How asking for the toilet saved babies

Tanah Keke village men

Tanah Keke village men

Asking to use the toilet can end up saving babies.

One of our village-coaching staff, as I’m here in Indonesia, told this story today:

“Several years ago when we had just begun to help a new village, I was sitting with some men in the village and I asked where I could use the latrine. They looked at me dumbfounded, and a bit offended. “Look around you,” one of the men said, as if I was crazy. “How much jungle do you see among our homes? It’s everyhwere! Use the jungle. Why do you ask where you can use the latrine?” After that they made fun of me on that topic for months.

The sickness and motality rate among babies and infants in the village was certainly not zero. But they had never learned that human waste is the highest cause of infant sickness and death.

We knew we needed to teach lessons on how each home can have its own properly designed latrine (one of our standard village topics worldwide). But we also knew they were clearly not interested in latrines. They wouldn’t understand the science of micro-organisms, so we had to devise a clever way to get the point home.

At our next Wellness-training day for the village we took a stick and drew a 20-foot “map” of their village on the ground. We marked where homes and jungle are. Then we gave each person a small bag of yellow powder. We told them, “Dump your yellow powder at the spot on the map where you usually do your business each day.”

One by one, each person went and dumped their yellow powder on a spot representing where they toileted themselves. After everyone was finished, it looked like the whole village was covered in yellow powder. We said, “This is what happens in just one day. How much poop and pee is in your village from this whole year? How much the last 5 years?”

Everyone suddenly felt like they were going to get sick. One man said, “I need to go home and throw up.”

Digging a latrine

Digging a latrine for his household

Today, every family in the village has its own properly-constructed latrine, and the sickness rate of the children has already decreased.

Last week I was in the village and the topic of latrines came up. Even though they have had latrines for less than a year, they are already making fun of nearby villages, saying, “They are so backward they don’t even have latrines.”

So we said, “Then let’s go help them learn what you have learned!”

It’s stories like this, of how our partner staff are helping transform poor villages worldwide, that make me honored to serve them with all of you who are jumping in to drink Pangeo Coffee and help.

THANK YOU for your incredibly generous interest and partnership!


Written by Jeff Power

Jeff is the founder of Pangeo Coffee. He's been dedicated to full-time humanitarian development with poor villages in Africa, Asia and the Middle East since 2007. Follow Jeff's travels and work on his personal blog:, and on twitter at @jeffpower.