His childhood experience with ill-equipped schools in the provinces inspired businessman Napoleon Co to build toilets for poor Muslim and Christian kids in Mindanao.
Napoleon Co, owner of construction superstore chain Home Depot remembers the restrooms in his elementary school:
“Feces were splattered over the cracked tiles, and water barely spewed out of the broken faucets”.
Co admitted to holding the call of nature until he got home as a child— an unfortunate habit he found hard to break while studying in provincial schools in Cebu.
“Tending to withhold bowel movement for years as a child, I was 14 years old when I started seeing pools of blood whenever I used the toilet. Until I was about 35, the hemorrhage did not stop,” he laments.
He vowed never to let his children experience the same thing.
“If you ask me why I got into this business, I would say the toilets jumpstarted the vision. I was moved, through this painful experience, to help poor people out there who have had it harder than I did,” Co recounts, “I know how dehumanizing it feels to relieve yourself in the dirtiest of these places.”
Through his company Co regularly offers free construction materials and services to poor families and schools. He has provided toilets for public schools in Cebu, Payatas, and recently in Zamboanga.
In 2010, Co’s company Home Depot tied up with the A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) to construct for free male and female restrooms in ABSG’s Kristiyano-Islam (KRIS) Peace Library in Manicahan, Zamboanga, an area where the Islamist separatist group Abu Sayyaf is active.
ABSG, a peace and literacy advocacy group advocating education in war-torn areas in Mindanao, was hard-pressed in soliciting the needed funds to build a restroom in the KRIS Library.
“I had read that the kids who visited KRIS either did what they needed to do in the bamboo trees behind the Library or — just like me — withheld the need until they got home.”
Source: Jess David and Arizza Ann Nocum, Manilla Bulletin, 12 Apr 2011