Justin Morris is having trouble believing the huge impact installing toilets in a school has had on lives in a village in Nasik, India.
An audit conducted just 12 months after Justin and the team at 'We Can’t Wait' traveled to India to install toilets in the rural school has shown a 10-15% reduction in absentee days by girls and a 15-20% increase in enrollments from girls – some returning after a decision to leave, some transferring from schools without toilets.
“The issue of hygiene is even more important for girls,” says Mark Balla of Justin’s partner charity, We Can’t Wait. “All children have trouble managing when their stomach is upset,” he says, “but the girls need to be able to manage their menstrual hygiene, and if there are no toilets, they can’t.”
The issue is one that’s close to Justin, who has two daughters himself. “Women there are on the back foot from the start. But if they can get the same education as the boys, they can have a better life.”
Mark says girls play a particularly influential role in the community, when given the opportunity to do so. “Girls stay in school longer, which leads to greater lifetime earnings, many will have fewer children as a result, and their children are less likely to die early in life. Educated mothers educate their own children better and the standards of the whole community are raised.”
And this change is happening already in Nasik, he says. “The kids have taken their hygiene education home. They’ve been pressuring their parents and grandparents about hygiene, to have soap and to use it. They’ve put pressure on the community to put toilets in their own homes and we’re seeing a reduction in sickness overall as a result, not just dysentery, but transmissible diseases like the flu, too. It’s so much more than 22 toilets for 680 kids in the school. It’s all the kids who will follow them and all their families. The ripple effect is massive.”
Justin feels he’s made a big difference to a lot of lives. “I never would have believed such a simple thing as a few toilets would have such an incredible effect on a whole community,” he says. “For example, the impact on mood and health for the teachers. It hadn’t occurred to me that the women teachers were not drinking and were holding on all day because there were no toilets.”
After returning from India and seeing the significance of the project’s impact, Justin has found a greater purpose in his work back at home.
“I’m not just here to fix blocked toilets. I want to leverage the success in my business to help others. I’ve got bigger plans than that.”