Meet PoopGuy, India's Toilet Hero

Image credit: 
YouTube / Gates Foundation

Swapnil Chaturvedi cleans toilets for a living, and goes by the nickname "PoopGuy." He works in the slums of Pune, India, bringing a much-needed resource to the locals: clean toilets. In a place where one toilet can serve 1,000 people every day, keeping things clean is a serious challenge.

Here's a video telling, in Chaturvedi's own words, what it's like to be PoopGuy. Below the video, some more on the man and his mission. A sample quote: "We can live without Facebook, we can live without smartphones. But we cannot live without relieving ourselves."

Chaturvedi moved from India to the US in 2001, for college. After graduation, he worked as a software engineer in the US. He married, had a baby, and was living the American Dream. But after a visit to his family in India, he realized that his true calling was in helping the poor in his home country. Here's his story, in his own words:

In June 2007, I became the father of a beautiful girl child. When she was 3 months old, we were visiting India after a gap of over 4 years. I was so excited to meet my family and to see the “progress” my parents had been talking about. But what I saw completely changed my life.

On the one hand there were big shopping malls and on the other there were these slums all over the city (with kids defecating in [the] open). Maybe it was because I had lived in US long enough to gain an outsider’s perspective, but it was as if my blindfolds had been removed and I was seeing things for the first time. That night, for the first time in my life, I asked questions that guided me towards my purpose:

• What does GDP mean for a woman who has to spend over an hour to find a place to defecate?

• What does it mean to live in a slum right beside high rise buildings?

• What does it cost to live in such deplorable conditions?

• Who is responsible for providing the most basic services to the urban poor?

We went back to the US in a month, but the work that excited me earlier, did not appeal to me anymore.

Chaturvedi then founded Samagra Sanitation in 2011, and has been working ever since to provide "awesome sanitation services for the urban poor." Samagra recently started an Indiegogo campaign, raising money to provide community toilets for 50,000 people. That's awesome sanitation in action!

March 28, 2014 - 2:00pm
The Gates Foundation believes all lives have equal value. Do you? Sign up to receive weekly updates from our blog, Impatient Optimists.
At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we believe that every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life. We believe that tremendous progress is happening, but there are still great inequities we’re impatient to see addressed. It’s why we named our blog, Impatient Optimists. Our work is challenging, but we know we can get there. We cannot succeed alone, however. We need your help. If you’re into big thinking and big ideas to solve the world's biggest challenges (and we assume you are if you're reading Mental Floss), visit Impatient Optimists and become a part of the Gates Foundation community.
submit to reddit