The Rotary Club of East Jefferson County is one of seven Olympic Peninsula Rotary Clubs supporting The Rotary Foundation Global Grant "Composting Toilets for Klobaten Village" (Grant number GG2011334) in the Kegue Region, Lome', in the African country of Togo. The Nor'wester Rotary Club  of Port Angeles WA is the lead club. The Global Grant coordinator is "Doc" Riess, who fills us in on how he came to be building composting toilets in Africa, below. 
 
The grant enables the seven Rotary Clubs to fund the construction of 112 sustainable composting toilets thus assuring safe, healthy and dignified access for individual families, especially women and children, within the village of Klobatem. The construction makes use of local materials suited to the community, and employs local laborers skilled in their construction. In addition to the funds contributed by Rotarians, each local family must contribute what they can to support the construction of their facility. The project also enables proper training for each family in the care and use of the composting toilets, including related hand hygiene, and the use of the composted waste for use as compost for gardens and farms.    
by Doc Riess, Nor'wester Rotary Club, Port Angeles WA. 
 
With apologies to Farley Mowat, you might consider the Dignity Toilet project as “The Project That Wouldn’t Be” right from the beginning, because in the beginning it wasn’t a project at all. It was just a simple gesture of kindness from one friend to another.
 
I had known Taouvik for about three years when one day he complained that he was tired of going to the bushes. I asked what he meant and learned the story of his village having to go to fields to go to the bathroom. After some discussion we each agreed to research information on self-composting toilets. I found one that was plastic and would cost $1100 before shipping. Tao found a set of plans drawn up by the Togolese government for one made of concrete. I asked Tao to figure out what it would cost and I agreed to finance the project so his family could have a toilet.
 
You can’t add something as big as a Dignity Toilet and not draw attention. Shortly after we finished the one for Tao’s family, I got a message from Tao. He had a neighbor who was curious if they could have one as well. The spirit of Rotary took over and soon we were taking names for a list of families. When we got to over a dozen, we stopped the list. Tao brought a couple of his friends on to help with the construction and modified the design so it was more affordable. We also took advice from Habitat for Humanity and required each family to participate so they had a psychological attachment to the toilet.
 
One day, years later as we were walking and discussing the project I asked about a nearby village and if they would be wanting our service. Tao said he asked and they did not want them. I was surprised until Tao told me about the Red Cross having already gone to the village. They built a few concrete, self-composting toilets for the village and left. They failed in about four months and no one would use them after that. Tao looked at me and said, “No one ever taught them how to use them. They taught some people but not everyone. That’s one way we are different. We teach people.”
 
We are different in a lot of ways. In particular, because we never intended to be a project, we started working with individual families. We work with the village not for the village. It is the families who maintain their toilet. The ownership makes the difference; in building now over 100 toilets we have never had one fail. Because we never thought of doing things on a large scale we set up very simple guidelines that are completely transparent. We can show within a nickel where all the money is or how it has been spent.
 
When we had grown the toilet construction to eight completed units, we had refined the design and lowered the cost per unit and we could replicate the design every time. It has taken us 3 years to reach 105 Dignity Toilets. As the project has grown through the support and guidance of Nor’wester initially, and moving forward, with Area 8 club members now, we have been able to scale up.
 
Finally, with the approval of a Rotary International global grant and the help of the Lome’ Zenith Club, we are looking to complete another 107 toilets in 2021. We are a little project that has been called “ideal” and “near perfect,” “perhaps the model for how other projects should be done.” And maybe that is because we never meant to be a project. It was just Service Above Self and it grew.