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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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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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!

Pit Latrine Emptying in the Kanyama Compound

#Everybodypoops–and this is what it looks like!

Today I got to witness the pit latrine emptying process in the Kanyama compound with the incredible organization Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor! Innovative toilets and sanitation technologies improve community health and we need another $1.5K in order to help in this process! Donate here today to help us pursue our #wishforwash!

 

World Toilet Day

November 19th may seem like just a regular day. Another Thursday. Another day of work. Same old, same old.However, for me, November 19th is THE day that helps remind me about why I do what I do. It is World Toilet Day. Now if you can imagine, toilet people are pretty unique. We are an eclectic bunch that is not afraid to use a well-placed curse word for more than just emphasis but for advocacy. The complexity of the sanitation crisis in our world calls for simplified jargon that everyone understands. I mean in what other field is “shit” considered a “technical term”?

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Toilet people are great. But beyond that, toilets themselves are great. Like we don’t even have to think about this so much in the western world, but the large majority of toilets that we are accustomed to gracefully and effortlessly get shit away from people. And that’s the beauty of them. In order for humans to be healthy, we MUST be separated from their shit and toilets help in this process. And that’s a fact.

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However, there are SO MANY people today that do not have the luxury of using a toilet that magically takes their shit away and are forced to confront it on a daily basis as a result of the wide spread practice of open defecation (or going the bathroom outside) and flying toilets (or going to the bathroom in bags that are then tossed on the ground or on someone’s roof) as well as the lack of sanitation education in many parts of the world. With this knowledge, World Toilet Day becomes an important day to educate about and advocate for a piece of technology that many people take for granted.

For my 2015 World Toilet Day, I attended an awareness event with my fellow GHC Poop Princess, Alexis, in the George Compound of Lusaka.

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Performances were held to grab the attention of the youth while ministers spoke to shed some light on the importance of toilets that was geared more towards the adults. Alexis and I met a bunch of cute new friends and we loved being in the field talking dirty about the importance of hygienic sanitation practices!

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HAPPY WORLD TOILET DAY because #everybodypoops!

 

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STEM in the Social Sector

Sanitation is a story that is often untold. It tends to be the elephant in the room during conversations about global issues; silenced by cultural taboos and disgust, despite the fact that of the 7 billion people in the world today- everybody poops. According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, approximately 2.6 billion people in the world today do not have access to toilets, and many practice open defecation — or going to the bathroom in full view of other people — which leads to a host of both mental and physical health problems. The fecal waste often times contaminates local water sources leading to the spread of WASH (or water, sanitation, and hygiene) related diseases costing the lives of about 4,000 children every day.

In 2011, as a freshman at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), I attended a conference, and my eyes were opened to the enormity of this problem. I was listening to a dynamic speaker, Susan Davis, founder of Improve International, who spoke candidly about the extent to which the global WASH crisis has created health inequities around the world-particularly in developing countries. Her speech captivated the attention of my 18 year old self as she revealed that pubescent girls in the developing world often times drop out of school because their schools lack toilets. The information churned in my head as I realized that many girls are hindered from advancing their education because of the lack of something we often times take so much for granted- a safe and hygienic toilet. The anger and discontent that was spurred from that knowledge catalyzed the work that I do today.

I am now an alumna of Georgia Tech, an internationally renowned STEM university, and I earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design, a degree rooted in engineering thought processes and hands on building. But beyond my degree and the prestige that my alma mater boasts, that 2011 conference and the words of Susan Davis truly transformed my life as I pivoted from worrying about design aesthetics to focusing my education on helping to solve social impact related issues with design thinking. Over the course of my collegiate career, I immersed myself further into the social sector via humanitarian oriented programs to better understand how to promote and produce sustainable projects in the developing world, while simultaneously founding my social startup, Wish for WASH, LLC– an organization that seeks to bring innovation to sanitation through culturally specific research, design and education. An interdisciplinary team of students and recent graduates from Georgia Tech have helped propel this company forward, and we have recently produced our first professionally manufactured prototypes.

In summer 2014, our team participated in a multi-agency pilot to assess toilet designs in a refugee camp in northern Kenya after being the first all-female team to win the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize Competition, the largest undergraduate invention competition in the United States. After assessing user feedback and incorporating incredible ‘IDEO formulated’ human centered design principles, we have redesigned our Safichoo Toilet system and are preparing to launch a beta pilot in Lusaka, Zambia in 2016 (more of which can be found on our current Indiegogo page)

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My passion for toilets is weird, but it is also necessary because social impact designers, engineers, coders and makers are essential in creating products and services that innovatively advance mankind. However, beyond just WASH, my journey has led me to put out a call for more people from STEM fields to pursue social entrepreneurship and work in the social sector. In a world suffering from extreme poverty, malnutrition, violence, and inequity, we need more doers, creators, and makers working in this space in tandem with the policy makers, international development officers, and business professionals to create holistic and interdisciplinary solutions to more effectively make sustainable change. My generation, building on incredible learnings from generations past, has an increasing need to do work that leaves a lasting impact on the world in the most sustainable, solution oriented way possible. This is evidenced by the rise of incredible millennial run social organizations such as Code4Rights, Sanivation,LuminAID, TOHL, and Embrace in addition to many more. These organizations highlight the fact that Gen Y is seeking to do more that create socially oriented products and services but is also very actively testing the waters for different ‘for profit for good’ business models such as B-Corps and hybrid models. Because significant money is required upfront to manufacture and iterate new physical product designs, technical and product driven companies may benefit from avoiding the classic ‘non-profit’ status sought by traditional social enterprises and according to Harvard Business Review “selling equity to mission aligned investors [may make] good sense” via impact investing depending on the situation. In addition to these entrepreneurial ventures, many existing humanitarian organizations have a need for socially minded makers such as UNHCR’s Innovation team.

As a recent college graduate and blossoming social entrepreneur, I have a lot to learn; but for now, I stand by my call to my fellow STEM colleagues. You are needed at the table and in these humanitarian discussions; we need rapid prototypers, coders and engineers in addition to people with business acumen in these global conversations to help create the innovative solutions that will genuinely improve the lives of those who suffer most from systemic injustices and disparities. We need you to see this sector’s work as a valuable way to make the most out of those strenuous and costly degree programs. As a Georgia Tech graduate with a heart for humanitarian work, I know first-hand that increasing STEM professionals in the social sector will have a vital role in helping make our world a more livable and just place for everyone. Join me in answering the call. (see original Huffington Post piece publication here)

Everybody Poops. Even at Lake of Stars 2015

For those of you who have heard me speak, you know I often start by saying “Sanitation is a story that is often untold. It is the elephant in the room silenced by taboo and disgust”. This is a true statement but I feel the need to discuss it nonetheless. For years, I have been known as the “poop girl”, which has always been figuratively, not literally. Until now.

Last weekend, I travelled with several GHC fellows from Lusaka, Zambia to Mangochi, Malawi to attend a well-known music festival called the Lake of Stars which is on Africa’s third largest lake, Lake Malawi. It was a time to decompress from all the work stresses and to find time to celebrate after the recent death of my Aunt Zanna, with whom I was very close, that I intended to visit next month. ZamFam adventurers- Kalin, Sara, Reena, Brian and I-climbed aboard the most chaotic bus experience of my life. Tickets were oversold so travelers were standing in the aisles for this alleged 12 hour journey where no air conditioning was present and baggage was overflowing from the ceiling spaces; honoring Zambian transportation tradition, our journey started nearly 2 hours late and took 2 longer than anticipated making it 16 hours of sweaty restlessness in a coach that had no onboard bathroom. Finally, after spending an extended period of time at the Zambian-Malawian border, we made it to Lilongwe to meet up with our GHC Malawi friends.

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Greetings were exchanged and food was had as we attempted to freshen up before yet another mini-bus type experience- a 6 hour shuttle ride to the festival venue. Similar to our transport delay in Zambia, the mini bus travel was delayed by a tardy mini bus arrival which caused some tension amongst the Malawi fellows who had planned the excursion. Luckily, we soon made our way and another 6 sweaty hours later we FINALLY arrived in Mangochi and to the beautiful Lake Malawi. Those of you who know my passion for music festivals can imagine how excited I was to be able to attend this festival, on the same weekend that I was missing the third annual, international and magical experience of TomorrowWorld.

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ZamFam lucked out and borrowed sleeping bags from friends and tents from the Malawi fellows which was awesome. We had a sweet little camp site full of GHCers from Zambia, Malawi and the Uganda cohorts and even previous fellows were present. Much to my dismay, literally as soon as we stepped off our last mini bus, my stomach began to growl. And then scream. And then erupt. NOOOOOOOOOOO!

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Without much warning, I was thrown into vomiting and diarrhea fits-my first GHC parasite came at the worst possible time. Luckily, I was traveling with the absolute best crew that was super supportive and even hooked me up with some meds.  As much as it sucked, literally everyone that does development work has been through this at least a handful of times. It was comforting to be around people who were constantly talking about monitoring their bowel movements and who traveled with poop meds in large quantities. I cannot imagine what I would have done without them! Seriously, I love yall so much for helping me out.  Although not ideal, this parasite situation did give me plenty of direct research on the type and quality of toilet facilities that were around for first hand research!

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Luckily, I was still able to enjoy many parts of the festival including incredible artistic performances and a bit of the street food. We spent a day lounging on the beaches and also saw some monkeys in our campsite! As my parents always say, many things do not go as planned, but you have to make the best of it. And I did. It was truly a beautiful oasis of a vacation despite the ass-lava situation that limited my range of activities.

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While I really did enjoy myself, I realized that there was no way that I would make it on another 6 hour bus ride proceed by another 16 hour sweaty journey with minimal bathroom stops. However, as an aside, my friend Brittany told me that shitting in your pants during long bus rides is actually a very common thing that happens to expats—but I am glad I dodged that bullet, for now at least. I had to call in back up.
As much as I want to be a full fledged adult that handles her own crises, I am forever thankful that I have dedicated and devoted parents who are always on standby to help me during my times of need.Fortunately, there were 4 seats left on a low cost flight from Malawi to Zambia, and I had some savings that I could tap into.

After the shows were over and camp was packed, we headed out on another 6 hour bus ride from Mangochi to Lilongwe where I spent the night with the Malawian GHC fellows.  Early the next morning, I was able to relax and have a nice breakfast at the Korean Garden Lodge and then flew back to Lusaka that afternoon with this really legit plane ticket.

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I immediately started taking the heavy duty antidiarrheal meds that were in my room upon arriving back home. Thankfully, I have recovered, and celebrated having my first solid poop a few days ago! Despite the parasite, I had a beautiful time at the Lake of Stars Music Festival with my ever inspiring and amazing GHC Fam.

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From Poop to Sex

I am known for being the poop girl. Poop princess. Poop fairy. “Everybody Poops” girl. You name it! I’ve heard them and embrace them all because for the past 4 years-arguably longer- toilets have really intrigued me. From loving my Betsy Wetsy doll and my potty training toilet to analyzing toilets as an abstract form of windows during Common First Year as a freshmen in college (check out that video and I am at 55 seconds), I have somehow always found my way to toilets. It’s like a magnetic force or something.

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Yes, I do understand that the aforementioned statements are just plain weird; however, once my middle school self realized that weird is actually pretty cool, I have fully embraced it. I say all of this because I feel like this connection that I have felt to understanding toilets and using them as a tool for health advocacy has really prepared me to be a full fledged sanitation activist who strives to learn more about this space everyday.

Over the course of this last year, I have been in situations where I talk about poop-like everything related to poop including genital cleansing- with giggly 4th graders, with “Im too cool for school” high schoolers, with corporate American  middle-aged suits wearers, with strangers, with loved ones—with anyone and everyone. And I love it A part of the overall mission of Wish for WASH has always been to help normalize toilet talk because you cannot fix problems that you cannot talk about.

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And then, the universe conspired and I ended up in Zambia working at Society for Family Health as a reproductive health advocate and designer and I was very overwhelmed. Maybe it is my southern, faith-based and cotillion- taught roots that have always made me squeamish around public conversations about sex. So much so that I would excuse myself during the STI lectures in middle school for fear of passing out or often sit silently during sex conversations during high school table gossip. There are some things that I viewed strictly as private matters-and sex has always been one of them. This point of contention between how I have historically thought and my global health career trajectory hit me hard during our first week at SFH when Lute and I were in a board room meeting with our male colleagues where the conversation began by discussing vaginas in relation to a new female condom design. I was in shock.  IT GOT REAL REAL QUICK. Going on a tour of the condom warehouse the next day where we saw circumcision models used to teach people how circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV in men by 60% literally made me almost pass out at first glance. 

I immediately reverted to my classic reaction of discomfort and a severe case of awkwardness-leading me to question myself. Am I actually capable of doing this work? I began to analyze myself and  was later reminded by several members of my ZamFam that my innate reaction to reproductive health speak was exactly the same as most people’s reaction to toilet talk and things like genital cleansing. And that’s when it clicked for me.

While I may not be working on exactly WASH or toilets at SFH, much of the work being done here is extraordinarily similar because we are normalizing the conversation surrounding a historically taboo topic and advocating for health equity in a space that is long overdue for some serious innovation while simultaneously working towards women’s empowerment and social justice. That mouthful of a sentence- that reality-changed my thought process and approach to this work entirely. I don’t work in siloed spaces of just WASH or just reproductive health. Whatever I do, I will work towards social change and health equity which ultimately DOES make me capable of doing meaningful work beyond my sphere of comfort.  

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NOW I am excited to bring my creative ideas to the table on how to engage people in the sex conversation so that one day all people are empowered to make educated decisions regarding their health and have access to contraception and care for the benefit of themselves and their families. Reproductive health advocacy and talking about sex is important, and I realized that feeling uncomfortable about it was a waste of time and energy. It was a waste of this incredible opportunity that I have been blessed with to learn and grow. Behavioral change is very difficult, and not being weirded out every 5 seconds while in perpetual sex conversations is a process that I have committed to take moving forward. In order to truly have an impact during my year here, I HAVE to engage in these conversation and realize that life aint always pretty or comfortable, but that there is an inherent beauty in realness that has the power to activate lasting and meaningful change.

WASH and Reproductive Health.

Poop and Sex.

Us and them.

To me, the lines of separation are blurred. They might appear differently on the outside, but in the end, we are all connected and are desperately needed in the fight for health equity. Screw squeamishness and awkwardness in these contexts.

Poop and sex are a part of the human experience, and it’s about damn time that we start acting like it.

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To check out more about how much I love being at the Society for Family Health in Zambia while working on Wish for WASH, check out my PSI article feature here!

 

TEDxAtlanta

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April 28th 2015- I, Jasmine Burton, had the distinct honor of speaking at the TEDxAtlanta 2015 event entitled Bold Moves.

As the only student and representation of GEN-Y, I felt that it was an opportunity to share my story- my truth- in a way that I had not before.

At this point, I had spoken at several conferences and at various community and school events all about the chronology of the SafiChoo toilet iterations and the trials + tribulations of being a young and ever aspiring social entrepreneur.

But for this I wanted more. More personal context. More relatability. Just more. Even though it was a short talk, 7ish minutes, I wanted to deliver a message the connected me and the Wish for WASH story with anyone–with everyone.

“No matter which tribe to which I subscribe, above all else I am a global citizen and I design toilets that matter to people. Ultimately I seek to use my creativity to make the world smile.”

Crawl in to my brain for a minute and experience my story below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pzFVspHIYQ

Wish for WASH,LLC

I’m a designer; therefore, for my whole life, I have always been described as pretty much strictly “artsy”, “creative”, “different”, “out-there”, or “weird” all of which have positive connotations in my book because weird is cool. However, among the words that people use to try to describe my perspective on life and on my journey to find my purpose, the words “business woman” or “entrepreneur” were not often used. That is until last year; 2014, the year I tasted what it was like to whole heartedly believe that an individual can make a real difference in this world.  IMG_2626

In March 2014, my senior design team was the first all female team to win the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize Competition, the largest undergraduate invention competition in the US, for our invention the SafiChoo toilet. This was a largely theoretical, academic based concept but was a mobile toilet intended for use in the Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya. DSC_0169

The winnings from this competition enabled us to travel to Kakuma and pilot our original design under the auspices of Sanivation and in tandem with the CDC and the Norwegian Refugee Council. IT WAS SUCH A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE.

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We had to iterate in the field and truly interface with the people for which we were designing in an effort to learn their pain points and witness their daily lives to fuel what we call the design process. 

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Fall 2014, was one of the most emotionally exhausting periods of my life both personally and professionally as the original SafiChoo team slowly and painfully evaporated and a new team-unsure of their roles on the team or their intended value- began to form. Months of working together and empowering this new team to have a voice has enabled Wish for WASH, a social impact organization that I founded to house the development of the SafiChoo toilet and other WASH related innovations, to blossom.

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I am strapped on to the roller coaster of social entrepreneurship, and it has proven to be the best and most growth-provoking ride of my life. It has expanded my list of identifying adjectives and taught me to truly fight for what I believe in. Designers have the power to  change the world for the better.

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So with that I invite you to crawl into my brain for a minute, to experience the emotionally wrenching and overwhelmingly exciting story that I call Wish for WASH, LLC.