United States Ambassador Lays First Bricks for Girls’ Bio-Toilets
Says HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, “Students Will Become Sanitation Ambassadors”
East met West recently as United States Ambassador to India, Shri Richard Verma, laid the first bricks for a new girls’ bio-toilet structure, being built by Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Divine Shakti Foundation, Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh. The Honourable Ambassador, his wife, Ms. Pinky Verma, and children joined HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, the Co-Chair/Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) and President of Parmarth Niketan and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary General GIWA and President of the Divine Shakti Foundation, for this auspicious ceremony.
The structure will be used by nearly 2,000 girls at the Government Girls’ Intercollege. Currently, they face insufficient access to clean, private toilets, which is a problem common to many of India’s schools.
Pujya Swamiji said on the occasion: “We aren’t just building toilets, we are creating Sanitation Ambassadors. The girls here will be among the first to attend classes offered by GIWA’s new World Toilet College, so that they can become strong and powerful advocates for a Swachh Bharat.”
The World Toilet College’s new “Sanitation Ambassadors” Programme, to be offered at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, will teach youth, such as the Intercollege students, skills in community outreach, children’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education and more.
Sadhvi Bhagawatiji said, “Without private, clean and safe washroom facilities, girls are more likely to drop out of school and fall into the trap of poverty. Great strides have been made under the Government of Shri Narendra Modiji to change this, and now, the World Toilet College will endeavor to strengthen the Swachh Bharat Mission through the cultivation and training of new leaders such as the girls here. It is so beautiful to have our US Ambassador, who is truly a Green Ambassador, with us today to add his hand and his heart to these efforts.”
The Sanitation Ambassadors will play a special role at the upcoming Kumbh Mela in Haridwar/Rishikesh, where they will work alongside GIWA and faith leaders to motivate the masses to use toilets at the Kumbh and build toilets for their communities when they return home.
Mr. Richard Verma said, “I first met Pujya Swamiji (Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji) in America in the 1970s, approximately 35 years ago when he was founding the Hindu-Jain Temple in Pennsylvania. It is so beautiful to see what a great, inspiring global leader He has become with these crucial initiatives to help the world, now especially his initiatives for water, sanitation and hygiene. With this new bio-toilet complex you, all of the students, will grow and thrive to become leaders of tomorrow. Today, as I look out in the audience I see my grandmother, who was a girls’ school principal in Punjab and my mother who was a teacher at a girls’ school in Punjab. You are great role models for all of us. On behalf of President Obama, on behalf of myself and my family, we are your partners and your friends. We stand beside you and with you, and I look forward to coming back very soon.”
Said a student attending the event: “It is inspiring to me that the US Ambassador came all this way to support the building of our toilets. Because of this, I want to make a difference as well, as a Sanitation Ambassador at the Kumbh Mela.”
The Honourable U.S. Ambassador attended with his wife Pinky, their three children, his sister and brother-in-law and niece and nephews who were visiting from the United States. His extended family also distributed apples to all the girls and had the opportunity to interact with many of them.
Pujya Swamiji shared: “As the bricks are laid and the cement is poured today, we are forging a new beginning that can stand for the ages through the power of education for sanitation. Let us, together, do all we can to ensure girls lead the way as the bright lights that they are, so that Mother India may eternally shine.”