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Patricia Arquette talks GiveLove and eco-sanitation

By Sydney Radclyffe for Box News

Celebrities and public figures are becoming involved in charitable work and are donating more than ever before. But, not all can do the ‘dirty work’ necessary to tackle some of the most pervasive problems threatening a safe, peaceful future for humanity as a whole. 

A natural disaster triggers a change

GiveLove was established in the wake of the devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010, primarily to help with emergency sanitation solutions for the vast number of people displaced by the disaster. While this project started as a response to a crisis, it highlighted a general lack of infrastructure around healthy, ecological sanitation and waste management.  

GiveLove identifies untreated waste leading to water pollution as a cause of millions of deaths around the globe annually. 

A global issue, with far-reaching concequences

Patricia emphasises the importance of ecological sanitation (EcoSan) systems to improve the quality of life in developing communities, and to address global issues of water scarcity and waste treatment. 

As GiveLove’s mission statement explains, the global need for clean water is a recognised issue, and positive large-scale efforts in this area are already happening. However, eco-friendly sanitation and waste disposal methods are a crucial aspect of the problem – and they’re being neglected.

Patricia realises that a lot of people of influence, who might otherwise lend their voice to activism, have a reluctant, ‘squeamish’ attitude when it comes to the subject of sanitation. 

Rethinking ‘waste’

GiveLove has now been supporting EcoSan systems for nine years, not only financially, but by training communities and spreading awareness of how to better dispose of human waste and protect water supplies at the local level.

In Patricia’s words, this involves a re-thinking and repurposing of ‘waste’ itself. Just as we use compost and manure in agriculture, we should also be composting human waste. This could be the key to safeguarding water supplies and improving crop fertility by avoiding harsh chemical fertilisers.

Compost sanitation protects water by removing waste from the water system, can improve soil quality and rainfall retention, and even reduce carbon emissions.

Patricia sees compost sanitation as being at the centre of problem-solving for developing communities. For instance, non-secure public toilet facilities are a common site of sexual assault against women and girls. Girls are often forced to drop out of school as they mature due to fears around safety.

Beyond this, there are currently over 1 billion people living without established sanitation systems, leading to a multitude of health and child development concerns. Implementing affordable, safe, and clean composting toilet facilities in schools and homes not only reduces the burden on public health but benefits the planet.

A universal issue that needs our attention

Patricia has often used her visibility to advocate for GiveLove’s cause. But, she also recognises the need for greater public awareness and involvement in communities across the world. She sees inter-community collaboration as crucial in addressing global sanitation with the gravity it deserves. This is not as a fringe problem affecting marginal groups in ‘faraway’ places but as vital to our shared future as human beings.

The children are our future …

Inspiring young minds might be easier and more effective than engaging preoccupied adults with what they see as ‘outside’ problems. This is why Patricia supports projects like international school-to-school programmes. Direct communication between young people from vastly different backgrounds is a sure way to educate and enlighten while instilling a sense of global stewardship.

Schools are also an excellent locus for fundraising – a significant priority for GiveLove. GiveLove supports EcoSan systems from the ground up. They begin with sanitation education and training in construction, through to building composting toilets in schools, houses and businesses, and leaving local communities with the knowledge and skills to continue.

GiveLove delivers educational course modules, site planning and estimates, building materials, and further teaching tools, such as comic books for kids and useful infographics for adults.

Funding and resources are critical

Resources are, of course, a constant concern as GiveLove expands across continents in its mission to facilitate adequate global sanitation.

Since operations began in 2010, GiveLove has established projects in Kenya, Nicaragua, Colombia, Uganda, and the USA. In America, team members stood for five months in solidarity with Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at Standing Rock, providing sanitation for thousands of activists and Indigenous water protectors.

Patricia herself spent time living at the camp and became a prominent public face of the movement in the media. It’s clear that Patricia is not only ready and able to do the necessary groundwork to create change but that her perspective as an activist is unconfined.

Patricia is neither limited to tending her backyard nor afraid of raising her voice in defence of others, even when most in her community would not.

This activist might also be an actress – and an author, too – but her influence undoubtedly stems not from her fame, but her capability, integrity, and grounded vision of a better future for all.