Annie sits outside of her mud-plastered home, a small thatched canopy providing little respite from the Malawi heat. Her gaze focuses on some scribbled words on the side of her latrine: Tigwiritse Nchito Chimbuzi Moyenera Nthawi Zonse.
Let’s use the latrine properly at all times.
What may sound like a simple message bears a constant reminder to 37-year-old Annie of one of the scariest time of her life.
"The memories are still fresh," she says. "I was working in the fields when I felt my stomach churn."
Annie suddenly fell very sick. Too weak to walk back to her home or call for help, Annie collapsed in her field, where some community members later found her and quickly took her to the hospital.
"It was terrifying," Annie says. "All I could think about was my six children. My husband died several years ago, so I’m a single parent. Who was going to look after my children if I died?"
Annie had cholera, as did five other people in her small village. She was the only one who lived.
"I survived," she says solemnly. "But the experience scared me and I didn’t want to go through it again."
As the sole survivor, Annie was committed to finding a solution – she didn’t want herself, her children, or anyone in her community to be at risk for cholera.
Prior to the cases of cholera, many of the people in her village had been practicing open defecation – which can contaminate water sources and cause cholera and other waterborne diseases. At a training organized by Water For People and local health workers, Annie learned about the link between open defecation and cholera and knew she had to take action. Determined to take care of herself and her children, she quickly started building her own latrine.
"I had to do something!" she said.
Annie didn’t stop at constructing her toilet. She wanted to do more for her community, so she became a hygiene promoter. Annie is now part of the steering committee that makes sure every household in her village has a toilet and handwashing facilities and practices good hygiene.
There have been no more cases of cholera in her village, and Annie’s on a quest to make sure it stays that way.