Student SOIL Advocates Build an Awareness Toilet
For the last four years, Miami Beach Senior High senior Cheldina Jean has been preparing to exhibit an Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) toilet in a public space to call attention to the fact that over 1/3 of the world’s population does not have access to improved sanitation and nearly one billion people are without safe drinking water. Cheldina learned about Ecological Sanitation by joining the high school service club, Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods at Miami Beach Senior High, or SOIL@MBSH, and she has come to appreciate the ways in which EcoSan captures the nutrients in waste while killing pathogens that – left untreated –enter fresh water tables and make people sick.
SOIL@MBSH is a student advocacy group that formed in 2009 in response to an AP English assignment. The mission of SOIL@MBSH is to raise awareness about the global public health crises in water and sanitation, and to advocate for an effective way of solving this daily struggle in Haiti, a country where only 25% of the population has access to a toilet, and where less than adequate sanitation has led in part to a cholera epidemic that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives. The club’s 25 members have hosted a teach-in, a dinner fundraiser and an essay contest all to spread the word about the global sanitation crisis and to highlight and support SOIL’s solution!
Their latest move has been to construct an EcoSan toilet modeled after SOIL’s designs, a project led by Cheldina. She and a small group of her peers have been exhibiting a model of a SOIL household EcoSan toilet on campuses, at Farmer’s Markets, and on busy avenues in Miami Beach since October, 2015. (Click here to read about another group of students on the other side of the country who had their own experience building an EcoSan toilet commode!)
“The purpose of our project is to educate people in Miami about the sanitation public health crisis that plagues around 2.5 billion people,” Cheldina said. Additionally, Cheldina is looking to grow the network of people in her community who are doing something concrete to stem the spread of water born illness in Haiti. Audiences who learn about EkoLakay are encouraged to provide an email address or to like SOIL or SOIL@MBSH on social media, in hopes that receipt of this and other SOIL monthly blog posts will translate to other levels of support for SOIL.
David Reese, a language arts teacher at Miami Beach Senior High and a member of the SOIL board, says that “the [toilet] model does its job. If the job is to elicit curiosity, standing next to an [EcoSan] toilet in a busy corridor does the trick.”
Cheldina went on to explain her motivations to create this project: “I never thought I would advocate for any non-profit or for such a seemingly absurd, but important, topic like composting poop into fertilizer…especially in high school. But joining SOIL@MBSH at such a young age in 9th grade has transformed my outlook on my future and the importance of proper sanitation… As a person of Haitian-descent, I am proud to be a SOIL advocate and have made so many people in my community aware of the benefits that SOIL and EcoSan has provided for so many of my people. I hope that I can inspire members of SOIL@MBSH and other young people to create attention around social issues that many people avoid talking about.”
Cheldina and the SOIL @ MBSH Club have been getting recognition for their awareness project. They recently received a grant from the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce to professionalize their display, and Cheldina was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her work with SOIL.
We are so proud of and thankful for Cheldina and her fellow students for making a positive impact in their community and for spreading the word about EcoSan as a viable sanitation option!
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