No More Flying Toilets in Riam Hamlet

It’s been a habit for the people in the Riam Pelayo hamlet to defecate at the river and the nearby bushes and forest. Even there’s a term called the flying toilet among the villagers.

It is common to see human feces scattering near the hamlet and near the river side, bringing a smelly odour throughout the hamlet.

Riam Pelayo is a hamlet at the Cipta Karya village in Sungai Betung sub-district which is inhabited by 65 families with a total population of some 300 people. A narrow and rocky street is the only access to reach this hamlet at the Bengkayang district in West Kalimantan province. The hamlet is about 20 kilometers from district capital Bengkayang or 90 kilometers from Singkawang. The people of Riam hamlet still have no electricity due to its remoteness.

Toni, 29, lives in this hamlet with his parents. In fact, he is the only college graduate from this hamlet who decided to go back and live in his home sub-village. He works as a teacher of Catholic Religion at the Vocational Senior High School in Bengkayang.

Upon seeing the unhealthy tradition among the local people, Toni decided to make the first move. He decided to build a simple and healthy toilet at his house.

As someone who has been completed a bachelor's degree, local people consider him as an important young leader. He is active at the local church and in community gatherings.

When Wahana Visi Indonesia started working in this hamlet and teaching about the construction of healthy toilets, many people rejected the idea. They perceived such toilets as not an important facility for them.

“Besides defecating in the bushes, the forest and river side, we also have what we call flying toilets. We use plastic bags for the feces and then just throw them away into the bushes,” said Mrs. Margareta.

Toni decided to make the first move and built a simple and healthy toilet at his house, right after Wahana Visi Indonesia did the sanitation campaign.

“I was moved to start changing my hamlet. I want to help change the people,” Toni noted.

Toni continued encouraging the community to build toilets at their houses. It was not easy at the beginning as the local villagers were known as quite stubborn. However through his persistence and the support from Wahana Visi Indonesia, and the construction of the clean water network at the hamlet, the villagers started realizing the importance of toilets and started to follow what Toni has initiated.

Soon, there are no more plastic bags being throw into the bushes. Even more amazing, during the celebration of '100 percent ownership of toilets' in Riam hamlet, the Bengkayang District Head, Mr.Suratman Gidot, personally came to witness the special moment.

“I am very proud with the people of Riam hamlet because this hamlet is the only one in the district where all the families have had healthy toilets in their homes as of the end of 2013,” said Mr. Suratman. 

Goodbye flying toilets!

*Written by Fransisco Fernando da Gomez, Community Development Coordinator Wahana Visi Indonesia Singkawang Operational Office | Translated by Steve Wirawan | Edited by Hendro Suwito, Senior Editor World Vision Indonesia