Robin Wright Helps Kick Cholera in the Congo

After months of trying to raise the money for a latrine for the Peace Market in Mumosho, writing “poop” in more emails than I ever imagined necessary, I got a call from JD Stier at The Enough Project, informing me that a lovely and amazing woman would fund the full amount needed to build the latrine.  Robin Wright donated the funds to save lives now, knowing it will be the first step toward building the biogas latrine to provide sustainable energy to the women at the market.  Wright met Amani when she visited eastern Congo with The Enough Project this year.  “Mama Robin” as Amani had written about her after her visit, is making a huge impact on the lives and well-being for so many in eastern Congo, and we can’t thank her enough.

(Robin Wright, photo courtesy of The Enough Project)

It was like I’d drunk three cups of coffee, I was so excited. I tried to dial Amani immediately to share the news, but didn’t get through (thankfully, since eastern Congo is nine hours ahead of us, and I would have awoke his entire family).  His e-mailed response was filled with great gratitude and relief. He has been so worried about the risk of a cholera outbreak from open defecation, a horrifying threat to the lives of children, where 1 in 4 children who die before their fifth birthday in Eastern Congo die of something entirely preventable – cholera and acute diarrhea. With the rainy season upon them, the women started using the market as a safe, dry place to buy and sell their goods, despite the lack of latrines.

We’re wiring the money, Amani will hire the construction crew, and the latrine will be in working order in just two weeks.  The biogas component that will green the latrines and provide a renewable energy source for the women at the market is in the works. Amani is scheduling a site visit with an expert from Rwanda who will oversee that project, and when we get the details and budget from the visit, I will write grants to foundations for the full funding for the construction and upkeep of the biogas latrine.

We are thrilled with all the good things that are happening because of your support and thankful to generous donors like Robin, who see and meet the critical needs in the Congo.  We’re excited to visit the DRC in December to see the market and the new latrine.  We’ll take plenty of photos and report back here soon!

Read more about the Peace Market here, and if you can stomach it, watch an oddly entertaining and very informative short documentary about the world’s toilet crisis here.

World Toilet Day: Peace Market Latrines Under Construction!

The Peace Market latrine, prior to construction.

What?  You didn’t know that November 19th is World Toilet Day?  I didn’t either, until I read Amnesty International’s post about “giving a crap for human rights,” and immediately thought of Robin Wright and Amani Matabaro.  Neither one who approved my using his/her name in conjunction with “crap,” but both have given time and money toward making sure the women, men and children who use the Peace Market have a safe and sanitary place to … well, poop.

It’s an unsavory subject, but one that is critical to health and human rights.  I never thought I’d be so passionate about the toilet, but lately I can’t forget the fact that 2.6 billion people don’t have access to basic sanitation.  Next time you flush, consider that open defecation leads to outbreaks of cholera, which is a horrifying threat to the lives of children, especially in eastern Congo, where 1 in 4 children who die before their fifth birthday lose their lives to something entirely preventable – cholera and acute diarrhea.

Immediately after Robin Wright heard of the need and generously donated the money, the latrine started started construction at the peace market!  Amani, who met Robin during her visit to eastern Congo with the Enough Project, sent us the photos of the construction and another thank you to Robin, saying “that she has saved lives with the donation!!!”


Peace Market latrine construction 11.2011

Peace Market Latrine construction_2 11.2011

Asked about the importance of these latrines, the leadership of the Market committee happily replied:

”These latrines are so important that they are going to prevent people from getting very dangerous diseases such as cholera. And we will be selling our goods, especially food, with no fear of contamination of any disease — these latrines are going to save lives! They will prevent us from getting problems with people living nearby the Market since they were already complaining about merchants. A crowd of upwards of 300 people gather at this market every day.”

And Amani’s thoughts about the importance of these latrines:

”A market is a place with large populations and when it has no latrines, it simply becomes a public danger. Building these latrines … is a great sustainable solution to the health threat which was already there since community members started using the Market with no latrines.  Many community members come to buy food, buyers and sellers both had no rest rooms and they were coming to use the Health Centre rest rooms, and the danger here is there are many communicable diseases in the area.  Patients admitted to the Health Centre sharing latrines with sellers and buyers puts everyone at risk–these latrines will minimize and stop once and for all the risk of communicable disease contamination among sellers, buyers, patients, children at school and those who come to attend the church nearby since all these facilities are very close.”

Cate and I are excited to visit the Peace Market in person later this month to see the completed project, and share more stories with you.

In the meantime, you can support human rights on World Toilet Day by supporting the Water for the World Act.  Take ACTION and sign Amnesty International’s petition today!

Everyone Poops: Take Action to Kick Cholera & Solve the World’s Toilet Crisis

The john, the loo, the WC, the great white throne — for as many loving nicknames with which we’ve labeled the toilet, we likely take ours for granted.  Yet, in this day and age of technology and TOTO toilets with heated seats, built-in bidets and push-button sounds to drown out the noise of nature, more than 2.6 billion people, approximately 40% of the world’s population, don’t have access to the most basic toilet. 

This isn’t just a problem for tourist boards trying to turn travelers’ gaze from locals pooping in ponds, streams and rivers, this is life and death.  “As a result (of open defecation), more than 2 million people — including 1.5 million children — die from complications of chronic diarrhea.” (World’s Toilet Crisis, Vanguard)

It isn’t a sexy subject or one for the dinner table, but as the children’s book teaches us, “Everyone Poops.” But not everyone has access to or the education to understand the dire importance of a clean latrine.  That’s why it’s crucial that we raise funds to build a latrine in the DRC this month. 

This isn’t just any latrine.  This would fill a gaping, 30 foot hole that was dug in eastern Congo, dug to build the Peace Market, a dream of Amani Mataboro’s to provide a place of commerce and community near the border, where Congolese and Rwandans could come together and work alongside each other towards peace and  a stronger, healthier economy. 

The latrine will serve this area of 26 villages and up to 42,000 people. It also benefits villages from the Walungu territory, as well as some communities on the Rwandan side of the Ruzizi river. With $4,500 USD, the latrine can be up and running, and, if we raise $9,000, it can be built as an environmentally sustainable resource of renewable energy – methane biogas

“The market is the best site for a sanitary latrine, since it is a focal point for the local economy. Without action, it could become the breeding ground for a cholera epidemic, but now it will be a success case for demonstrating healthy practices,” says Amani Mataboro, Executive Director of Action Kivu’s partner, Action pour le Bien- être de la Femme et de l’Enfant au Kivu (ABFEK).

“There is an urgency to this action. Because of climate change, we are seeing signs of the rainy season starting sooner than ever before. If we do not act now, people will die, starting with children and the elderly. If we work together, we can prevent these deaths and build a healthier community.”

1 in 4 children who die before their fifth birthday in Eastern Congo die of something entirely preventable: cholera and acute diarrhea.  Help us change that with a donation to a clean latrine and health education today.  Learn more here.

To learn more about the World’s Toilet Crisis, watch the Vanguard video.  Absolutely disgusting at times (I made the mistake of watching right before breakfast), it’s also informative and inspirational, as you watch communities take control of their health and well-being.

(Photos: Everyone Poops,, latrine being dug at the Peace Market, newly built Peace Market, Opening Day Celebration)

Back to School (and to the garden)

I remember the palpable current of a new year that ran through our house on the first day of school; my backpack at the ready with sharpened pencils, fresh notepads of lined paper, and a box of color crayons that hadn’t been smashed or eaten by the odd kid two desks over. 

The kids in the Congo are heading back to school this week too, 100 of them because of YOUR support.  Via Amani’s vision through ABFEK, not only will they study languages, letters and numbers, they’re also learning agriculture, and the art of growing gorgeous food for better nutrition. 

Amani writes about two children in particular, Manu and Namegabe, who over the summer break used their hands to study gardening, digging in the dirt of the shared ABFEK farm, in order to pass along their experience to their schoolmates.  They’re very interested in agriculture, and excited to teach other kids.
  The rainy season normally starts early in September, but this year has been special with rains off and on since mid-July. When it starts raining on a more regular basis, the garden will grow well. In the dry season people need to water the crops on a daily basis but as rainy season starts, there are no more water problems.

This shot of the shared garden shows cabbages, carrots and onions growing, where the women and children supported by ABFEK learn about agriculture. Most of the vegetables are native to Eastern Congo but not everywhere. In the Mumosho district, Amani writes, “people are not used to growing carrots, eggplant, peppers…we want to do it on a larger scale to fight malnutrition through the schools.”  Amani plans to use this as a pilot program to expand the experience in other communities based on lessons learned. 

As the kids head back to school, we’ll be sharing their stories of a new year.   What are your favorite stories of going back to school?

Action Kivu Quilting Fundraiser with Giveaways (pssst… Flea Market Fancy)

Alissa Haight-Carlton, the modern quilt guru who writes Handmade by Alissa, is hosting a 2nd Annual Fundraiser for the women and children of eastern Congo, via Action Kivu.  For each donation, there’s a chance to receive a giveaway of fantastic fabric. 

Three words for you:  Flea. Market. Fancy.  Last year, those three little words that I’d never heard before, caused quite the frenzy.  There are so many beautiful fabrics donated for this important work, I’m almost tempted to learn to quilt.  Almost.  If you are a quilter or seamstress, or know someone who is, please visit Alissa’s blog to help us reach our goal of $15,000.

Because we’re all volunteers, every dollar you donate, apart from nominal banking fees, goes directly to the women and children of the Congo.  Through your help, they’re rebuilding their lives after years of conflict, loss and rape, finding strength and hope for the future through education, learning a skill and a trade, and being in community with each other.

 Visit Alissa’s blog now, and tell your friends! 

(Photo courtesy Abby Ross, for Falling Whistles.)