Seeing a fully erect and functioning composting toilet was, quite possibly, the most satisfying moment of my GVI experience.
From day one this proved to be a challenging project. Our first choice of location had to be abandoned as we struck rock and then a layer of corrugated iron. The next four holes rapidly began filling with water as we tunneled down into the water table, as it conveniently poured with rain. But, still we persevered.
Sawing, nailing and more sawing followed in the next couple of days. Over a period of 72 hours a pile of planks was transformed into a metre-by-metre toilet on stilts surrounded by a scattering of bent nails, splintered wood, and a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears (mostly mine).
But, as we all stood gazing out onto ‘The Throne Room”, it all felt worthwhile.
A compost toilet is simply a wooden bench with a sizeable hole in its center, upon which people can excrete into the unsuspecting barrel bellow. Those barrels are then stored for about two years until the waste inside has decomposed sufficiently enough to be used as compost for fruit-trees. The fruit trees are able to filter out any residual bacteria through their stems leaving only the nutrient-filled goodness of human faeces.
So, not only did we provide a toilet to a school, which was definitely in need of a new one (any volunteer who had to use the old loos at the school can testify to that!), but we are now, indirectly, helping the local Fijians grow their own food using the recycled waste.
As volunteers I think we gained a lot from the experience: knowledge, muddy boots and not an inconsiderable amount of blisters. We all learnt a lot about woodwork during those few days- how to hold a saw, where not to put your thumb when hammering nails, and not to turn too quickly when carrying a 14ft plank of wood. But, luckily, Jon’s upbeat and positive attitude, experience and patience more than made up for our general lack of coordination, and after a lot of laughs and hard work we got the job done.
All in all, a #winning day for GVI and the community!