Justin Morris from Notting Hill, Victoria has been awarded $15,000 for his submission to improve India’s complex sanitation issue.
For his project, Justin is partnering with the We Can’t Wait foundation and putting the money towards the construction of toilet facilities and sanitation education in schools in Nasik, India. Construction will start in September, and Justin will head to Nasik for a ten-day assignment in October.
Here’s an interview with our main recipient Justin about his project.
Tell us about the current state of sanitation in India.
Lack of toilets in India is the number one cause of disease. This issue is the leading cause of students (especially girls) dropping out of schools once they’ve hit puberty.
Currently, 200,000 schools do not have toilets and another 400,000 schools have toilets that are unusable. The school we’re supporting, Jila Parishad Prathamik School, has more than 650 students who we hope will benefit from the new facilities and hygiene education.
Why did you choose this particular project?
We Can’t Wait is a client of mine and I’ve been doing small-scale community projects with them for years. I’ve always wanted to do more, so when We Can’t Wait was looking to partner with someone for a school project in India, I put my hand up straight away. A week after expressing my interest, I received the Reece Grant email – it couldn’t have come at a better time.
What will the money go towards?
We’ll be installing 12 toilets and hand washing facilities, two 1000-litre water tanks and the necessary water filter systems to ensure the school has access to an ongoing clean water supply.
How important is education in the quest for maintaining sanitation?
Half of the puzzle in India is finding a way to encourage residents - who have been brought up in a culture of open defecation - to use the toilets.We hope that by teaching kids about the importance of washing their hands and proper hygiene, they’ll pass on their knowledge to their parents and encourage them to install a toilet into their home. Change needs to happen from the bottom up.
What part of the project are you most excited about?
I’m looking forward to seeing the excitement on the kids faces when the new toilet blocks are up and running. Having a proper working toilet is nothing for us, but everything for them.
What is your plan for the future?
I see this trip as the start of something much bigger for myself, both on a personal and career level. A year ago, I would’ve put this type of project in the ‘too hard basket’, but with the help of the Reece Grant, I now understand that a little can go such a long way with these communities and this has inspired me to do more.