“Living simply so that others can simply live.”
– Bill Steinbauer
To truly understand me you have to know where I come from. I’ve grown up surrounded by devout Christians. My mother is a psychologist and my father is the pastor at the University Lutheran Chapel in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Chapel is not your traditional church. Since I was a young child, I’ve been surrounded by people of different cultures. Every time I get the opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone from Iran or from the various other countries: Madagascar, Sudan, Nigeria, Iraq, Colombia, Korea, China, Japan, Brazil, Congo, I am reminded of how small I am. Having the opportunity to meet people from different countries and hear their stories have shaped who I am. I am grateful that my father preaches such a diverse congregation.
My father’s job and experiences have taught me many things in life. My father goes on four mission trips each year, in and out of the country. Each time he returns he brings with him stories of God working in those he met along the way. Hearing and seeing first hand the importance of giving ones time, energy, and supplies has strengthened me in my faith. I have a better understanding of the world around me because I have been blessed with such a service focused father. To fully understand the global problem that is lack of toilets, I feel that it is important to bring into the light my dads personal experiences. This blog includes an interview I did with my dad over his trips to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world:
Why do you travel to Haiti each year?
I go to Haiti each year to expose students to a whole new culture, help an impoverished nation to improve their life, spread the word of Christ, and help students get to know each other more. For the past five years, I’ve traveled with a group of 15-20 college students to House of Hope Haiti, an orphanage that provides education and safe living for kids.
What are the projects you’ve been a part of?
Last year we helped two girls who were old enough to leave the orphanage build a restaurant. In past years, we’ve helped build shelters and classrooms and even a fish farm that allowed the orphanage to cultivate fish they could then sell on their own. One year, a dentist traveled along with us and pulled teeth all week. Every year we take a couple of days just to play with children.
What are the toilets like in Haiti?
The toilets in the orphanage are very similar to the United States. They are raised above the ground, but they don’t have any water like we do. The waste goes into a hole in the ground. If you pee you don’t flush, if you poop you pour water in to flush down the waste. They always have a bucket full of water by the toilet. I only saw toilets at the orphanage and the hotel. I didn’t see any anywhere else.
Since there aren’t many toilets, do you see a lot of waste lying on the ground?
Most people open defecate. Adults see open defecation as shameful, so you usually only see children doing it. When I’m in Haiti I’m always overwhelmed with the large amounts of trash lying around. They don’t have a structured garbage system, so people find no harm in throwing their trash on the ground.
Do you think lack of toilets in Haiti is a problem?
People at the top of the mountain have less of a problem then those living on the bottom. When it rains all of the human feces flows down the mountain causing problems in the cities below. A lot of families recognize the importance of toilets, but don’t have the money or time to build a deeper hole. Haiti’s humid, marshy climate is a breeding ground for diseases. Haiti faces a serious problem with cholera right now because of lack of sanitation. The hurricane in Haiti isn’t helping either. As the moisture from the hurricane mixes with poop, diseases are spreading more rapidly.
I know you didn’t directly work on building a toilet or developing proper sanitation in Haiti, but from your first-hand view do you believe lack of toilets is a key issue?
Of course I do. I see the life saving affects it has on people. I know all the problems it can potentially solve. Proper sanitation is a privilege not a right.
Do you think it is important that people help those in need?
Absolutely! God calls us all to love our neighbors as ourselves. I wouldn’t want to starve, I wouldn’t want to have to open defecate. God strictly tells us, especially Christians, to help the poor. Whether this be by sponsoring a Haitian child’s education by paying $20 each month, or by actually traveling to Haiti, you are caring out the work of the Lord. I find great joy living simply so that others can simply live. These are all things to keep in mind when considering helping someone.
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…”
1 John 3:17 “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”