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What have we got two loos?! (Golborne’s twin-twin situation)

How a group of pensioners from Golborne, Wigan, have been helping build toilets in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Written by Tarryn Pegna | 23 Feb 2024

The four women, ages ranging from 70 to 82, sit around a table with tea cups and a saucer and their Toilet Twinning certificate. The woman on the far left holds a small white dog.

From left to right: Hilda Cartwright (with Penny the dog), Sylvia Wilcock, Valerie Cross and Margaret Mulcrow at St Thomas’s Church in Golborne with the certificate showing the toilet they twinned in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ladies said that thinking about their own grandchildren made them want to help keep children safe. Credit: Rev Helen Coffey/Tearfund

On a Thursday morning at St Thomas’s Church in the town of Golborne in Wigan, there’s communion, there’s tea and toast, there’s a good-as-new shop and now there are two twinned toilets*! Thanks to a group of women with a simple plan (and a lot of determination), families they’ve never even met (thousands of miles away) can go to the loo in safety and privacy. It’s a privilege everyone should have, and Margaret and her friends have helped make sure that more people do.

A safe place for children

‘We've all got grandchildren,’ Margaret explains, ‘so we were thinking about the young children going off into the woods or the fields [to use the toilet]. Anybody could just get hold of them and do anything, you know, run off with them or abuse them – things like that. Just because they haven't got a toilet! If there's a toilet, they’re safe and they can go and do what they have to do without being frightened of anything happening to them.’

It all started in their regular Thursday service. ‘Helen [the vicar] spoke about it in one of her sermons,’ says Margaret. She talked about Toilet Twinning (including the infamous poo song that’s no longer in use but always proved hugely popular with primary school children!) and pointed out how not having a safe toilet could impact a whole community – making life unsafe for everyone, and particularly for young women and girls. (You can read a story here about the vital difference having a toilet can make.)

Moved to make a difference

The group – Margaret, Sylvia, Valerie, Hilda and Liz – were moved by what they heard. ‘We decided that we’d try and save a couple of pounds out of our money each week and just put it in when we met up until we had the 60 pounds,’ she says. The goal wasn’t an easy one though. ‘Four of us are widows and the other one’s got a disabled husband, and we range in ages from the youngest one who's 70 and the eldest one's 82. And because we're pensioners, some weeks we have money left and some weeks we don't.’

The ladies lost no time in getting started. Rev Helen made a couple of posters with pictures from the Toilet Twinning website to put up in church, and the collecting began at the Thursday and Sunday services each week. ‘£60 is not a lot,’ says Margaret, ‘but it is to us.’

Inspiring giving

After some months, the money was finally all collected and ready for Rev Helen to go onto the Toilet Twinning website and twin a toilet for the ladies. ‘We were thrilled to bits!’ says Margaret.

‘If there's a toilet, children are safe and they can go and do what they have to do without being frightened of anything happening to them. ’
Margaret, Golborne

Together, the ladies had a look at the list of countries where they could choose a loo to twin, and decided on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And then a funny thing happened that Rev Helen describes as a ‘God story’. When she went to twin the toilet, she accidentally twinned two! She quickly managed to get a refund for the extra £60, but she says it was like it was meant to be, because that Sunday another lovely thing happened…

At the end of the service, Rev Helen called Margaret to come up to the front on behalf of the group of ladies to receive the certificate showing the latrine they’d twinned in DRC and to explain what they’d done and why. What Margaret said to the people gathered was so inspiring that Rev Helen soon found herself in possession of another £60 to twin the church’s other toilet. A member of the Sunday congregation had been so encouraged by the sacrificial giving of the group of ladies, that they had been motivated to do the same. That second toilet hadn’t been a mistake at all! ‘I was meant to be able to twin both!’ says Rev Helen.

‘I was so delighted with their heart and wanting to do something for someone else,’ says Rev Helen.

For £60 you (or your church/school/bingo team/cricket club/knitting circle) could twin a loo too! 

*Toilet Twinning helps families and communities to build their own toilets, and funds community-led hygiene education workshops. This helps keep people safe from sicknesses like diarrhoea (which can be deadly – especially for small children), as well as protecting them from the other dangers that exist when you’re forced to go into the bush alone to relieve yourself.

Pray for toilets

    • Ask God to bless each person who has twinned a toilet and helped make a way for families to access the safety and dignity of having access to a toilet.
    • Pray for the 3.5 billion people around the world who do not have access to a safe, clean toilet. Ask God to protect them from disease and other kinds of harm that can be associated with not having a toilet, and pray for governments to hear the voices of advocates (like Tearfund) and to take action to ensure that communities have good sanitation provision. 
    • Lift up all those who have experienced the loss of loved ones and/or faced abuse or assault as a result of not having a safe, clean toilet. Pray that God will give them comfort and emotional and physical healing.

Written by

Written by  Tarryn Pegna

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