Here at Choose Water we are pretty besotted with our buddies at Water For Africa. There are many amazing charities however, we feel these guys have got a little twinkle in their eye. 98% of all money raised goes to projects on the ground (which is huge by the way), and the fact that it is run by an anthropologist means that many of the ethnocentricities that creep into larger organisations are simply not an issue. Woo!
Despite this, it has perhaps been a hard lesson learned: many of the things valued within western societies are simply not important. e wanted to share with you a story that has become part of philanthropic folklore: the building of a latrine that was simply not wanted.
Imagine, a shiny new toilet block; bells and whistles, no expense spared, plonked right in the middle of the African bush. A grand opening ceremony. Happy western volunteers. he the next day dawns. The trmphant volunteers return to find all of the elders of the village squatting in a large circle on the periphery of the village, relieving themselves. Confusion ensues, frantic exchanges with the interpreter.
It turned out, within this particular society, that the most important meeting of the day took place first thing in the morning, when all the men gathered in a circle, while also doing their business. Multi-tasking. No villager had even ventured into the latrine. Nobody had bothered to ask this community whether they even had need or want of such a facility.
One of of the best parts about Water for Africa, and one of the many reasons we fell a little bit in love with them, is because they consult communities and the communities themselves contribute what they can towards the cost of the well, and upkeep of the parts. What a wonderful idea!
We heard recently that the aforementioned latrine is making a fabulous studio flat for a family of monkeys, as well as an interesting talking point during dinner parties.