Not many children will be asking for a toilet this Christmas. That’s not something you’d expect to see sticking out of Santa’s red sack.
Not many of us can imagine sending our children to school that doesn’t have any toilets, either. Yet many children in developing nations do not have access to running water or toilets inside their homes or schools.
After the civil war was over in Liberia, I was surprised to see children going to the bushes to relieve themselves before class. That was in 2006. The next year, I was fortunate to work with a team that helped restore the water on the campus of Ricks Institute in Virginia, Liberia, sixteen miles from Monrovia. Thanks to two friends of mine, plumbers Farrell Tucker and Pat Tomlinson, who are now in heaven, the bathrooms became operable for the first time in fifteen years.
One child that was the beneficiary of those bathrooms was August Sompon, a grammar-school child whose father was one of the administrators of the school. Mr. Sompon is also now in heaven.
Today, August still lives on the Ricks Institute campus. He has followed in his father’s footsteps by working as a teacher at nearby Menmentown at Christ Wonder Sufficient Academy.
This past year, August reached out to me to ask if Bricks for Ricks Liberian Housing Foundation, Inc. could fund the building of bathrooms for the school. This seemed like a worthwhile project and I am pleased to say that thanks to August, this project was completed. We were not able use earth blocks from the earth block press machines we have in the country, as missionaries Jesse and Jessica Phillips and their team are located too far away.
Instead, August researched the cost of all the supplies needed to build the facility. He did an excellent job of listing everything that would be needed: the blocks to build the septic tank and walls, PVC pipe, toilets, tiles, doors, paint, wood, sand, cement, and labor. While this is not a complete list, you get the idea. In all, we were able to build the bathrooms for about $4,000.
When is the last time you spent $4,000 on such a worthwhile project? Every day hundreds of children are spared the embarrassment of going to the bathroom in the bushes before school and during the day.
Unlike at Ricks Institute, which has a water tower, at this school there is no running water. In these bathrooms, huge barrels must be filled up each day from a well. Each day it’s children’s job to fill up the barrels with water. After the toilet is used, you dip water from the barrel and pour it into the toilet and gravity takes over and the toilet flushes.
As a child I remember dusting the erasers from the chalkboard and taking out the trash for the teacher. In Liberia, it’s the job of the children to fill up the water barrels in the bathrooms with water from the well. The younger children learn from the older children.
In Liberia and other parts of the world, children learn to be thankful for things we take for granted in this country.
I commend August Sompon for heading up this project and thank the principal of the school for his help in working with August in getting this work completed.
When you look at the smiling faces of the children, you can see how happy and thankful they are for people like August who helped them get new bathrooms.
This year, August began his college studies. He is running a transportation service that Bricks for Ricks has helped him acquire so he can earn his way through school, as we believe in a “hand up” and not just a “hand out” concept. We believe in compassion AND human dignity.
If you want to know more about the Bricks for Ricks Foundation and how you can help with projects like these and those we partner with, visit my website, https://johnmichaelhelms.com