Bedfordshire firm Dunster House invest in humanitarian efforts for sanitation
It may have all started with sheds more than 20 years ago. However, one garden lifestyle firm is using its building skills to help the most desperate across the globe.
Since 1994, Dunster House – based here in Bedford – has been a big name in outdoor garden products. However, now it has secured its largest UNICEF contract to export emergency latrines to Malawi after heavy flooding left 230,000 people without access to sanitation.
Six years ago, the managing director of the company, Chris Murphy saw his business making a handsome profit and decided to use this surplus cash for humanitarian efforts.
In this he hired Carl Dolby, as the head of the humanitarian division, who helped lead to them now being one of the leading manufacturers in sanitation equipment and latrines for national and international charities.
Carl told BoS:
“Chris’ pet project has always been to help people due to what he saw in his time in the military, so once his business was settled he turned his attention to humanitarian efforts.”
Since 2012 they have had contracts with large organisations like Oxfam taking latrines to third world nations, and this latest contract has seen them send 296 superstructures and squatting plates, weighing just 30kg, to Malawi.
The superstrucutres are large toilet cubicles that can be constructed over holes for people to do their business in private. Also, the squatting plates are hygienic floor bases for people to stand on with a kick-lift flap.
But that is just the first phase, as they are now working on construction of a further 880 for the second phase. And it is the importance of this work which has seen it become the heart of the entire organisation.
Carl told BoS:
“This work is so important to Chris and everyone here at Dunster House.
“The team we have building the structures love what they do. They normally work on the everyday construction of the garden furniture and the like, but when they are building the superstructures and the squatting plates they know they are doing something special.”
But this is not all as the company is also working closely on the Pee Power project with Oxfam and the University of West England (UWE).
They are building structures with trough urinals which gather the waste and use it to generate electricity. The structure can be used in places like Refugee camps to provide light and safety. This equipment is set to start trials in Africa in the next six months.
And this dedication has seen them surpass their competitors in just a few short years.
“Even though this is a tiny part of our business, less than five per cent, we are still racing ahead of our competitors in getting things done in the shortest time and for the least money. We work almost entirely in the UK and with our suppliers in Europe, so we can make necessary changes at the drop of a hat with just a simple phone call or chat with our team.
“Making a profit it not what we are all about, as long as we can break even and get if we are lucky make a little bit out of it, we will continue to do so.
“We want to make a difference, not make money.”
Chris Murphy, Managing Director added:
“We believe that, if businesses can help, they should do. That’s why we work so hard, and dedicate so much time to working on finding humanitarian solutions. To help tackle the sanitation crisis.
“This is why it’s so important to us that we keep expanding our range. We are always willing to adapt to meet different needs and requirements of our clients. Gaining this order from UNICEF is a huge deal that could really help the people in Malawi. Who really need it.
“Our doors are always open to charities, NGOs, GOs and distributors to partner up with and provide solutions to as many communities across the globe.”