ISV Alumni Spotlight: Jordan Luongo on Building a Tippy Tap in South Africa

by isvolunteers on Monday, 22 June 2015

tippy tap

Jordan Luongo standing in front of the  hand-washing device known as a ‘Tippy Tap’. (c) Jordan Luongo


Jordan with her fellow ISV volunteers and community members in Kwelerha in front of the newly constructed playground. (c) Jordan Luongo

Ever heard of a “Tippy Tap?” ISV volunteer Jordan Luongo from the University of North Florida, shares her story of volunteering in South Africa, with a special focus on combining her studies in Public Health with her ISV community development project, and implementing a Tippy Tap at the local creche.   

“May 2015 was a month filled with accomplishments, happiness, and love in the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa with ISV and found myself instantly immersed into this magical place.

For two weeks I volunteered as part of the ISV program in Chintsa East with ISV’s local project partner ‘Volunteer Africa 32 Degrees South’ (VA32). In that time, we built a playground for the crèche in the village of Kwelerha, raised a fence for the garden, as well as other important tasks. There were 13 ISV volunteers including our ISV Project Leader, Kelly, and with the help of VA32’s leader, Miller, we were able to complete all of our project goals and more!

Signing up with ISV, I was interested in gaining academic credit by completing a project relating to my college major, Public Health and Health Education, and once my project allocation was finalized, I researched the highly communicable disease figures found in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. I found myself thinking about what could I bring to this community to initialize positive growth without being disruptive. That’s when I remembered reading an article about a Tippy Tap made in India…

A lot of people look at me funny when I say the word “Tippy Tap” – but it’s an incredibly useful device. A Tippy Tap is a hands-free way to wash your hands via a foot lever made out of basic materials to assist rural areas without running water. They can be built almost anywhere in less than a day – all one has to do is obtain the materials that best suit their environment. I knew this would be perfect to bring as it could be constructed easily during our workdays on the playground.

A few days into project I approached our leaders about building this contraption and both were immediately on board. Miller told me he went home that night and couldn’t stop thinking about how we could build it! He knew it would be perfect for the crèche, so we sourced materials from a hardware store and began construction. It was quite an amazing process; Miller and I continuously put our heads together and tweaked some things as we went along to make the best Tippy Tap we could.


The Kwelerha creche director trying the Tippy Tap for the first time. (c) Jordan Luongo

When we were close to completion (and working out some minor kinks) we had a visit from the crèche director. She was intrigued. With bundles of excitement I demonstrated the device and saw a smile form across her face. I offered her a try, and as the water tipped out she looked like a ray of sunshine, with smiles and giggles. She blessed us all for everything we had done and my heart filled with an unforgettable feeling of love and satisfaction.

Furthermore, as a few other volunteers and I were laying down gravel for the Tippy Tap, a few children on recess hovered around and observed what we were doing. I distributed soap on their hands, placed them under the tap, and stepped on the lever until water was released from the container. Squeals of laughter were bursting from the children and they jumped with excitement. This drew other children’s attention and soon they all ran over to the Tippy Tap to wash their hands as well.


Excited children from the creche lining up to wash their hands with the Tippy Tap. (c) Jordan Luongo

While building a Tippy Tap does take some planning and knowledge, it is easy to make and can be constructed almost anywhere in the world. The device is not only fun and easy to use – it’s also effective! Most diseases that exist in rural areas are communicable; therefore, they can be prevented through simply washing one’s hands. According to Life Health Care (2014), this task can help South Africa reach its goal of reducing child mortality rates.

(Read more facts below about the health issues pertaining to hand washing and communicable diseases).

Let’s all spread the word about this wonderful contraption and remember that one small deed can go a long way!

Special thanks to Dr. Apatu, ISV, VA32, my girls, and Mills; without the love, help, and support this wouldn’t have been possible.

Regards, Jordan Luongo”   


Jordan alongside VA32 Leader, Miller, in front of the completed Tippy Tap. (c) Jordan Luongo

Quick Facts 

  • According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3.5 million young children die from communicable diseases every year. Three quarters of those children are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (Life Health Care, 2014).
  • According to Life Health Care’s Hand Hygiene Fact Sheet, approximately 60% of South Africans that do not wash their hands properly after using the toilet- this information was obtained by the Global Hygiene Council’s 2009 Global Hygiene Survey (2014).
  • There are 66% of South Africans that do not use soap when they wash their hands.
  • Fortunately, 75% of these communicable diseases can be prevented through proper hand washing.

Materials for building a Tippy Tap

  • 2 large wooden poles
  • 1 small wooden pole
  • 1 metal rod
  • 1 plastic water jug
  • String
  • Wire
  • Rocks/gravel
  • Basic tools- drills, hammer, spade, tape measure, bolts and washers, wood saw, metal saw

(Please keep in mind that materials will vary depending on availability within the community)

Average cost: R350 (ZAR) = $28 (USD)\

Read more about ISV in South Africa here, and learn more about earning academic credit through independent study here!

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