One guy’s quest to flush away the world’s sanitation problems

It all started a couple years ago when I went on Wikipedia to search for international holidays, as I was very interested in learn about more than just the well-known ones like Halloween and Valentine’s Day. As I came across a holiday called World Toilet Day, I researched it and read about an agency called World Toilet Organization.

I was inspired by WTO’s cause, as it builds toilets in other countries, including Cambodia and Indonesia. The organization is located in Singapore and I made the decision that I wanted to establish a similar charity in America, as here in the United States, we aren’t used to the fact that a toilet is considered a luxury in many developing nations. So I thought about what kind of title I’d want to use and I decided that Flush Campaign would be very catchy. Then I chose to research the process of starting a nonprofit.

I found that starting a nonprofit takes a lot of money and paper work, and I wanted to find a solution that would allow me to bypass the bureaucracy of establishing one. So I learned about fiscal sponsorships, which involves sharing nonprofit status with groups that already have tax exempt status. My goal was to look for a compatible agency that would be willing to be a fiscal sponsor. But one of the things I realized was that it would be very difficult to get local support for such an initiative, as it would be very expensive to not only build all the toilets in various countries, but also do all the traveling to find locations in which these toilets would be built. For a cause like this, financial contributions would be one of the only ways to get involved, as it would be challenging to get volunteers and in-kind donations.

After reading about charities such as the Global Soap Project, which collects soap for refugee camps worldwide, as well as remembering about my past involvement in homeless shelters and acknowledging the need for personal hygiene items in such settings, I chose to broaden the scope. I came to the conclusion that I wanted the Flush Campaign to promote sanitation as whole and not just toilets. If you take a look here, you’ll see how the invention of toilet seats on bidets have helped make a difference in terms of hygiene within the home. Toilet seats are there for a reason, so everyone might as well use it to their advantage. It is pretty simple. Once you are done using the toilet, put the seat back down. When it comes to your health and hygiene, it is important to make this your top priority, as no illness is worth doing something as simple and placing the toilet seat down. In addition, I felt that it would be better to partner with already existing groups than to create a new one, inspired by Bill Gates focus on creating software for computers instead of developing the computers themselves). In other words, instead of starting a new organization that collects hygiene supplies for people in need, I decided to start an initiative that helps established nonprofits gain these items. Thus, the Flush Campaign was born. The Flush Campaign is a grassroots effort to advocate for organizations that locally and globally address the issue of sanitation and build healthier communities in the process.

The reason why I want to focus on hygiene items is because many illnesses and even deaths around the world, as well as locally, are due to poor hygiene. The goal would be to “flush way” the problems of poor sanitation in homeless shelters, refugee centers, and other types of nonprofits. Currently I have collected soap from Homewood Suites to give to the Global Soap Project, benefiting refugees in Uganda, Kenya, and Swaziland. Additionally, I have gathered shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and other similar products for the Task Force for the Homeless.

My plan is to emphasize on in-kind donations for similar charities, as in-kind giving has gone up during the recession. I don’t intend on collecting any products unless a specific charity request them and I base my work on the wish lists of these organizations. While my main focus will be global charities, I will also be emphasizing on local organizations.

~ By guest blogger Gaurav Bhatia, founder of the Flush Campaign