Boxing clever

SanitationDR Congo

How an 84-year-old grandfather cleared the air in his family home with a simple ‘hygiene fix’.

Jean* loves his family and they love him. However there was a little bit of an atmosphere in their home – literally.

Jean is 84 years old and still working. He lives with his children and grandchildren in the village of Cirimiro in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He’s a carpenter by trade and still a dab hand with a hammer and a hacksaw. However, he’s not as nimble in other ways – and it’s brought problems to the family home.

He now has very limited mobility. ‘I couldn’t use the family latrine because it meant I had to bend and squat,’ he explains. ‘I had to use a bucket in the house which I could easily sit on. My family weren’t happy about this and complained because of the bad smell and the flies. 

‘In June 2017 a team of community health volunteers found me at home and asked to talk to us. They explained to me and my family, how illnesses are passed from one person to another.’

These volunteers had been trained and equipped by Tearfund staff to go house-to-house in their communities, encouraging families to build and improve their latrines. Tearfund trains the volunteers to ensure they pay special attention to make sure nobody is left behind, and that includes people with disabilities.

Jean by his latrine
the toilet
L-R: Jean outside the improved latrine, his finished carpentry.

If I had a hammer… hang on I do
‘My grandchildren made improvements to the latrine but they said I was still causing a problem because I couldn’t use it,’ says Jean. It seemed that his improvised loo, a smelly bucket ridden with flies, really was there to stay.

Jean decided it was time he put his own skills to use on the family latrine.

‘I made a wooden box which stands high above the latrine hole and which I can sit on to use the toilet.’ Now everyone can use the adapted latrine and the family can breathe a sigh of relief... without holding their noses.

Two weeks after the initial visit, the community health volunteers returned and were delighted to see the results.

Through one simple fix, Jean has been able to improve the health and living conditions of him and his family and, importantly, regain his dignity. It has also reduced tensions at home. ‘Now I can use a latrine that responds to my needs and I have joined my family’s efforts in eradicating disease. A good atmosphere has returned to our household.’ 


Stop to think of all the ways your home is kept hygienic and free from disease: running water, flushing toilets, rubbish collection and the many other, smaller, ways. Give thanks for each one of them.

  • Pray for all those people and organisations who are trying to promote simple health and sanitation across the DRC and around the world, that they can help many more families escape sickness and disease.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Tearfund is a global member of the SWIFT Consortium, which is working to provide water, sanitation and hygiene services to people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and build capacity to ensure services are sustainable. The consortium is funded with UK aid from the British people.