South Africa-born retired plumber Ben John has been building toilets in Sierra Leone, where 70 percent of the 7 million people live below the poverty line.
Ben John was born in South Africa during Apartheid and was one of 12 children. It was during this time that he realised the importance of having adequate ablution facilities.
At night Ben and his family would have to trek through the darkness to get to the area that had the long-drop toilets. Along the way, they could have faced any number of dangerous situations including wild animals and people with bad intentions.
“It wasn’t a pleasant memory seeing the lack of safety and dignity for my family, it was particularly hard for my mother and (seven) sisters, as it is hard for women who have to use the bathroom in rural areas around the world.”
Ben moved to Botswana and from there to Nova Scotia, Canada. He has since closed his plumbing business and retired. Instead of fully retiring, he started an aid group called Help 2 Overcome (H2O), to deliver plumbing and sanitation to communities in the developing world.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 2.4 billion people don’t have access to decent flushing toilets. This leads to serious health problems and spread of disease. Not having adequate toilets is also a big cause of embarrassment for young ladies starting their periods.
“It is so important that girls stay in school because if they do not and are just sitting around at home, they will be married off at a young age,”
Ben often visits Serre Leone to build bathrooms for school children. He has previously built split gender toilets with sinks at a school for children whose parents were in jail.
His next trip will see him building 10 composting toilets for 325 girls in Freetown. The composting toilets can be used to fertilise local community gardens which will make the area more sustainable.
Ben is one amazing South African and we are proud to see the work he is doing in Africa.