When is the last time you thanked God for your toilet? Given the amount of food typically consumed at Super Bowl parties, it might have been fairly recently. However, for nearly 2.6 billion people around the globe, a toilet is a luxury that they simply don’t know. The lack of access to such toilets plays a key role on the proliferation of water, sanitation, and hygiene-related diseases that cost the lives of more than one million children each year. But 23-year-old Jasmine Burton, founder and president of Atlanta-based Wish for WASH, is trying to change all of that.
Her quest began when, as a freshman at Georgia Tech, she learned how many people simply do not have consistent access to a toilet and the impact it had on their health and quality of life. As Burton tells CNN‘s Parija Kavilanz, in addition to the understandable sanitation problems, “young girls in the developing world frequently drop out of school because there isn’t a toilet.” So while at Georgia Tech, she and three other students designed an inexpensive, ecofriendly toilet that is not only portable but also allows its users to convert their waste into renewable energy and fertilizer.
The unit is made of plastic and can be placed either directly on the ground or on top of an attachable base. After use, the human waste is then sorted into liquids and solids in order to allow for more hygienic disposal.
The SafiChoo toilet, which means “clean toilet” in Kiswahili, won first place at the prestigious Georgia Tech InVention competition in 2014. Burton’s group used the prize money as well as an investment from John Zegers, director at the Georgia Center of Innovation for Manufacturing, to help facilitate initial production and on-site testing in Lusaka, Zambia. Burton is currently living in Zambia in order to oversee the trials.
The group hopes to begin selling the toilets, currently priced at roughly $40–$50 each, to U.S.-based customers and NGOs in 2017. From there, they hope their invention can improve and save lives throughout the world.
That sanitation issues plague the more impoverished regions of our planet is not a ground-breaking revelation. Such dilemmas have been well-documented and much maligned for quite some time. The problem is that when most of us hear about them, our response typically stops somewhere around “That’s awful, someone should do something about that.” When Burton heard about it, she did more, and the SafiChoo toilet has a chance to make a real difference as a result.
When God puts an issue on your heart, prayer is always an appropriate first response. But far too often we stop there. Throughout Scripture, God calls his people to action and empowers them to accomplish amazing things through their obedience to that call. We see it with Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt to the doorstep of the Promised Land. We see it with many of the Old Testament judges who responded to the Lord’s provocation in helping to defeat Israel’s enemies and set God’s people back on the right track in their relationship with him. And we see it with the first disciples in the way they actively engaged other people in conversations about the gospel.
In each case, God called people to action and then worked through them to accomplish what often seemed impossible at the start. He wants to do that today as well if we will let him. So the next time God places a problem or a person on your heart, begin by praying, but do so with the willingness to act as well. Sometimes prayer may be where your part in that aspect of God’s plan stops, but the only way to know for sure is to be willing to do more. Are you?