The three young college graduates are the subject of “The New Recruits,” a fascinating PBS documentary, which aired on US television on 15 June 2010. The film chronicles their yearlong adventure with “social entrepreneurship,” a philosophy that combines humanitarianism and capitalism to fight global poverty.
The young entrepreneurs are Suraj Sudhakar who sold pay-toilet services in Kenya, Heidi Krauel who peddled solar-powered lights in India, and Joel Montgomery who pushed drip irrigation in Pakistan.
The trio was trained by the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit group that believes free enterprise is the best way to help Third World countries. The film is narrated by Rainn Wilson of NBC’s “The Office” and directed by Jeremy Newberger, Seth Kramer and Daniel A. Miller, who earlier made “The Linguists.”
Sudhakar’s story is the most compelling — and depressing.
In a slum outside Nairobi, pigs, dogs, chickens and humans scurry across huge mounds of garbage. The area lacks a sanitation system, making it what one local calls an “open defecation zone.”
The company that Sudhakar works for, Ecotact, installs pay toilets that cost about eight cents per visit. A “World Toilet Day” featuring a speech by Kenya’s minister of public health and sanitation is held to publicize the facilities. A comedian entertains the crowd with one-liners such as, “Did you just make a big one or a small one?”
In order to create a high-class image, the company opens the first toilets in the city’s business district. “Don’t forget us,” pleads a small group of children in the slums. Sudhakar promises to come back.
The film says only 50 percent of social entrepreneur jobs survive their first four years. Yet by the end of the film, Krauel and Montgomery are seeking new opportunities to sell to the poor and Suhakar has enthusiastically returned to Kenya, where he now is project manager for Peepoople, an organization that provides hygienic sanitation.
Source: Bloomberg, 15 Jun 2010
See below a Global Water Challenge (GWC) video about Ecotact.