9 month whirlwind

So its been a minute since I’ve taken a minute to sit and capture the lived experiences that have beautifully and transformationally hallmarked my life. A 9 month hiatus and it has been the greatest–learning how to realign and to be present.  But I love and appreciate the art of documentation through storytelling and aspire to resurrect those habits. Here’s the highlight reel of how I left 2016 and embarked on the new journey of 2017 with the best of people.

March 2016: 

We celebrated my ZamRoomie Effie’s birthday in style with a nice girls brunch!

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My lil sis came and we adventured around Lusaka doing touristy things and toilet things (ps no animals were harmed in the making of this photo)

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Kalin, Kenya and I jetted off to Kigali, Rwanda to check out its beautiful rolling hills and learn more about its history.

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We crossed the border for a quick camping trip on Lake Bunyonyi which was both beautiful and adventurous especially when we canoed (slash got a bit lost/stranded) and saw some amazing fresh water otters.

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April 2016: 

April began with an awesome Global Health Corps ZamFam retreat to Siavonga where we got to reflect on our fellowship experience, talk about our post fellowship plans, take a sunset boat cruise  all while being greeted by some beautiful zebras every morning! Love this group ❤

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During this time, Society for Family Health started incorporating some human-centered design (HCD) methodologies into their new approach to increase the uptake of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision in Zambia. It was awesome to be apart of this HCD ideation workshop, help in the production of the social marketing designs and design thinking and have proud co-fellow moments when Lute gave sassy speeches (like below) throughout the process.

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One of my closest friends from  home even got to come all the way from Nicaragua (where she was living and working) to hang with me in Zambia and work with me on toilets stuff. Such a beautiful soul ❤

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Oh and of course, toilet work was happening through it all! After installing it with some of the team and then iterating, I then worked to monitor and lead focus groups with other members of the team! It was so exciting to truly integrate human centered design in this pilot throughout each stage.

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May 2016: 

In May, some of my GHC ZamFam organized a Professional Development workshop in Kitwe, Zambia for university and postgraduate students. It was awesome to be apart of the the team and also represent with these ladies.

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I also had the incredible opportunity to be a WASH consultant for a WASH Needs Assessment project that was being executed by a Save the Mothers-a Ugandan based NGO that promotes and supports mother baby friendly hospitals across the country. During my time, I got to check out the sanitation situation in 5 hospitals across the country and compile a list of recommendations for use in upcoming grant applications. It was a really cool experience to get to work with these girls and to work at the intersection of WASH and Maternal + Child Health. View our project report here.

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My time in Uganda happen to overlap with Taylor’s (one of the girls in the photo above) birthday! So of course we all had to celebrate by going on a river rafting adventure on the Nile. My raft even ended up going down a class 5 rapid backwards, which was fun/terrifying.

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June 2016: 

After months of coordination by some of the incredible members of the ZamFam GHC team, we collectively pulled off a super successful community health fair and soccer (football) tournament. BIG ups to the project coordinators for pulling this all together as it was so great to be able to talk about different organizational health services all the while cheering for the very competitive Lusaka soccer stars!

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July 2016: 

July was a month of a lot of movement. I first began with the incredible opportunity to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as a Human Centered Design consultant for a local WASH project where we talked about the design process and the importance of iterating products and services after effectively capturing user feedback. It was such a cool project and I loved being able to work with them at their toilet sites too! One night, I also had the chance to check out a performance called Common Threads which is a Pan African community engagement performance project which used Ethio-Modern Dance as a medium for cultural exchange, and it was AMAZING!

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July also marked the end of the Wish for WASH 2016 beta toilet pilot! We have since been compiling our findings into reports for our project stakeholders and for potential funders in order to determine if we can begin scaling our work in this community. To check out the pilot process video, click here and check out our 1 page project write up here.

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Just after wrapping up the Wish for WASH pilot, I had the opportunity to travel to Toronto, Canada to speak about my journey as a social entrepreneur, WASH and health advocate and as an aspiring global citizen at the 2016 International Baccalaureate Conferences of the Americas Regional conference! What an honor it was to reflect upon how my experience as an IB student helped act as my foundation for the person that I am, and that I am continuing to develop into being. I even had the chance to see Niagara Falls with my friend that I met on my trip to Uganda!

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My Co-Fellow, Lute, and I celebrated a great year of progressive and passionate work on our last day at the Society for Family Health!

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And we even had matching chitenge dresses that we revealed at the close of our Global Health Corps year at the End of Year Retreat in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania! The retreat was a beautiful way to close out our time as fellows with reflections and fellowship as well as catching up with other fellows that we hadn’t seen since the year before! Such an awesome experience.

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August  2016:

And the celebrating, fellowship and reflections continued to the beaches of Zanzibar, Tanzania with these beautiful pipo ❤

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After Zanzibar, I hung around in Tanzania for a bit longer and was joined by my little sis as we experienced nature at its finest via extreme sister bonding through camping in the Serengeti and hiking Mount Kilimanjaro! Check out the highlights of this awesome #burtonblastoff memory below:

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September 2016: 

Finally stateside for the first time in months, we didn’t waste anytime getting that family bonding in from trips to the beach to attending the Nanticoke’s Annual Powwow to walks on the Beltlin, I always love spending time with my favorite people. I even got to swing by GT a bit 🙂

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October 2016: 

Jet setting again, I packed up and moved to London to begin my MSc in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar! And what a time it was transitioning back to classes, learning the UK academic system (which is quite different from the US’s) and meeting some of the most inspiring public health practitioners from around the world! Oh and Kalin is getting her degree here too, so that she been a consistently fun and rejuvenating thread of friendship and inspiration in my life 🙂

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November 2016: 

After a whirlwind of orientations and the first few weeks of classes, it was time for LSHTM’s first reading week of the year. With new friendships relatively fresh, this acted as time of extreme bonding for me and 3 girls I met here (Bethany, Lauren, and Hanaa) all of whom are beautiful souls that I am lucky to have adventured to Norway with! That’s right, Norway. We went to Bergen for a few days and it was beautiful seeing all the fjords and checking out the fish markets. Needless to say, it was also EXTREMELY cold. Good times with new friends 🙂

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Also in November, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Mumbai, India to present Wish for WASH’s work at the Toilet Board Coalition’s 1st Annual Toilet Business, Innovation and Investment summit. Going from the cold temperatures of Norway to the heat of India was not the only thing that extreme for me, but it was also completely inspiring to be in the same room with the world’s leading toilet people who were dedicating their lives to improving global sanitation crisis. SO SO SO AMAZING! And after talking toilets for a few days, I had the chance to venture around the city which is always fun 🙂

 

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December 2016:

Term 1 at LSHTM ended with a slew of practice assessments and work which has all been super interesting. From health economics to statistics to issues in public health, the first 3 months of course work were intense but really eye opening and catalyzed my heart for this work even more. After wrapping up coursework, the ultimate #burtonblastoff moments ensued as my mom, dad, and lil sis came to tourist around my new city with me. As this was the first time the 4 of us had been really been abroad together, every moment was necessarily documented. I loved every minute of having them here 🙂 Check out our family video that highlights our touristing adventures here. 

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After our English adventures we headed back home and continued the family bonding through conventional means (ie movies) and nonconventional means (ie INDOOR SKYDIVING..WHAT?!?!) Haha it was amazing and as always, I love spending time with them. Check our family indoor skydiving compilation here. 

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January 2017:

We kicked off the New Year with all of us still stateside, and ready for the new year. Court was the first to go as she set off on her Georgia Tech Pacific Study Abroad Program where she is studying, living and exploring New Zealand, Australia and Fiji for this semester. As a big sister, I love seeing her grow and experience her own adventures and build her own life. Proud of you court! Love always ❤

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As for me, I set off a couple of days later back for my second term at LSHTM. But first, I had an Icelandic Interim where I got to explore the land of fire and ice which was a beautiful transition into the new year of course work.

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February 2017: 

Following an intense time of politics and demonstrations in addition to stresses that come with being enrolled in an advanced biostatistics course, the communities of support and the amount of love that I have received in this season has been immense and truly amazing. I entered what some have coined as “Q2” on my 25th birthday earlier this month and despite the darkness that is consistently threatening to consume this world, I am constantly reminded of how important and valuable it is to be a source of and to be surround restorative light and love. Thank you to these lovely people that celebrated with me at the British Museum for high tea despite all of the craziness that is school assessments and life.

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Talk about a 9 month whirlwind! Cheers to being 25, to hopefully being a bit more kind and wiser, to figuring out my thesis (BAHHH!),  and to continuing to authentically write the story that is this life. AND OF COURSE to always remembering that #everybodypoops 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty in Strength

The first few months of 2016 have been transformational for me for a host of reasons, both personally and professionally. While work at SFH has picked up significantly and Wish for WASH has installed our first toilet, I have worked to grow myself on the personal front as well. Not that my professional developments haven’t required a lot from me personally, but a few months ago, I created a list of personal development goals that were much more intentional to building inner peace and strength.

Throughout my time in Zambia, I have learned more than ever that there is so much to life that is not under our control. And as someone who has always sought to retain control over my life–my space, my things, my relationships – this realization has been a huge shock to my system. I began to feel intensely uncertain about all aspects of my life and have become quelled by the reality that I no longer am in a controlled environment. I don’t live under my parent’s roof or go to school with X number of people, Y of which I would select and call friends or live the comfy lifestyle to which I became all too accustomed. I am thankful for my upbringing and my parents and everything I was blessed to have growing up, but I have officially left the nest; and rather than feeling aimless or confused, I have decided that I need to refocus my energy because its time for me to independently fly.

However, in order to fly, one must be strong—mind, body, and spirit—all of which I had admittedly neglected over the years as I lived close to family, friends, mentors, and communities of support who I knew would always help me if I really needed it. Putting 8,000 miles between me and most of those people made me realize that I needed to find my center again. So with that in mind, I created personal development goals for 2016:

Mind: Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not enjoy reading. Sparknotes were my friend growing up and I always claimed “poor design” when I couldn’t intuitively figure out how to use something without reading the directions. I have since recognized my paralyzingly childish views and that reading is not only necessary but can be such a beautiful addition to one’s life. With that notion, I have charged myself with the challenge to read more with support from people in my immediate reality (shoutout to Kalin) to help keep me remain accountable for this goal.

Body:  Once an athlete, always an athlete. Growing up, I was required to work out as part of my weekly list of chores. My ex-military parents instilled in me the notion that taking care of oneself physically is an important part of life and should be habitual. But then college happened and excuses happened. I dabbled here and there but didn’t commit myself to anything regular. Additionally, the horrendous eating habits that I developed while in college soon became my norm. Since moving to Zambia, I have been exposed to some incredible people who have taught me the basics of cooking and food safety (shoutout to Effie) because Ramen and Easy Mac cannot be my food of choice for life. With that notion, I have charged myself with the challenge to develop a routine workout regimen and learn how to consistently cook at least 2 dishes each week. So far, so good! I am the master of chicken stir fry!

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Spirit:  There is so much release that comes with tapping into one’s spiritual self. And I believe that I had made great strides in intentionally living my faith during college with my incredible friends and growing church community. Then I moved away and things changed. After our GHC Quarter 2 retreat in January, I realized that I needed to actively strengthen my inner spirit through more intentional growth in faith in addition to seeking experiences in which I know I will witness and connect with God. Going to church more regularly than I have in recent years and speaking the Gospel aloud within my communities of support has been a step in the right direction. But beyond that, I seek to create more as He has created me. With that notion, I have charged myself with the challenge to create more, in all forms—painting, drawing, speaking, dancing, empowering, inspiring, and more so as to further realize my faith in my daily life.

As a young twenty something millennial, I find that it is often hard to learn how to let go while also finding purpose and meaning in a new type of worldthe real world. But I have come to learn that there is incredible beauty in inner strength; a type of beauty that I now know equips us with the ability to fly with great strength and on our own amidst the tumultuous winds of life. By intentionally developing through these personal development goals, I believe that I will be able to become the best version of myself despite life’s hardships. This I know to be true.

Wish for WASH Pilot: The Build

 

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After over a year in the making, creating partnerships, raising funds, developing a strong team, and manufacturing our SafiChoo 2.0 for testing, the Wish for WASH beta pilot has FINALLY begun! Coming out of 2014, with just a foam prototype, one of my best friends and incredible teammate, Katie, and other interested people who wanted to contribute, the prospect of moving forward was daunting as I felt like there was no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel. Consequently, coming out of 2015 following a 100% funded Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, I was flooded with a host of emotions. I felt an overwhelming sense of social media burn out but was simultaneously filled with extreme joy to finally see that Wish for WASH, my baby, finally had the means– the funds, the product, the team and the partners— necessary to get a beta test started.

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Not to say that early 2016 was a cakewalk. Despite the Indiegogo exhaustion which was paralleled with an all-encompassing excitement that enabled Wish for WASH to hit the ground running in 2016, I had to quickly learn how to navigate customs regulations, international commerce fees, and transport logistics.  Once the toilet was in country, in addition to coordinating travel itineraries for the Wish for WASH team members who were willing and able to travel to start the build, I persevered each day to identify and follow up on the necessary steps to get approval for the pilot. This season of life was definitely proof to me that to be a social entrepreneur you must be willing to wear many hats, and often times, stacked on top of one another. From team visionary, to team travel agent, to team financial director, to team partnership relations developer, to team logistics officer, the past few months juxtaposed all of the skills that I have developed since the start of this Wish for WASH journey as a grand test of resilience, patience, and professionalism.

And by the grace of God, the Zambian toilet installation happened! 

Our incredible on the ground partners, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WUSUP), have helped me so much in terms of navigating cultural nuances and requirements while being amazingly supportive of our intention to use iterative and rapid prototyping practices in order to gain a minimum viable product that best meets the end user’s needs. Our manufacturing and shipping partners have brought our designs to life and enabled them to get where they needed to be at rates that we could afford. Our Indiegogo backers are passionate supporters who have enabled us to finance this toilet test and it’s been awesome to see how happy people are to receive their campaign perks as tangible proof that they are a part of our story.

And lastly, my incredible Wish for WASH team has continued to amaze me. Seriously, I am so blessed by them! They have taken off time from work, used school scholarships to help support their time in Zambia, had business meetings across 3 different time zones at weird hours to work out logistics problems, graciously responded to my slew of weekly emails, and patiently worked with me in the field to install the toilet despite the crazy and random obstacles that came our way.

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It is incredible to see an idea transform into a reality, but for me it is more than that. Despite what happens from here, I have learned to deeply appreciate the fact that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. As the founder of Wish for WASH, I am often the face of much of our work, but I am here to tell you that Wish for WASH is so much more than me; and for that, I am grateful. With my incredible team, partners and supporters, we created the 2.0 SafiChoo toilet, successfully fundraised for it, shipped it to Zambia (and have one also being built in Atlanta), installed it and now have amazing local people using and providing feedback on it. All I can say in retrospect is…Shit’s getting real and I couldn’t be more excited to see what happens next!

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#Level24

24. One more year until the quarter life crisis ‘officially ensues’. One more year of being considered someone in their early twenties. These uninspiring thoughts then led to me thinking:

What am I actually doing with my life and how am I actually going to do it?

What am I going to be when I “grow up”?

And will I ever figure out how do my taxes on my own?

Flooded with questions and uncertainty during this time after Q2’s majestic internal  and enlightened reflections coupled with the angst that comes with packing, moving, unpacking and (hopefully) nesting into a new place, I approached my 24th birthday with a doubting heart. As someone who has always loved birthdays, I was not sure it I was excited about this one. Not to mention that it was my first birthday away from my family. I was feeling unsure.

But, what I continue to be reminded of in this season of life is that everything happens for a reason. And much to my surprise, despite all the craziness of other people’s schedules and adjusting to their new living situations, my GHC ZamFam really made it clear that they were my family and that Zambia was my new home away from home. 

Rewind exactly 1 week from my birthday. And it was my amazing co-fellow, Lute’s, 24th birthday. The day right after Q2, we had sweet co-fellow lunch at Noodle. Yummy food, pretty pieces of cake, and surprise and sparkly gifts from the US was how we celebrated the first of our co-fellow pair to get on #Level24. And yes Lute’s older than me…by 7 days. 

Before I knew it,  it was my turn. Showing up to work in my newly made Chitenge pants had me walking with a new “I’m 24 today” swag. I opened my phone to texts and phone calls from the Burton crew and photos of the cards that they got for me (my parents love cards and always gives the to us for the holidays! And it was so sweet to receive mine this year via WhatsAp! #burtonblastoff). And I was so excited for work to be done, so that some of ZamFam and I could FINALLY try the best steak house in all of Lusaka, Marlins. And for those of yall that know me, I LOVE steak/meat/protein. Needless to say, I was super pumped and the day was off to a great start. 

Once we showed up to the Lusaka Club House for dinner  (with Lute dressed to impressed and swervin in her friend’s car), we waited for Kalin and Sara to arrive. Then it was time to eat. And NOM the Pepper Steak was EVERYTHING.

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And just when I thought that I was on cloud9, Lute (aka the best co-fellow EVER) surprised me with a HUGE toilet paper roll cake paired with cute little poop cupcakes that said “You’re Old As Poop”. I literally lost my shit, I was so happy.

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The INCREDIBLE cake coupled with the AMAZING steak and the ECCENTRIC light up crown that adorned my head courtesy of Kalin in addition to the PRACTICAL work goodies that Lute also gave me ALL made moving on up to #level24 so special.

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As icing on the cake, Lute and I had a joint ZamFam potluck celebration that also served as Effie, Doris, and my official house warming party at our new pad. It was so much fun to bring the gang back together again over yummy drinks and food (and I even cooked NOODLES!)

All of my prior premonitions about this year and turning 24 were instantly quelled and replaced by sheer gratitude for the people that I get to call my family- both in Zambia and stateside. Seriously. #Level24 was made perfect by all of them. Thank you all so much ❤ 

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The Move

Months of discussion, propelled by termite infestations, extreme power and water outages and the overall health and safety issues that were becoming more apparent and hard to maintain at many of our homes over the course of the first 6 months homes yielded a complete ZamFam move in early 2016. With GHC’s assistance, we all, over the course of a month, transitioned to new homes scattered across the city. For me, this move was pretty bittersweet because while the housing that we had been living in for our first 6 months in Zambia had a host of physical problems that had been compounded over several years that affected the collective livelihood of the group that lived there, the housing complex had been an integral place of community for the 4 years of Zambian based American fellows (as well as many of the Zambian national fellows) who were a part of Global Health Corps. The history of the complex and just the sheer convenience of living next door to other members of our cohort made the place special because it housed many memories and enabled new group memories to be born which meant that the official announcement of our move called for a grand farewell celebration. Kalin headed up a going away Braii or BBQ for friends and family of current and previous GHC fellows based in Zambia, and the turn-out was great. It was a beautiful way to move into a new phase of our Zambian GHC experience.

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Fast forward a month later, we somehow managed to pack up all of our belongings (which for me was a heinous process since I tend to collect massive amounts of random things) and have since moved to various homes in Lusaka that boast improved maintenance and power as well as being a bit more convenient to most of our cohort’s work places.

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For GHC, one of the main focuses for our move was to improve the commute from work to home so that less people were traveling to and from work after the sun was down. And because this was a main part of the move and new housing selection, roommates were swapped and new living arrangements were made. Effie and I are still roomies and have welcomed Doris into our day to day lives as our new third roommate in our spacious and beautiful new home (complete with accent walls and a red kitchen!).

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We all had to adjust and set new expectations for one another to ensure that we live as peacefully and productively as possible in our third official living arrangement since moving to Zambia. While this experience was definitely bittersweet at the beginning and learning how to get to work or grocery shop or just live in our new contexts added a certain level of anxiety for me as I sought to find my new norm, the move has proven to be for the better for all of us and I am thankful for all of the new opportunities that this new housing arrangement has to offers us (like intentionally traveling to visit each other or hosting dinner parties with one another).

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This just goes to show that the only constant in life is change, and that’s a beautiful thing.

 

Chronicles of a Toilet Crowdfunder

2016. It’s a new year for all, including Wish for WASH. Founded in December 2014, it has officially been 1 year of this social startup’s existence. And wow, what a whirlwind of learnings, growth, perseverance and creativity it has been! The continuous and outpouring support that we continue to receive from people and organizations around the world with whom we are related and whom we have never met is truly a testament to the mantra “it takes a village to raise a child”. In this case, Wish for WASH is an infant organization run by young passioneers who have worked tireless throughout weekends, between classes, late after work and in countries around the world to bring into fruition the social mission of improved sanitation in low resource communities. While we have a lengthy journey ahead of us, we have come so far because of our incredible communities of support.

We ended last year with a high energy and frequently marketed indiegogo crowdfunding campaign with the hopes of raising enough capital to fund our 2016 beta toilet pilot in Zambia as well as in a resettled refugee community in Atlanta. As a team who prides itself on valuing human centered design to fuel our product and service innovations, it is now time to bring our work into the field for critical feedback.

Does the toilet work?

Does it improve the user experience?

These are questions that will catalyze much of our work this coming year. As tough as it is to hear that something that is more or less your baby isn’t working as planned, it is necessary to receive this constructive criticism to continue iterating until it has the impact and value that is intended. It’s a long journey, but it is an exciting one for sure.

Emerging from my first ever crowdfunding experience with a 100% funded campaign that was rooted in an intense, almost guerilla-like, social media strategy has given me a completely new perspective of the sustained level of energy and passion required to be a fundraising professional. For me, November and December 2015 were months where I was almost exclusively fundraising for this Toilet Testing campaign, and it was- quite frankly- exhausting. I learned just how challenging it is to actively translate passion and excitement into a financial donation, especially since the SafiChoo toilet does not directly or tangibly benefit the lives of those who have donated. Luckily, our strong following and communities of support helped us cross the finish line after we developed consistent social media schedules, exciting new perk offers, creative ways to expand our reach through new media outlets, mentoring support from organizations that had been through their own crowdfunding hurdles before as well as learning a slew of other social entrepreneurial lessons. One of my favorite learnings that kept my spirits high despite the grueling hours spent mass emailing or facebook messaging hundreds of people was that much of the millennial generation is willing to support social missions in ways beyond financial contributions. I had friends from college, childhood and even people whom I have never met offer to write blog posts, share the campaign on their social media pages, connect me with potential partners/donors/media outlets to broaden our reach, donate a portion of their monthly pay check to our cause, create pieces of art that would be sold with a percentage of the money going to Wish for WASH, offer their website and digital media expertise pro bono, or host events where the proceeds went to Wish for WASH. As a huge fan of creative problem solving, I was amazed at how many unique ways that people supported our mission beyond solely direct funding. And despite the level of anxiety that spamming to raise money may have caused, I am incredibly honored to see how selfless people can be. Broke students and fellow entrepreneurs who are in the same penny pinching situation as Wish for WASH frequently shelled out $5-$10, and it was truly inspiring and catalyzed personal reflection.

In this reflection, I made the following realizations:

  • People genuinely care. Despite how tight their time or budgets may be, the people who feel your translated passion, regardless of whether the product or service directly benefits their day to day life, find a way to support you in a way that may lead to incredibly lucrative (both fiscal and personal) results which you may have never known was possible. Anything really is everything when it comes to supporting passion.
  • Fundraising is hard work. For the people who do it as a full time job, I am seriously impressed because it takes unbelievable time and passion as well as a heart that will not be deterred when faced with an inevitable slew of rejection. I learned throughout our campaign that if 3 out of 10 emails were answered positively, then that was a successful campaigning day. Having realistic expectations and not taking unanswered or rejection messages personally is crucial to be a successful fundraiser. So, hats off to all of the fundraisers out there for having an amazingly creative and resilient spirit!
  • Crowdfunding is a team sport. There is no way in the world that I would have been able to do this alone! Thanks to the Wish for WASH team, we had continuous creative graphics to post, new opportunities to pursue, new perks to offer, new student members that were excited to contribute and more passionate people to help reach out and respond to the mountains of emails that were surfacing. Additionally, having the support of my family to help spread the word and to keep me sane during peaks of frustration was, and continues to be, invaluable throughout this entire process. If you are thinking of launching a crowdfunding campaign, definitely ensure that you have a team that has your back no matter what the results of the campaign may be.
  • Anything is possible. So cheesy, I know, but I believe it now more than ever. If Wish for WASH was able to reach our goal of $25,000 for toilet testing in low resource communities in just over a month’s time, then anyone who is driven to make a difference can attract the kind of support needed to follow their dream to its furthest. This campaign was for a proof of concept test for a toilet that many people who donated will never physically see or get to use, but still through successful communication and advocacy strategies, they now care, and they helped in whatever capacity that they could. And for that I am extremely thankful.

Overall, I am incredibly re-energized by the results of this campaign and am excited to continue sharing our story as it unfolds. Regardless of whether this pilot is a “failure” in terms of traditional metrics of success, we will be able to share our learnings externally for growth in the sanitation community as well as continue iterating our work so that it one day achieves its intended impact as a meaningful and sustainable step in the direction of universal access to hygienic sanitation. Thank you to everyone who has helped us arrive to the place where we are today. We are forever grateful for you believing in us because #everybodypoops. Happy 2016!
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Holiday Cheer

I love this season that is known as “fall” in the US largely because of the concentration of exciting and family oriented holidays that encourage time well spent together and the creation of memories. This year, I have spent the majority of the holiday season in Zambia with my new ZamFam. From painting beer bottles for decorations and playing with light up balloons for Halloween, to having two expat Thanksgivings filled with Turkey and stuffing and CRANBERRIES (all of which are luxuries to find here), to decorating our Kepa flat with solar powered Christmas lights, stockings and Christmas stickers, I have loved the new memories that our GHC family has created. HAPPY HOLIDAYS YALL!

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Robben Island

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I spent a day learning some powerful truths about South African history on Robben Island, a place that jailed many of the black political prisoners during apartheid- including Nelson Mandela. We began by embarking on a ferry across the bay, and upon arriving to the island, we immediately boarded buses to begin the historic tour.

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The tour guide filled our bus ride with a host of historic stories with an intermittent joke which kept the experience lively. We saw leprosy grave yards where the unmarked tombs were the tombs of the blacks while the marked tombs were the whites. Our bus tour guide then explained that once the government declared that you were black, that that was your given identity and you were required to wear a Dom Pass (or an ID document that directly translates to meaning “stupid pass”). Largely the tour was highlighting the severity of colorism and segregation that was happening due to systemic societal injustices that ultimately led to apartheid within the country.

In the midst of these learnings, we stopped by the water side and saw African penguins and the beautiful view of Table Mountain from the island. There was such a juxtaposition of emotions and sites on the island. From the beauty of the scenery and wild life to the painful memories of the jails and segregated churches—I kept fluctuating from  enjoying my time in the most beautiful place on earth to reflecting back to a place of internal introspection as I digested all of the crimes against humanity that happened on this same ground.

And then we arrived at the Maximum security prison where Nelson Mandela was jailed for 17 years. Our bus tour guide dropped us off at the gate and a new tour guide led us the rest of the way—and he was unique because he was a former political prisoner who was also jailed in the Maximum Security prison.

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We wondered why he would ever come back to this place after the harsh injustices and severe mistreatment that he endured on Robben Island during the apartheid, and in his words he said “I also did let go”.

These were powerful words spoken moments before we had the opportunity to see Nelson Mandela’s jail cell. It was one of those moments that I reflected and thought about what the walls would say if they could talk.

Despite such a painful past involving so many severe social injustices, there is a strong and beautiful spirit of hope that is felt throughout the island. I smile because I too embody this hopeful spirit and work every day towards the creation of a more equitable and just future for mankind because the world is one.

POOPx and Capetown

The first week of December, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Total Market Approach and Sanitation workshop in Capetown, South Africa hosted by Population Services International (PSI). After a series of flight delays and arriving in the city late at night, I finally arrived to the Africa 15 Orange Hotel and was in awe. Constant power? Huge beautiful bedroom? Room service? A bath tub? Talk about GLAMOROUS.

I was so excited for my first experience in Capetown where I was surrounded by beautiful scenery and talking about what I always do (poop…duh) in a way that I never had before. According to PSI:

“The total market approach (TMA) is a way to improve market performance to equitably and sustainably increase the use of health products and services, with the vision of achieving universal health coverage.”

So basically, this is a methodology that can be used to determine market failures and how to best work to improve the sanitation problem on a local level. And it is brilliant!


I loved learning from WASH professionals from around the world in the ways that they approach behavior change communications and social marketing strategies as it relates to WASH interventions in their countries and communities. I even had the chance to contribute to the learnings of the week as a speaker and winner of the first ever POOPx! My 5 minute talk covered the importance of human centered design as it relates to product development specifically in the WASH sector. I used many of personal experiences with Wish for WASH as case studies for the talk as well! I had a blast!

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And following an intense week of TMA and sanitation talk, I had a couple of extra days that I spent exploring the incredible, global city of Capetown by visiting its beaches, drinking its wines, and experiencing some of its tourist attractions such as Robben Island and Table Mountain, which is now considered one of the 7 new natural wonders of the world! I loved my time in Capetown and cannot wait for the next opportunity to go back!

3 Truths for Living Passionately

Passion is powerful. Defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion, once it takes hold, it fuels life. Whether it is for someone or something, within your personal or professional life or a mixture of the two, passion is a youthful energy that stimulates both innovation and attraction while also acting as a form of communication that transcends age, culture, and language in a pure and raw form. It is beautiful. However, the level of vulnerability that is required to be truly passionate makes it, at times, painful.

For the past year, Wish for WASH, LLC has been the heart of my professional life because during my first year of college, my worldview noticeably shifted after I learned that nearly half the world doesn’t have access to toilets. This shift resulted in a powerful rush of shameless and uncontrollable passion beginning with my 18-year-old self declaring that I would design toilets to my now 23 year old self who is scrambling to make entrepreneurial ends meet in order to take actionable steps towards helping solve the global sanitation crises. People frequently say that I radiate passion for this work and that they really want to find “their toilet”- or something/someone that they care about as deeply as I care for improved sanitation and health equity.

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The frequency of these questions demonstrates the powerful pull passion has for so many people. But when asked “why are you doing this?”, I have to intentionally think about what it means to live passionately and how to maintain that energy. Truly living a life rooted in passion, as I have increasingly found, requires extraordinary resilience. Crazy entrepreneurial hours, constant troubleshooting, repeated failures, perpetual naysayers, or being completely heart-broken. These are just some of the unfortunate realities that come with living passionately.

So, what are some ways to keep going when your once youthful, inspiring, and persistent fire begins to wane? I often find rejuvenation and inspiration by knowing these three truths for living passionately:

1) Define and remain true to your personal core values

Whether it is for your personal or professional life, you must understand the ethics and life experiences that have shaped your worldview and determine which of your core values are unwavering. Knowing these values and reflecting on them regularly allows you to maintain your strength, because when you stand steadfast in your beliefs, you are better equipped to regain the stamina that is needed to move past the next obstacle. Clearly defining and embracing your personal core values allows you to build a solid foundation of confidence. These values will remain true in all aspects of your life and to live passionately, you need both your confidence and your conviction. The backbone of any passionate pursuit is often rooted in deeply held personal values that you want to share with others. This is an incredible resource to help in defining your core values.

2) Align your values with your skill-sets to determine how to add new value

This is your unique value proposition that allows you to improve a relationship, a work environment or the world. By working to blend your core values with your acquired skills, you can more readily find a way that you can add new value such as providing a new perspective, acting as a change catalyst, or adding optimization strategy to a work place. Clearly defining your specific added value goal is essential. As you passionately seek to leave things better than you found them, your mission will develop a sense of urgency and purpose. With the ever abundance of ‘external’ naysayers, you need to insure that your ‘internal’ team, or your inner circle, respects and supports your values. I have found that surrounding myself with unabashed supporters inspires me to reach for new heights and goals despite the odds.

3) Periodically assess whether you are actually creating value

Despite your best intentions and admirable goals, you must evaluate whether or not you are executing your value proposition in a way that is making a difference to your intended recipient. If you find that you are not truly creating your targeted added value, re-examine your personal core values and skill set, reevaluate your relationship or work place, and realign yourself to get back on the path that is fueled by your passions. Living passionately is not about achieving personal goals and accolades; it’s about making a difference for someone or something else.

Passion is contagious and if you are truly living in it, everyone around you becomes aware of your drive and commitment. Building a career or a life with someone that continues to fuel your passion is unbelievably fulfilling, but can simultaneously be painful as your heart or work can be harshly judged by others. I have found that staying focused on attaining my intended long term goal of helping to creatively rectify the global WASH crisis and keeping myself accountable for smaller, short-term goals by surrounding myself with people that continue to challenge me to grow in my passion has kept my fire for this work alive.

In the end, Wish for WASH has opened my eyes to just how hard it is to live passionately, and as a young social entrepreneur, I am still learning the importance of taking time to reflect on my personal value development as a way to build up resilience and intentionality within my work. Despite the barriers our team has faced in project management, manufacturing, business development, and fundraising, we continue to persevere in our toilet hustle because we deeply believe in utilizing our collective business, research, engineering, and design skill-sets as tools in the fight for health equity.

What I believe is working for humanity is when people find their passion, and they fight for it in accordance with Howard Thurman’s sage advice: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

As 2015 comes to an end and a new year begins, I encourage you to begin your search to find “your toilet” while also supporting ours here because #everybodypoops. (Find the original Huffington Post article here)