How twinning your toilet is a lifesaver

By Nuala McCann

  • Published
Media caption,
Learn about the Downpatrick cookie box 'twinned' with a toilet in DR Congo

From a little wooden shack in deepest Congo to a small egg honesty box on a country road in Northern Ireland - love thrives in the everyday and practical.

It's about putting great food on the table and having somewhere private when you need it.

Ryan Bogues, 24, from County Down is a talented baker.

Toilet Twinning is just one of many charities that he supports with Ryan's Cookie Box.

Image caption,
Proud twinners: Ryan Bogues and his mother, Hazel

He spends his mornings making brownies, smudgy smudgy cakes, muffins, caramel squares and the best Christmas scones ever.

With the help of his mum, Hazel, and his sister Laura, he puts the goodies in the converted egg honesty box at the end of his driveway and people stop, buy and leave money.

Marie Curie, Médecins sans Frontières and Age Northern Ireland are among many who have benefitted.

The money he has raised has also paid for a toilet hut in the Congo - a lifeline for a family of faraway strangers.

Monday is United Nations World Toilet Day. The aim is to raise awareness of the 4.5 billion people across the world who do not have access to a safe toilet even though clean water and sanitation are basic human rights.

Image caption,
Ryan Bogues holds a photograph of his twinned toilet in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The UK charity Toilet Twinning raises funds by inviting people to donate and "twin" their toilet with one in Afghanistan, DRC, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Tanzania or Uganda.

You send your money and you receive a photograph of your toilet's twin and the GPS coordinates should you wish to seek it out.

One in three people across the world do not have somewhere safe to go to the toilet, says the charity.

Bad sanitation is one of the world's biggest killers and women and girls suffer most.

The aim is to provide clean water, proper toilets and hygiene education. So far, Toilet Twinning has twinned more than 100,000 toilets.

This year, the focus is on the 1 billion women and girls who still do not have a safe, hygienic toilet.

For Ryan Bogues, who has Down's syndrome, his mother Hazel and their family, it was an easy choice.

"It's such a good idea. We all go to the bathroom and we take that all for granted, down to having the toilet roll," said Ms Bogues.

"We saw photographs of toilets in Northern Ireland that had been twinned and decided to do it too."

Flushing key?

For Christine McGibbon from Drumbo, Lisburn, a 60th birthday was worth marking.

Image caption,
Christine McGibbon shows a photograph of one of the 86 twinned toilets

She wanted to make a practical difference.

"I thought about '60 for 60'; and I decided to try and raise the funds to twin 60 toilets," she said.

Ms McGibbon organised a supper and a toilet-themed quiz with questions like: "What can a smart toilet do?" or "In what key do most toilets flush?"

Toilet troubles

  • One in three people in the world - 2.3 billion people - do not have somewhere safe and hygienic to go to the toilet
  • 892m people still defecate in the open
  • 663m people do not have clean water close to home
  • Worldwide, more than 800 children die every day from preventable diseases linked to dirty water and unsafe toilets - that's one child every two minutes

Statistics from Toilet Twinning

"People reminisced about when they got stuck in a loo. Somebody said they once got locked into the toilet at the theatre during the interval - it's particularly alarming when you're the one due back on stage."

Image source, Toilet Twinning
Image caption,
Bawili with her family and their new latrine in Mwandiga Trois, South Kivu, DRC

Ms McGibbon enlisted the help of her friends at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church, Belfast, and their annual Autumn fair included toilet roll art on the theme of nature.

"I wanted to raise the money but also to raise awareness," she said.

"It was about the impact for girls and women in countries without toilet facilities. So many girls stop going to school when they have periods because there are no facilities."

Ms McGibbon said the idea of twinning your toilet is both practical and affordable - but delivers so much in terms of the impact on health care.

Toilet Twinning chief executive Lorraine Kingsley said: "We're so grateful to people like Ryan and Christine who have gone the extra mile to raise funds for us and who've made such a difference to the lives of families overseas.

"A toilet is such a simple, practical thing but it can be literally life-changing for a family in the often remote communities where we work. "

Image source, Toilet Twinning
Image caption,
Tirame Ayago in Doyogena, Ethiopia, is finally learning what it is to live free of the threat of diarrhoea and disease

In 2016, MLAs at Stormont, the seat of Northern Ireland government, funded two toilets to be twinned with latrines in Uganda.

A year earlier Bathgate in Scotland became the country's first toilet-twinned town.