SOIL’s emergency public toilets in Haiti are kept open, operational, and clean by a team of 38 paid public toilet managers. Nowhere else in the world do public toilets stay clean and open to the public without cost, and Haiti is no exception. SOIL’s public toilet managers play a critical role in ensuring clean, dignified sanitation access for the thousands of people living in the Port-au-Prince tent camps serviced through SOIL’s emergency sanitation program. Many of the camp committees (the community-based governing organizations within displacement camps) work with SOIL to spread these few employment positions to as many vulnerable individuals and families as possible. Since the earthquake, SOIL's emergency sanitation program overall has provided short-term employment for more than 350 individuals.
Why do we feel that our toilet managers are heroes?
Because the only way to stop Haiti's sanitation crisis and deadly cholera epidemic is through provision of sanitation services, and SOIL’s emergency sanitation program is a crucial part of this struggle. Our public toilet managers work hard to ensure that our toilets are kept open, clean, and well-functioning. Long after most other organizations have shut down their emergency sanitation programs, the SOIL emergency toilets remain operational and well maintained thanks to our manager's tireless commitment.
Haitian perspectives on sanitation:
The following was written by Herby Sanon, SOIL's Sanitation Supervisor in Port-au-Prince, and translated from Haitian Creole into English. Herby interviewed several of SOIL's toilet managers to offer their unique perspective on SOIL's work within the context of a major sanitation crisis in Haiti.
"My friend Frantz François works in Cite Soleil and he never stops engaging in his work. For him, SOIL offers salvation and is a guiding light for people who used to go to the bathroom in the brook near where he lives. Frantz has seen a change within 90% of the population in Cite Soleil and he says that he won’t stop working with SOIL until all of Cite Soleil has been improved.
Marie-Mineuve, who manages two toilets for SOIL since 2010, didn’t want to miss the chance to give her impression of SOIL. She considers SOIL more than a blessing that fell from the heavens. She was in despair and SOIL changed her life and her family’s life. Without SOIL, she would have left the camp where she was staying. While everyone else was leaving the camp, she said that she stayed to work with SOIL and that she will always work with us not only because it is an employment opportunity but because of all that SOIL is doing for the country of Haiti.
My voice joins all of the others in saying: ‘SOIL, thank you so much for making this huge chain of transformation in everyday life after the earthquake of January 12 2010. Our dream is to see SOIL cover the whole country of Haiti. I feel that I do not have the words to explain how much SOIL does and what the organization brings to my life.’
--Herby Sanon, SOIL Sanitation Supervisor
As you can see from this piece, SOIL’s public toilet managers help to bring a valued service to their communities, while simultaneously representing the possibility of hope, of employment, and of health. Although the emergency sanitation program is ultimately meant to be temporary, its maintenance has several long-term implications: increased knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of EcoSan technology, healthier lives for the people utilizing SOIL's environmentally conscious toilets, and increased employment potential for people trained as toilet managers and operators.
From all of us at SOIL:
Together we believe we can make Frantz Francois’s dream come true for all of Haiti: we will not give up until everyone in the country has access to dignified, life-saving sanitation. Mesi anpil (thank you so much) to all of our supporters who make this very important work possible.
With love from Haiti,
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