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NEW Toilet Blocks for the community of Lungi

Blog post written by Fiona Uschmann, Founder of Catch The Dream CIC

Foundations of the Toilet Blocks in late 2020

One of the things that we take for granted here in the UK are bathroom facilities. Whether we realise it or not, we are all likely guilty of this. I myself, have wanted to have a new bathroom suite fitted for quite a while, but in reality, I don’t NEED one. I have a perfectly good, functional bathroom already. 

Whenever nature calls, I don’t have to worry about walking away from my house, in the dark with no light. I'm lucky enough to be able to choose from a multitude of brands to find the softest toilet paper and I never need to worry about guarding myself from wild animals when heading to the loo.

For the villagers in Lungi, it's unfortunately not as straight forward. Having no sanitary facilities in the village is a real problem. To find somewhere private is a daunting experience - defecating in the open (such as in fields, bushes, or by bodies of water) can be devastating for public health, harmful to community health and well-being. Open defecation can also undermine individual dignity and safety - especially for girls and women, who, when forced to travel a distance from home to reach adequate hygiene facilities, are exposed to greater risk of violence.

Exposed faecal matter contaminates food, water and the environment, and can spread serious diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, and typhoid. Children are often at greater risk of catching these serious diseases too.

Too many times, I have returned to the village of Lungi and noticed that a face or two from previous visits are missing because they have fallen ill and died of a disease that could be prevented by having a toilet and clean water to wash hands. It's devastating.

When Becky (co-founder) and I visited Lungi in 2017, after we set up Catch the Dream CIC, one of the issues that struck a chord was the need for sanitation. The village had a well with a pump, it had a Barrie (meeting space) and a grain store but little else!

After Ebola had ravaged the village for the third time and the community were on their knees, my main focus was on the communities farming and food needs. Thankfully Becky thought to bring up the sanitary situation and asked the community how they managed. Unfortunately the answer was not pleasant and I'll spare you the details today, dear reader.

When we returned to the UK, Becky was the driving force behind upgrading the sanitary conditions for Lungi. During our launch party we set up a 'toilet station' where our guests and donors could literally throw money into the pan with the aim of providing Lungi with sanitary toilet blocks. We raised quite a bit that evening, but it wasn’t quite enough to build a toilet on top of providing new farming tools, seed and food!

Becky wasn’t daunted and through obtaining regular donations, especially from our friends at Belvoir Stoke, we managed to raise the funds to help us make a start.

Unfortunately, through some very bad weather and not so reliable builders, we made the difficult decision to put the toilet block on hold until we could guarantee we could do it right. We didn’t want to build something that wouldn’t last or find that it was the wrong kind of system for their needs.

Initially some of the men in the community dug a hole, it was a gloriously impressive large hole… but nothing more. It became obvious that this hole left open was becoming dangerous with the young children who may slip in it, especially after a particularly bad rainy season.  So, after a lot of thought and planning, we decided to start again!

We were thankful to receive donations from a school in Liverpool - St Anselms - and this was enough to build 1 toilet stall. We put that money aside until we could source a reliable builder.

Fast forward to early 2020 and just as we thought we could get moving on the Toilet Block project again, Covid-19 struck. Some of our fundraisers had to be cancelled or put on hold and I was worried that like before, when Ebola hit, we would need all our capital to keep the village going…. it felt like we were starting all over again.

The moral of the story here though, is that perseverance is key. There is always a silver lining, and if you keep the faith, good things will happen.

On my last visit to Lungi in October 2020, through a donor that wishes to remain anonymous, we were able to secure a fantastic builder who could provide the community of Lungi with a functioning, sanitary Toilet Block and bring the project in on budget. It felt like a dream come true!

I’m pleased to say that the Toilet Block was completed in November 2020 and the keys handed over to the community leaders. 

This certainly couldn’t have been achieved without the belief of those involved and the hard work of our project co-ordinator Joseph, our main man on the ground in Sierra Leone.

Thank you to everyone involved - I can’t wait to see it first hand on my next visit, which I do hope will be sometime in 2021 (travel restrictions permitting!)

Check out our video on YouTube to see the progress and the completed project.  To witness the sheer joy of the village community is very humbling when we have this facility so easily available to us back here in the UK.

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