Josh Levy

Josh Levy graduated from Columbia University in February 2015 with a Master's of Public Administration. Before becoming an AP Peace Fellow, he was the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) intern for the West Africa Team in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where he provided administrative and research support on a variety of security and development issues. Prior to joining the UN, Josh worked for The World Bank, where he co-managed a research team and assisted the Global Center for Conflict, Security and Development in improving their evaluation methods for development projects in fragile and conflict-affected situations. Mr. Levy also worked in public relations and marketing in the public sector and in the private sector prior to moving to New York to pursue his Masters. After the fellowship, Josh wrote: "The fellowship has helped me grow professionally and personally. I improved my photography skills, my journalism/writing/reporting skills, and my project management skills. And seeing the fruits of my labor was the best experience. Once the toilet was built I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment." Contact:

More Than Just a Toilet

15 Jul

July 13, 2015

Construction has been progressing at an astonishing pace! It seems like only yesterday I was watching a worker dig the pit, snapping a photo of him as he laughed, but today we just came back from a visit to Tochi and the entire structure of the toilet was staring me in the face! Now, the next challenge is going to be planning for the Open Day Event, keeping GDPU motivated, and ensuring the sustainability plan has legs.

Josh Blog 5 Photo 2

This program is about more than just a toilet. We are trying to develop an inclusivity program, and despite the apathy I feel from some of the staff at Tochi, the head teacher Christine is keeping the ship on course. I am discovering through this project that the single most essential component, which will help determine whether or not it is successful, is the head teacher.

Meanwhile, GDPU is still spread out thin, trying to stay afloat after their major projects come to an end in a few months. Ojok Patrick has been visiting different parts of Uganda, working on various programs related to the Youth Development Program, so I have been training Ojok Simon on how to manage this project and all of its future iterations. He is a very capable individual. He was one of the many victims from the conflict and now lives with a disability. It is easy to forget he has a visual impairment, simply because of how great he works in the field.

Josh Blog 5 Photo 4


Josh Blog 5 Photo 5

I’ve also noticed that the School Management Committee has been visiting the construction site. I can tell because of the signatures in the contractor’s visitor book. This is great news because it means the community is taking an active role in the project; it means they are becoming invested in its success. We spoke previously with the School Management Committee and the Parent Teacher Association about creating a funding mechanism for maintaining the toilet. I’m optimistic that when we meet with them next, we will find out more details on how this plan has progressed.


Josh Blog 5 Photo 6

In order to create the kind of social change that this program aims to achieve, we need to rally the school community around the ideas of sustaining this toilet as well as promoting inclusion and accessibility for all students. That’s why we are planning an awareness workshop, an art competition, a poetry recital, a drama, and a debate with the head teacher.

These activities are instrumental to engaging the students on the issues good hygiene, inclusion, and accessibility. I recently found out that the school has a terrible system for cleaning the latrines. They simply make the students who arrive late responsible for cleaning them. That kind of system makes cleaning the latrine a punishment rather than a responsibility.

Josh Blog 5 Photo 7

After talking this over with Ojok Simon and the head teacher, we discussed how GDPU handles this issue with the students in their Youth Development Program as a model for the students in Tochi. At GDPU, the skills trainers organize students every morning and assign roles such as filling the jerry cans, cleaning the latrines, restocking supplies, sweeping the compound, etc.

We will create a similar system at Tochi. Each class will elect a prefect and will be assigned a responsibility for the day. The prefect will ensure his class carries out their responsibility and a supervising teacher will check to make sure everything is in order. If something is not done properly, the teacher will talk to the prefect and get that class to redo their role. If that doesn’t happen, then a new prefect will be elected until the responsibility is carried out.

These students may have a right to accessible latrines, but it is also their responsibility to maintain them. Without a better system for cleaning the latrines, this project won’t be sustainable and the toilet will quickly become unhygienic.

Josh Blog 5 Photo 8

GDPU and the teachers will hold an awareness workshop to explain the importance of cleaning the toilets, and afterwards, we will engage the students with the art competition based on the theme of what good hygiene means to them. The teachers will judge this competition and award the winners with a prize as well as points towards winning a term’s worth of school fees after all the activities have taken place.

I’m excited to see how these activities play out. Hopefully we see the same kind of progress on the inclusion program that we have seen with construction.

Posted By Josh Levy

Posted Jul 15th, 2015


  • Iain Guest

    July 17, 2015


    Josh – thanks for continuing to provide such a thorough account of this project! It’s all fascinating, and there are so many lessons to be learned along the way. Difficult as this may be, I’m sure you’d also agree that building the toilet is just the start of the journey. As you say the project needs to be sustained, and for that to happen the entire community needs to be co-opted. I’m so impressed that you see this larger picture so clearly!

  • Alan Levy

    July 23, 2015


    Great update and progress report. You are on point in every respect. Incentive based programs and reward systems always motivate people and work the best.

  • Linda Nonemaker

    July 30, 2015


    When there is an indwelling passion and a pure heart there is success. May you continue in your successful work.

  • Steve Brooks

    July 30, 2015


    The levels of learning and shaping of this project are fascinating and you truly seem to have a masterful grip on what will make it succeed. Keep up the “good work” and stay well.

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