Elvie, Phillipines: In December last year, I attended the most unusual conference - the World Toilet Organization Summit (WTO) at Suntec Convention Center, Singapore. Mr. Avi Liran, Founder of Laughter Yoga in Singapore, with the help of my organization, Laughter Yoga Philippines, had organized putting up toilets in public schools. This toilet project furthered my interest in the Summit and I was keen to know more about the nature of their work. About 200 delegates from respective companies and organizations from all over the world, attended the summit.
In his opening address, Mr. Lim Swee Saq, the Singaporean Minister, mentioned that water and sanitation was the secret to Singapore’s great leap to success. It was effectively being used to address the growing population and bring the country to the highest status.
I was impressed by their dedication but felt rather sad that my country though endowed with vast rich natural and human resources, was bereft of such dedicated, honest and effective leaders. To further highlight the importance Singapore government accords to water and sanitation, there are ‘LOO’ Awards given to certain companies, restaurants and construction firms, whose toilets meet the WTO standards. No wonder, all toilets in Singapore are so clean - one can even sleep on the floor!
Almost 2.5 billion from the 3.5 billion poor people all over the world do not have access to clean drinking water and good sanitation. This is a gargantuan situation because if water and sanitation is in poor condition, a great number of people are prone and exposed to diseases. Health and productivity are adversely affected, thus becoming burden and liabilities -- instead of being productive assets to society.
Confronted with such phenomenal worldwide situation, inevitably the speeches and discussions were serious, albeit, highly informative and touching. They made me think and deeply reflect on my reason for being. I told the delegates how I got into the toilet project for school children. To my great surprise, I received numerous offers of help. In appreciation, I decided to add more humor to the toilet issue, by conducting a Laughter Yoga session before the delegates. It was amazingly exciting to see very-well-respected-and- highly-successful delegates gamely participating. In fact, one Minister approached me to say, “Thank you for teaching us how to laugh.” While a delegate from Malaysia stated, “No wonder you remain young and happy.”
The Summit was really worth it. There were fascinating stories, particularly of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder of Sulabh Sanitation & Social Reform Movement, in India. His endeavors helped to provide clean water and sanitation to millions in the country. His organization now employs about 50,000 people who are responsible for building and maintaining toilets all over India.