The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


“SQUATified” builds muscle and awareness for world sanitation

Photo Credit: Ivy Kuhrman

On Thursday, January 30, students gathered in the Athletic and Fitness Center’s Gymnasium for “SQUATified… with World Sanitation?,” a squat fitness class including discussions about world sanitation and water supply issues.

The event was hosted by students Taylor Gombar and Emily Schmidt, who are members of the 2013 cohort of the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership, a leadership-building program for summer study abroad.  The event served as Gombar and Schmidt’s Community Engagement Experience, a component of the VIH Program in which participants use knowledge acquired during their study abroad experience to benefit their community.

“When Taylor and I were discussing ideas for an event, we were trying to find parallel experiences between our trips,” Schmidt said.  “The one thing on which we could agree is that sanitation practices in our countries took different forms and held different positions of priority, especially noticeable when compared to the U.S.  We realized that this was true all throughout the world, and we felt like this was something we would like to educate our peers about.”

At 7 p.m., students and guests arrived in the gymnasium, which was decorated with toilet paper streamers and poster boards of photographs from Gombar and Schmidt’s study abroad experiences at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China, and Richmond University in Florence, Italy, respectively.

Attendees were encouraged to bring sanitation products to be donated to Light of Life Rescue Mission, which helps poor and homeless locals.  People donated items, including soap, toilet paper, and bathroom cleaner, and made financial contributions.

Gombar began the evening with a presentation on the lack of toilets and sanitation products around the world.

“The concept of sanitation arose from my investigation in standards of living as well as my experience with ‘Squatty Potties,’” Gombar said.  “I had to carry around toiletry-sized soap and toilet paper.  I watched many women use the Squatty Potty and just walk out of the bathroom without a single thought of washing their hands.”

After Gombar’s presentation, Doctor of Physical Therapy student Zachary Roberts led the first segment of the squat class, accompanied by Gombar and Schmidt’s playlist of “the best music for butt workouts.”  The exercises ranged from simpler moves, like air squats and lunges, to more rigorous moves involving jumps, and each participant was supplied with a paper cutout of a toilet seat to do squats over, to reinforce the sanitation message.

After the first set of exercises, Schmidt gave a presentation on the world’s water supply.

“I was most surprised at the rate of improvement of the water situation around the world,” Schmidt said about her research.  For example, according to Schmidt, a child dies every 21 seconds because of a water related illness.  In 2009 a child died about every 15 seconds and in the 1980s a child died about every six seconds for the same reason.

“Still a disheartening fact, the difference is colossal.  That is serious progress that I did not know was being made, and it gives me hope for the future,” she said.

The second half was much more intimate, as many people had left for other engagements.  A second round of squat exercises (this time including weights) followed, and the event ended with a final presentation by Schmidt about sanitation.

Schmidt’s main goal for the event was to educate her peers on the global issues of sanitation and water supply.

“One thing I did not want to do was make people feel guilty for having constant and endless access to water and soap,” Schmidt said.  “Rather, we wanted to make people consciously consider the importance of water and to realize the water and sanitation issue that exists in the world.”

Gombar was similarly motivated and pleased with the event.  “We educated 17 men and women, ages 17-62, on the importance of collective sewage tanks and purified water.  Our literal ‘butt-kicking’ event exemplified the strains of unmodernized sanitation systems.”

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