty schools. This system will be more than just a seat and a pit. We are talking about a sustainable composting system that won’t require costly pumping, won’t contaminate the precious groundwater, and won’t stink up the air. Also, a place to properly wash hands, and a bio-sand filter to produce drinking water from the undrinkable stuff pumped out of the ground. Where necessary, we will rehabilitate or install a new well and pump accessed by the school as many of these are far away or were damaged in the earthquake. And of essential importance, education programs- designed and led by the local All-Hands volunteers- will precede and follow the construction of the system with the goal of extending the hygiene practices from the students on to their homes and families. Of the 33 schools which were assessed for this project, the twenty that were chosen are in the most dire need, and indicated a strong interest and commitment to forming this partnership with us. These twenty systems will serve 4555 students and 167 teachers.
I was tasked with developing a new design for the toilets and hand washing stations that could be efficiently built and easily adapted to the various sizes of schools. Of utmost importance is the use of materials that are readily available in-country and building methods that are transferrable to the local builders- after all, All-Hands will only be here for so long and there will still be millions of Haitians who would benefit from such a system. There are many details yet to be worked out including specifying the rebar and completing an analysis of the structural integrity in a seismic event. I will have the help of a few experienced engineers who are volunteering here. I would greatly appreciate any comments or suggestions that any of you may have about the conceptual design presented below.