At age 40, Singapore citizen Jack Sim was a multimillionaire. He decided to devote the rest of his life to doing something good for the world, specifically to improving the lives of the 2.6 billion people who lack access to decent sanitation.
In other words, he decided he gave a shit, and, like Bruce Wayne became Batman, assumed an alter ego: Mr. Toilet. Now, on World Toilet Day 2013, he wants the rest of the world to join him as it enters the holiday gift giving season.
“We’re hijacking Black Friday. We’re saying on Black Friday you buy shit, and on Brown Friday, you should give a shit,” Sim tells Co.Exist. The nonprofit he founded in 2001, the World Toilet Organization, launched today an Indiegogo campaign for people to sponsor the installation of a toilet building for a school in KwaMashu, South Africa, that desperately needs it. They will be raising $30,000 until January 6th, 2014 for this project.
Sim has pioneered a mix of humor and purpose that has made it okay to talk about toilets, and the serious mortality that occurs without them. He started World Toilet Day 13 years ago.
But this year isn’t just any World Toilet Day, even for him. Sim has been working to popularize the event, and led a long-term lobbying campaign that convinced the United Nations to recognize the occasion for the first time this year. That amp up the power of World Toilet Day significantly, Sim said in an interview from Washington, D.C., where he was getting ready for a day-long summit. He estimates that the media reach of World Toilet Day was 3.3 billion people last year alone.
Today, his organization has projects throughout the world. In addition to the work focused on South African schools, there’s SaniShops in Cambodia, a sustainable, franchise business model that helps local entrepreneurs sell latrines and accessories, and the launch of the “Domestos Toilet Academies” in India.
Sim says that Westerners also have a lot to improve regarding toilet use. In many North American cities, for example, it’s hard to find a public restroom on the city streets, making for many uncomfortable situations for tourists and locals like. And if we talked more about toilets, U.S. residents might learn how the world views our bathroom stalls: “It has a gap at the bottom. It’s a really strange design. Anywhere else in the world, they say it has no privacy,” says Sim.
As for Sim’s personal toilet preferences? For a rich man, Mr. Toilet likes to keep it pretty basic: “I think as long as it’s clean and doesn’t smell. I think it should be good,” he says.
You can donate to the World Toilet Organization’s Indiegogo campaign here. The group developed the campaign in partnership with Saatchi and Saatchi Singapore.