With a hashtag as straightforward as #everybodypoops, Wish for WASH’s mission is equally as straightforward: to “bring innovation to sanitation,” says President and Founder Jasmine Burton.
While a freshman at Georgia Tech, Burton attended a talk given by another female entrepreneur, Susan Davis, about the basic sanitation global epidemic. Davis stressed the fact that roughly half the world’s population still does not have access to basic sanitation; females are likelier to be affected by this deficit because many teenage girls drop out of school due to lack of bathroom facilities in schools. Furthermore, having to go outside to use toilets at night makes females more vulnerable to sexual assault and violence. Burton was completely appalled by these facts and knew that she had to use her background in industrial design to make a difference. She further explains, “The fact that something so simple, [and] that so many people in the United States take for granted, [could make] such a huge difference in the economic and career advancements of women in countries around the world made me angry and called me to action.”
Very quickly, Burton’s idea became reality when she and her senior design team won Georgia Tech’s InVenture Prize Competition in 2014 for their design of an inexpensive mobile toilet, SafiChoo. The InVenture Prize Competition is the largest undergraduate invention competition in the United States, and Burton’s team made history by being the first all-female team to win first place. With the funding from InVenture, Burton’s team was able to send the SafiChoo, which Burton describes as “an inexpensive mobile sanitation solution intended to reduce oral-fecal contamination and the spread of waterborne diseases,” to Kenya for a 10-week pilot. The team worked alongside the CDC, Norwegian Refugee Council, and Sanivation (another startup focused on sanitation) to bring the SafiChoo to Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp. After traveling to Kenya and receiving feedback from the community, Burton and her team went back to tweak features of the toilet to customize it for a better user experience. “Being in the field really enabled us to interface with actual users and form relationships with them, which ultimately is reflected in the iterations that SafiChoo has since undergone,” Burton says. Soon after, Burton started Wish for WASH.
In 2015, the Wish for WASH team started an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to fund their 2016 Zambian 10-week beta pilot. “[Our] team manufactured, shipped, installed and monitored the newest version of the SafiChoo toilet in tandem with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor Zambia (WSUP) and the Lusaka Water and Sewage Company (LWSC),” says Burton. After receiving positive feedback from project stakeholders and the community in Lusaka, Zambia, there was intense interest in installing the SafiChoo toilet in the city.
Today, the Wish for WASH team, comprised of current Georgia Tech students and alumni, is working hard on expanding the SafiChoo to various provinces in Zambia, and finding new ways to improve the design of the toilet. Burton herself is currently a MSc in Public Health Candidate at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and says that her undergraduate career played an important part in her entrepreneurship journey: “[Being an undergraduate student] taught me how to repurpose my creative problem solving skill set in all sectors and in cross-disciplinary settings, while teaching and enabling me (through grants, competitions, advisory support, business strategy support, and volunteering) to follow my dream, make a difference, and be a social entrepreneur despite my age.”
Although Burton is now an alum, her central goal remains unchanged from that of her freshman self: “I identify as a humanitarian design activist, and ultimately, I seek to utilize design to advocate for universal health…which is why I founded Wish for WASH.”
For more information about Wish for WASH, please visit: www.wishforwash.com.
For more information about Burton’s team’s success at the GA Tech InVenture Prize Competition, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ip9xWTc2QDk&list=PL__bL
Many thanks to Jasmine Burton and the Wish for WASH team for making this collaboration possible.