Good Toilets in Rural Vanuatu is a Community Health Volunteers’ Way of Improving WASH in Schools

By Peace Corps Vanuatu
Sept. 12, 2017

Utilizing the USAID sponsored Small Project Assistance (SPA) funding and good old fashion fundraising made it possible for me and my counterpart to make a huge difference in the day-to-day lives of our community members. 

Franklin T is no stranger to hard work. Before he retired and joined the Peace Corps to serve as a Water and Sanitation (WASH) Specialist in rural Vanuatu, Frank worked for the City of Portland Oregon Water Bureau From 1978-2002  and was responsible for the maintenance and operation of the water supply system. And in 2004-2009, he worked with the EPA helping maintain small rural water utilities on tribal lands to meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Now he is putting those skills to good use building toilets in and around his community and transferring his incredible skills to his counterpart  in South Ambae.

 Frank has been very busy with his counterpart in the village of Sarabulu where they were heavily involved with a WASH in-school program along with the teachers and school committee members this year.

 After his Pre-Service Training ended, Frank integrated very well into his community, getting to know the chiefs, heads of the health committee, school committee, and community members very well. He integrated so well that he and his counterpart were able to  conduct a thorough needs assessment in the village where Frank lives and three of the surrounding villages. They discovered that the communities had on average three to four immediate needs. Frank, his counterpart and the health Committee, with the help of the community, prioritized the needs according to the most urgent. Good toilets ranked number one in the communities overall. Most village members at the time of the assessment only had access to bush or pit latrines.

 But how do a WASH Volunteer and his hard-working counterpart help a determined community afford the construction of good toilets? Fundraising and Grant Writing. Frank began fundraising for both in-kind and monetary donations throughout several communities in South Ambae. Frank also assisted his counterpart and the health committee write a SPA Grant after attending a Peace Corps Workshop on SPA projects.  

 In tandem with fundraising, Frank began to mobilize the community and the committee by running workshops and utilizing the donated materials and purchased cement and wire with the funds raised. A small group of dedicated community members began creating slabs and the raiser for the toilets. Once the rest of the community began to see the progress of the school toilets they became excited about the possibility of good toilets being a real possibility at their own homes and bought their own materials and solicited Frank and his counterparts technical assistance. They assisted the community members with measurement and advice. Frank’s own village now has  good toilets at the community school and several community members homes and quickly moved on moved  onto the next two villages.

 Frank built his counterpart and communities technical skills to such a high level that he has now  moved on to a secondary project – putting in a new water system – while the community along with the health committee has taken over the toilet project.