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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Twenty-five years ago, ChildFund began its work in Vietnam; implementing child-focused development programs in the remote district of Ky Son, located in the country’s mountainous northern region.

Working in partnership with just four communes, home to around 200 children and families struggling with high levels of deprivation, ChildFund Vietnam focused its efforts on improving access to basic – and essential – needs.

Our earliest initiatives in these rural villages sought to reduce widespread child malnutrition; increase access to healthcare, safe water and sanitation; generate new livelihood opportunities for the low-income families; and improve the startling low school attendance rates.

Access to quality education has always been a pillar of ChildFund Vietnam’s programming. In a region of significant ethnic diversity, and where few children speak Vietnamese at home, it is vital that children and young people be given the opportunity to learn, and to overcome potential language barriers which can prevent them from accessing opportunities in the future.

Creating child-friendly, supportive, and engaging learning environments was key. Our team successfully worked in partnership with education staff, local authorities, parents, and young people to achieve this.

Today, teacher training programs, classroom and playground construction, new educational resources, and the creation of School Boards of Management mean that in Ky Son district 100 per cent of children now complete their primary education. This is a remarkable achievement.

Since those early days, ChildFund Vietnam has expanded its reach in the north of the country, and today works in 36 communes, in 12 districts, across three rural provinces – Hoa Binh, Cao Bang, Bac Kan – as well as the urban Hanoi Municipality.

In the last year alone, our projects reached almost 90,000 individuals, around half of whom were children and young people.

As the world for children has changed, so have ChildFund’s initiatives. We are now responding to the new threats to children’s wellbeing, with a focus on keep children safe from harm. This supports global efforts to progress target 16.2 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: to end all forms of violence against children.

Increasing, and affordable, internet availability is increasing children’s exposure to online abuse and exploitation. ChildFund’s Swipe Safe program is supporting young people to take advantage of digital technologies, while also ensuring they can take active steps to keep safe online.

Building safer environments is also a feature of our new partnership with the Vietnam Government’s Department of Child Affairs and Microsoft. Together, we have launched a new child protection application, which can be used by young people to report incidents of abuse and seek support.

ChildFund Pass It Back, a unique sport for development program, is giving young people in rural areas the opportunity to learn valuable life skills through organised community sport. With a focus on inclusion, over half of all players and coaches are girls and young women.

In the early 2000s, I spent several years working and living in Vietnam with my own daughter. It holds a special place in both of our hearts, and I am incredibly proud of our staff who show such dedication and commitment to changing the lives of vulnerable children.

Our achievements in Vietnam are also due to the strong collaboration with the Vietnamese government, civil society groups, individual and institutional donors, and the communities and the young people at the centre of our mission.

Together we are stronger. And together, we will continue to ensure more children in Vietnam can say: “I am safe. I am educated. I contribute. I have a future.”

You might be wondering, is World Toilet Day actually an international observance? Well, yes, World Toilet Day is marked annually on 19 November. It sounds funny, but the reality is that 4.2 billion people still live without access to safe sanitation or toilet facilities. That’s more than half the world’s population. 

We celebrate World Toilet Day in order to bring awareness to the idea that a simple toilet can make an enormous improvement to the lives of vulnerable children and communities. 

On World Toilet Day, we want to tell you more about the observance, its significance and how you can get involved. Read on for your guide to World Toilet Day! 

Who invented the toilet? 

Latrines have been used for thousands of years to dispose of human waste with various forms, including those used by the Romans, being more sophisticated than others. A latrine is very simple, usually a pit or a trench, whereas a toilet is a fixed receptacle which can easily be flushed out to dispose of waste..  

The first flushable toilet was invented by English courtier Sir John Harrington in 1596. He described a 2-foot-deep oval waterproofed bowl, fed water from above by a cistern. Flushing this toilet required 7.5 gallons of water to be poured into the bowl, which would drain the waste into a sewer below. 

Toilets as we know them were first manufactured by the English plumber Thomas Crapper, who in the 19th century invented the ballcock, the tank-filling mechanism that is still used in all our toilets when we flush. 

While Crapper didn’t invent the toilet, it was his addition to the toilet that revolutionised the way we manufacture and use sanitation facilities, as well as their potential to improve health and quality of life for those who use them. It is this “toilet”, that we now associate with the term. 

When was World Toilet Day first observed? 

The first World Toilet Day was observed in 2001. It was founded to inform, engage and inspire people to take action towards providing accessible and safe sanitation facilities around the globe. 

What is the significance of World Toilet Day and why is it observed?

With 4.2 billion people worldwide without access to safe sanitation facilities, we are in the midst of a global sanitation crisis. World Toilet Day might not seem like a significant observance, but it is observed to raise awareness and encourage strategic thinking towards tackling the crisis. 

A key topic of interest that is regularly discussed around World Toilet Day is sustainable development of sanitation facilities, particularly regarding the use of water resources and climate change. The observance also highlights the key role safe sanitation facilities play in preventing the spread of disease, and maintaining a good quality of health.

How to get involved in World Toilet Day

Getting involved in World Toilet Day is easy and can be loads of fun! We’ve put together a few ideas to help you get started, but we recommend bringing your creativity to the table and pushing the boundaries. 

1. Raise awareness on social

Social media is a great conversation starter, and there’s a number of ways you can initiate a World Toilet Day-focused conversation with your network:

  • Share a photo of your toilet on Instagram with an informative caption about World Toilet Day and add in the hashtag #WorldToiletDay. (Remember to close the lid!)
  • Start a poll on Facebook and ask your network if they’re aware of how many people don’t have access to safe sanitation facilities. 
  • Comment on content shared by the United Nations about World Toilet Day during the observance. 
  • Tag friends in engaging content on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram that includes facts about World Toilet Day you think they should know. 
  • Film a video for Instagram Reels, YouTube or Tik Tok that connects closely to one of the day’s focus areas. Be as creative as you can and you might be the next viral hit on social media!

2. Educate yourself and others

An international observance is a great opportunity to educate yourself and others about a topic you might be interested to learn more about. Research content related to safe sanitation facilities, such as documentaries, videos, podcasts, articles and more. 

Once you’ve built a strong foundation on the topic, organise a World Toilet Day-themed trivia event as a team-building activity with your colleagues, or a game to play with your friends on a Friday night.

3. Donate to a charity

There are many charities which are working towards providing communities around the globe with the water resources and sanitation they need to improve the health of children and families. 

You may wish to donate Gifts for Good, ChildFund’s range of charity gifts, which includes the option to support the construction of a deepwater borehole system. The water provided from the borehole system will be the first step in providing a community with safe sanitation facilities

Make a difference this World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day isn’t just about toilets. It’s about the role toilets play in keeping each and every one of us healthy, and improving global access to safe sanitation facilities. We recommend that you have fun with this observance, get yourself and others involved, and express gratitude for something as simple as having a toilet.