Students of Kishinchand Chellaram (KC) College in Mumbai have constructed 107 toilets in the village of Karvale in Maharashtra to help it become Open Defecation Free.
Considering that millions of people in India do not have access to toilets, the process of making India Open Defecation Free (ODF) needs to be taken up at a micro level, house by house, village by village.
In an impressive feat, students of Kishinchand Chellaram (KC) College in Mumbai have constructed 107 toilets in the Karvale village in Palghar district, and have managed to construct one toilet per family residing in the village.
The initiative has been taken up by the National Service Scheme (NSS) of the college.
In 2005, the NSS unit conducted a camp in Karvale village to build one toilet for a school. None of the families in the village had a toilet and it was upon visiting the village that the students realized the gravity of the issue –they then decided to extend the project.
“To us, for whom it is obvious to have a toilet in the house, the plight of the villagers without any access to toilets was beyond imagination.Girls and women in the Karvale village had no choice but to get up at dawn or to wait until night to answer nature’s calls. Many girls dropped out of school after they started menstruation because of the unavailability of toilets,” says Simran Brijwani, NSS volunteer & student of KC College.
After gaining the trust of the villagers through frequent visits, the volunteers started spreading awareness about the importance of sanitation and hygiene among villagers. In the beginning, the response was slow, but gradually, they were able to make the villagers understand the importance of having a toilet in their house.
The students then decided to provide better sanitation facilities for the villagers and make the village ODF. The initiative picked up pace in 2015 and the students constructed 49 toilets that year. In 2016, over 300 student volunteers constructed 67 toilets in the village to reach the target under the guidance of NSS programme officer Dr. Satish Kolte.
The students now visit the village every Sunday to complete the construction work. For the last three months of the project, they worked in shifts from morning to evening and visited the village every day.
“Most of us had no idea how a toilet was constructed. It was our seniors and programme managers who taught us everything from scratch. We did everything from digging the soak pit in the ground to laying bricks to finally painting the walls of the toilets. It has been a good experience,” says Simran.
The students also started creating awareness about literacy by building a community centre in the village and distributing reading & writing materials. Among other initiatives, they have also helped the villagers set up a farmers’ market, trained local women to make different utility artefacts and conducted health check-up camps.
“The motto of the NSS unit is ‘Not me, but you.’ Putting others’ needs before our own is something we are often taught as a part of our culture. Our project is just a projection of that thought. We received tremendous support from the villagers. They would prepare food for us, provide clean drinking water and even help us whenever possible. There are over 100 families in the village and now we have constructed a toilet for every house! It is such a great feeling,” concludes Simran.