Mark Balla, a resident of Melbourne, Australia has been raising funds since 2013 for constructing toilets in Indian schools. A visit to a school in Dharavi (Mumbai) troubled him about the lack of toilets for girls in schools, which resulted in a large number of them dropping out when they reach puberty.
‘We can’t wait’, is a charity initiated by Mark and supported by Rotary International. In addition to the same, he has been raising funds in Australia by organizing special fund raising events in schools, colleges and corporate organizations.
In the same way he is able to transfer funds to Rotary India for this project. Until now he has raised about Rs 75 lakhs. The organization’s project to create toilets was started first in New English School, Nashik.
They have constructed about 15 toilets, which will be utilized by 500 students studying there and for many others in the future. Other then helping in toilet construction, Mark also wants to spread awareness about the necessity of hygiene.
In his speech at TedX he highlighted the relation between hygiene and its positive impact in the lives of people. As per his claim there are around 1.4 million schools in India, out of which 200,000 do not have any toilets. Around 150 million children do not have any access to toilets, and another 400,000 students are studying in schools where there are no separate toilets for girls. During his research in India, he found that many of the girls did not have potable drink water in school, even during the hot summer.
The reason being he says, “Many of the girls do not drink water because when they need to use the toilet, they are afraid they won’t have any place to go.” The issue exists for both female students and the female staff, leading to unhealthy conditions. The school where the first phase of toilets was built saw an improvement in terms of girl dropout rates. The average absentee per day per has reduced considerably.
Post this initiative; a plethora of school children have encouraged their parents to construct toilets at home with the help of the Rotary Club. “Children are the most spectacular agents of change for lasting change, educating girls in developing world is the greatest opportunity that we have got today.” Mark points out.
The organization, ‘We can’t wait’ aims to build 20,000 toilets by 2019, the 150th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday and by the end of 2016 the aim is to construct 600-700 toilets.