Ode to a Toilet: The Project Begins

This post will convey the importance of having a proper
sanitation system and what Uniting Distant Stars intends to do about this in
2013. First, let’s identify the role of the toilet as follows:
Ode to a Toilet…
You go by so many names: commode, loo, john, pot, throne, porcelain god,
and so on.
You serve a greater purpose by “flushing” away our bacteria-laden waste
to maintain good health.
You allow us to “rest” for little or long while as we contemplate our
to-dos for the day. 
You are often taken for granted by those who are fortunate to have one [or
more] in their home.
You can be designed to convert our waste into fertilizer and even
You are a simple device that can be easily maintained with just a
little care.
You need to be honored and recognized for selfless commitment to our
overall well-being

Here is the “poop”
why toilets matter…
  • Approximately 2.6 billion people (37% of the
    global populations) lack a proper toilet.
  • Those without a proper sanitation system are
    forced to openly defecate in areas that can contaminate water leading to the
    spread of diseases. Note: “one gram of feces may contain 10 million viruses,
    one million bacteria, 1000 parasite cysts and 100 worm eggs.”
  • Some of these diseases include diarrhea,
    cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and hepatitis A that can kill approximately 115
    people in Africa every hour.
  • Adequate toilet facilities that are private and
    separate improve the attendance rate of school children and the enrollment of
  • There are many more reason why a proper
    sanitation systems and hygiene standards is necessary for economic and other reasons.
       Source: WHO
10 Facts on Sanitation

In 2012, Uniting Distant Stars initiated an adopt-a-school
project in Liberia
to support the education of approximately 250
at the Russ Wood Christian Academy. This commitment is beyond providing
books and pencils, and includes the overall
well-being of these children. This is why we have taken on as our 2013
capital improvement project the replacement of its substandard latrine
(see pictures below) with an environmentally
friendly and sustainable model.
We recently put out a request for toilet models on Facebook and
Linkedin. To date we have received five responses from various organizations having WASH (Water,
Sanitation, and Hygiene) programs in developing nations. Three have already
submitted their model types and are currently being reviewed. We plan to select the
three models that meet the following criteria:
  • Uses no water
  • Inexpensive and simple to construct by community
    members and students from a local trade school.
  • Easily maintained and long-lasting
  • Appropriate for the Liberia cultural and
    environmental standards 

We will present them to Russ Wood’s school
administration, and they will select one that is appropriate for their

We will continue to develop this
project and provide an update after we have met with the school administration on
what model they chose. We are still accepting recommendations of model types that meet our stated
criteria. Please submit to [email protected].

A Simple Wish For A Better World

We live in a world where money and things often define one’s worth. Yet, most people living in developed nations take for granted the simple and basic things that arguably should be available for everyone on this planet. Many of us fail to realize that those living in extreme poverty did not choose to do so. According to the World Bank statistics on poverty in 2008, “1.29 billion people lived in extreme poverty below $1.25 a day, equivalent to 22 percent of the population in the developing world.” This equates to about 18% of the world’s population.

This post is based on a simple wish that is achievable with a little actual effort by everyone. I got this idea from Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate, who developed ten indicators that determined when someone had moved out of poverty. When I first read these indicators in his book “Banker to the Poor” and again in his other book “Creating a World Without Poverty“, I gained the insight that only one thing stops people from achieving self-sufficiency. That one thing is access to resources needed to put their talents to work.

For the past year, I have been reciting a simple wish as a daily ritual during my long morning commutes to work. I have modified Dr. Yunus’ model to focus on the the basic necessities that no one of us should ever take for granted. Following are ten parts of my wish illustrated by a photograph or statistical statement that allows you to reflect on the meaning of each one.

1) May everyone have a roof over their head that protects them from the elements, and the temperature inside is comfortable no matter how hot or cold it is outside.

This was taken in 2005 during my second trip to Liberia. A woman was renting this room with the deteriorating zinc roof.

2) May everyone sleep on bed that is above the floor and not overcrowded.

This was taken during my first year of residence in Liberia in 2007. This person had built a thatch palm hut near the ocean in Congo Town. Based on the location, chances were high they would experience flooding and therefore have to sleep on a wet mattress.

3) May everyone enjoy an adequate number of nutritious, tasty and satisfying meals per day that are prepared on a clean and safe cook stove/oven.

The photo to the left is what is known in Liberia as a coal pot. This was how my daily meals were prepared in 2009-2010. Source: The Hunger Project – Facts About Hunger and Poverty.

4) May everyone quench their thirst with clean, fresh and safe drinking water whose source is near their home.

Source: Water.org – Water Facts

5) May everyone have a private, hygienic, and environmentally friendly sanitation system and shower facility that is easily accessible.

This was taken during my second year of residency in Liberia in 2009. This is someone’s bathroom that has a makeshift curtain for privacy.

6) May everyone have access to affordable, reliable and compassionate healthcare that is within a reasonable distance and may they not be turned away if they are unable to pay.

Source to UC (University of California) Atlas of Global Inequality – Access to Health Care

7) May every child receive a world class, twenty-first century education that acknowledges all learning styles, provides a global perspective, and cultivates their talents and skills.

This picture was taken in January 2012 by Kelvin Fomba. We launched an adopt-a-school project this year to support this school in Congo Town Liberia serving 250 students in Kindergarten thru sixth grades.

8) May everyone of eligible working age obtain a job or create a business that fulfills their passion and compensates them well enough so all their needs are met.

This was taken in 2009 where I was living in New Georgia Estate, Monrovia, Liberia. This teenage girl is organizing the peanuts (aka ground peas in Liberia) on her market table as she waits for buyers.

9) May everyone regardless of their profession be valued and respected and cause no undue harm to people, other living things and the environment.

This was taken in 2009 on the Sinkor Old Road, Monrovia, Liberia. Someone’s business–their only means of livelihood–is being forcibly removed from its original location at the order of the mayor.

10) Finally, may we all come to realize that we each play a role in making this a better world by being good stewards of the earth and good neighbors to each other.

This is was taken in 2007 near the Ducor Palace in Monrovia, Liberia. It is from today’s actions or inactions that we determine the fate of children all over the world.

I want to end this post by Thanking all my faithful readers! I appreciate all your thoughts, comments and reflections about my posts. This blog’s goal is to UNITE all the DISTANT STARS in a thoughtful expression of how we have more in common than most people realize. I wish everyone the Happiest and Most Blessed New Year in 2013!!!

[1] Amartya Sen, Indian Bengali economist, 1998 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory.