When I started high school, I never thought I would advocate for safe poop. I joined SOIL@MBSH (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods @Miami Beach Senior High) as a freshman. SOIL@MBSH is a school committee that advocates for the nonprofit SOIL, which has been transforming human waste into resources in Haiti since 2006. SOIL provides dignified and sustainable sanitation through a method known as ecological sanitation (EcoSan), confronting the public health crisis of lack of sanitation in Haiti, while providing viable, ecologically- friendly alternatives to flush toilets.
I became inspired to advocate for proper sanitation because I am a Haitian immigrant and I briefly knew what it was like to not have a toilet. During a trip to Port-au-Paix, Haiti when I was six years old, I had to use a massive hole surrounded by concrete. I vividly remember my fear while squatting over that hole; I pictured myself falling into the abyss. Today, approximately 83% of people in Haiti do not have access to a toilet. Many go to holes or to bushes late at night and live with the fear of getting waterborne diseases from fecal contamination, or getting raped.
Many people in the international community and the Haitian diaspora suggest that people of Haitian descent living abroad represent a critical “tenth department” engaging the public health and environmental challenges facing Haiti today. I know my work and the work of others before me at Beach High, has helped form a critical mass of people in and around Miami Beach who are now aware of SOIL and the needs it addresses. Expanding SOIL’s network of support and raising awareness about it in Miami equals a greater positive impact on families’ lives in Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien.
In 2013, as a freshman, I prompted and helped our sponsor Mr. Reese take the club on a field trip to the Little Haiti Community Garden (LHCG) and the Little Haiti Cultural Center to raise cultural awareness of the thriving Haitian culture in our community. Later that day, I found out that the garden owners lacked a toilet on site. I wanted to solve that problem by installing a functioning composting toilet, modeled after one of SOIL’s community toilets in Haiti.
The composting toilet the LGCG and I planned to install would serve a dual purpose –sanitation at the garden, and as a teaching tool for providing workshops for students and the community to learn about eco-san in Haiti. Even though the landowners changed their minds and the toilet was never constructed, my hope of bringing a composting toilet to Miami did not die; I had to find a different avenue.
Over the last sixteen months, I created a project called “EkoLakay in Miami Beach” that places a composting toilet in busy areas around Miami Beach to educate the public about the fact that over 1/3 of the world’s people lack access to sanitation, and to offer those interested a concrete way to support transformative change in Haiti.
To display my toilet on Lincoln Road ( a street notable for it’s high-end boutiques and attraction to tourists), I applied for and was granted a permit from the City of Miami Beach, I contacted and arranged for demonstration of the toilet at a Miami Beach Farmer’s Market and I’m currently seeking collaborations with the Miami-Dade Honors College and Earth Institute, as well as other area Farmer’s Markets.
In the four months since construction of our model EkoLakay or household toilet – modeled after SOIL’s current central focus program in Haiti - I have helped train approximately twenty-five of my peers about the toilets that are currently in use in over 550 homes. Additionally, my peers and I have collected approximately 75 names and email addresses, adding potential donors and change-makers to the SOIL’s network.
One day at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, I talked to a group from FIU Wolfsonian Museum; another day, I coordinated for a student from Miami Beach Honors College to speak at a SOIL@MBSH meeting, the beginning of what may be a new locale for advocacy; an evening early this fall found me as a finalist for a grant demonstrating the toilet at a meeting with the Board of the Miami chapter of an international non-profit, the Awesome Foundation. It seems that every day, new ideas for expanding the scope of this project present themselves. There are fits and starts, but the idea can be replicated and has the potential for growth and a major impacts on how advocacy for this non-profit at least can be effectively pursued.
I was also able to expand “EkoLakay in Miami Beach” to various events at my school with my team from SOIL@MBSH. Recently, a younger member and I brought the composting toilet to a Club Fair Expo at our school and talked to numerous parents about SOIL and ecological sanitation and how their child’s involvement in the SOIL@MBSH club will turn them into environmental stewards and impact their viewpoints and futures
EkoLakay in Miami Beach is an ongoing call to action that extends a conversation and challenges our community to help alleviate suffering abroad. As I move on to college, I am taking with me lessons learned about advocacy and playing a role in the international community, while pursuing my own passions and interests. Whether or not I am also taking to college the EkoLakay demo toilet depends on what kind of space I have in the car. Either way, I know that the project that so inspired me over the last four years will continue to resonate with people at my alma mater, and an important educational tool will continue to attract attention to a cause that is close to my heart.
· Date: December 30, 2015 · Views: 888 · File size:21.9kb, 703.3kb · Dimensions: 1600 x 1200 ·
Hours Volunteered: 358
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 14 to 18