I admit it.
Until recently, the only time I really thought about access to adequate sanitation was when faced with the daunting prospect of using portaloos at music festivals.
But a few months back, I found out something that truly shocked me. As Avis Mulhall, founder of Looloo Paper puts it; “Over 1.5 million children die each year from diarrhoea related diseases – that’s more than AIDS, measles and malaria……COMBINED. But here’s the thing, a whopping 94% of each and every case of diarrhoea related disease is completely avoidable. These diseases, these deaths, are avoidable. When you find out statistics like that, you know you need to act.”
Some of you may have made it to the word ‘diarrhoea’ before squirming. That’s because sanitation – crap, poo, shit – whatever you want to call it, remains one of the most damaging taboo topics in our world. But seriously… how can you fix a problem you don’t even want to talk about?
It may seem like this particular problem is a million miles away. So why should we care about this, you may ask?
In the words of our friend Mr. Toilet (Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organisation), disease doesn’t discriminate; “If a rich man is staying next to a poor man, the flies don’t know a rich man from a poor man so the rich man is probably eating the shit of the poor man. You better help them get toilets or you will eat their shit.” So, even if you think this isn’t your problem: it is.
As Australia’s aid budget is increasingly being flushed down the drain, it’s not the time to turn our backs on the 2.5 billion people in the world who do not have access to basic sanitation, a huge obstacle to the development of these communities. It’s time to look at other alternatives.
‘Social enterprise’ is the latest buzz term in development circles and indeed in the business sector. Social enterprises operate in a bit of a grey area between for-profits and not-for-profits. Some call them for-benefit organisations. One particular type of social enterprise sells products and then uses their profits to tackle a particular social issue. This type of enterprise is growing in popularity as they provide a more stable, sustainable and predictable income than the traditional charity fund-raising model.
Looloo Paper is a one such Sydney based social enterprise. Looloo sells toilet paper and uses its profits to improve sanitation conditions in the developing world. Their profits support Sanishop in Cambodia. Sanishop is not just another NGO; it’s a social business too. Sanishop’s aim is to create new markets for the poor with the idea of empowering local communities to help themselves, instead of becoming dependent on aid. Looloo’s profits are invested in Sanishop who in turn train entrepreneurs to build and sell toilets at an affordable price to their local communities. Access to toilets is the single most effective way of fighting disease – but not only this, Sanishop’s model provides valuable jobs, which helps break the cycle of poverty in these communities.
Looloo Paper was founded by Irish born entrepreneur Avis Mulhall, who has spoken at UTS and BUiLD events, she also has a number of us UTS students working with her, including Visual Communication student Roslyn Coutinho: “At uni, you get sick of doing nothing, not achieving anything in ‘the real world’. Being in this environment, working with Avis’ team, she actually makes change in the world and gets stuff done. It’s a really valuable opportunity to be a part of that while you’re at uni.”
Looloo Paper is currently at a critical point in its development. We have projects ready to support and clients ready to service. The one thing we need is funding to make take this concept to reality.
But in order to launch, the team at Looloo needs your help.
You can help by pledging to support our upcoming crowdfunding campaign – and score yourself a ticket to our launch party!
Or, if this article was enough for you to really fall in love with Looloo, why not join our team and become an Ambassador today?
You too can help change the world…..with toilet paper!
By Jacinta Astles for the University of Technology’s (UTS) student magazine Vertigo.