Going Forth to flush away poverty

Queensferry crossing crop main

​Elyse Kirkham tells how she and her family seized a once in a lifetime chance to raise cash for and the profile of her charity

13th September 2017 by TFN 0 Comments

On Saturday, 2 September I had the immense privilege of walking over the new Queensferry Crossing - on behalf of the one in three people worldwide who don’t have a proper toilet.

My family and I were excited to have won a ballot to be among the 50,000 people invited to have that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, we decided to make the most of it and raise funds for a cause I feel very passionate about: toilets.

I’m Scotland’s fundraising manager for Toilet Twinning, a charity initiative that raises funds for clean water, proper toilets and hygiene education in some of the poorest countries in the world. We invite people to twin their lavvy at home with a latrine overseas and so help provide a family with proper sanitation.

So, my husband Matt and I, and our children Eva and Eli, set about raising sponsorship, in the hope we could raise £240 to twin a toilet block in a displacement camp in Central African Republic (CAR).

Elyse Kirkham with children Eva and Eli

Elyse Kirkham with children Eva and Eli

Thanks to our generous sponsors, people we will probably never meet will have a loo that will transform their lives forever

It turned out to be a lovely, warm and sunny afternoon: the perfect opportunity to turn a few heads with our T-shirts emblazoned with toilets! The walk was very well organised: we each had an allotted start time so there was lots of room to walk and plenty of time to stop, take pictures and absorb the amazing view.

The atmosphere was very special. Many families had two or three generations walking together. It was hugely moving to be part of something with people from all walks of life: a little slice of humanity united in a special celebration.

Somehow, being among so many diverse people underlined to me the things we all have in common. And, of course, for me, that means basic human needs like somewhere safe and clean to go to the loo.

You can twin a toilet in many different countries through Toilet Twinning, but we chose CAR because, as a mother, I’d been so struck by stories we’d heard from families living in displacement camps there.

Without exception, these families had fled terrible violence and been forced to abandon their homes. When they first reached the camps, there were no toilets, no clean water. So, disease spread fast and sickness was rife. Some mothers had lost children to cholera, in the very place they had fled for safety. I can’t imagine how that felt.

The toilets which Toilet Twinning helps fund are literally life-changing. They protect people from disease, so people have more strength to farm and earn a living; proper toilets in schools keep children in education, especially teenage girls.

We were grateful to know there were portable toilets organised on the crossing for us weekend walkers. Of course, there are no toilets now it's limited to traffic. Gazing up at the huge towers from which it is suspended, I did spare a thought for the construction teams who’d spent days and months up there, 200 metres above the water.

Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors had installed a portable loo at the top of each tower during the construction phase and, I’m delighted to say, had twinned those loos with latrines in Malawi, Cambodia and Nepal.

After our walk, our sponsorship totalled an amazing £420 – enough to twin a loo block in CAR and three household loos in Bangladesh, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was a day we’ll never forget – and we’re thrilled that, thanks to our generous sponsors, people we will probably never meet will have a loo that will transform their lives forever.

It costs £60 to twin a household toilet and £240 to twin with a toilet block in a school or displacement camp. You receive a framed certificate, with a photo of your toilet twin and its GPS co-ordinates.

Click here for more information.

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