Maybe we give a buck to that houseless veteran standing on the corner. Perhaps we donate to the annual holiday collection for families struggling to make ends meet. But how many of us would give up a lucrative career to dedicate our lives to those in need? Trevor Mulaudzi, that’s who. He once was a professional geologist working in mines in South Africa, but he suddenly decided to leave his job in 1996 to clean toilets in schools across his country.
Often when driving to work, he would see children in the streets at 10 am. As a father, he wondered why these children were not in the classroom. “The toilet are all dirty. We cannot use them.” the kids said. To use toilets they would go to taverns instead. He thought: “Now if I am the only person or parent who is aware of that and I don’t do anything about it, what type of citizen will I be in the country with my education and my passion to help children?… That’s when I started cleaning up the toilets.” He quickly arranged for a visit of school facilities, and he found some of the filthiest toilets you can imagine. Many toilets in South African schools were in disrepair from a lack of funding for janitorial staff and toilet paper. In some cases, students using makeshift toilet paper were accidentally clogging toilets.
Mulaudzi went home and thought deeply about the issue. He called a cleaning supply company for assistance. They graciously sent an employee to show him proper toilet cleaning techniques in schools, “how to dress protectively, how to disinfect the place before cleaning or else you will get sick.” He also learned how to clear deeply clogged toilets with a trowel. And he didn’t run away. A mere twenty-four hours later he submitted his resignation as a geologist. He soon visited other schools and found similar problems. In a month, he registered a business called The Clean Shop. His goal was to have schools help contribute to funding the business. But school’s didn’t have budgets. So Mulaudzi came up with Plan B.
He raised funds selling cleaning products and used the income to grow his professional toilet cleaning business. The Clean Shop grew from four people in 1998 to over 450 people in 2009. They worked on large-scale contracts, and Mulaudzi used all profits, combined with charitable donations, to clean toilets in hundreds of schools across the country. He also taught students and teachers how to maintain toilets and raise money.
Mulaudzi didn’t stop there. Now he wants to teach new sanitation techniques to communities. He’s partnering with Swedish scientist and educator Jan-Olof Drangert to launch a program called the South African Water and Sanitation Academy. He will teach people about toilet maintenance and ecological sanitation technologies. Information about these new technologies can be found on Drangert’s website Sustainable Sanitation for the 21st Century. Closed-loop sanitation technologies that recycle rich nutrients in pee and poop are more ecologically sound than traditional systems. And since they don’t require water or sophisticated plumbing, anyone can build and use them.
In case you’re wondering, the kids in the schools started calling Mulaudzi Dr. Sh*t because he was improving their health by teaching them how to keep toilets clean thereby removing the thousands of pathogens found in poop. And this toilet angel is bound for heaven with all the good works he’s doing. We can all learn a lesson from his story. Don’t be afraid to do what we know is right. Take risks to make big changes. And never forget the power of laughter. For more information or if you’d like to be more involved in this project, please contact Trevor Mulaudzi at trevor [at] thecleanshop [dot] co [dot] za