PHOTO: FRED LOPEZ
Explaining why he left a lucrative job as mission pastor of an Atlanta church two years ago, Michael Wahl displays a sense of enthusiasm rivaling an excited child on Christmas morning.
“I invented mean, poop-catching machines!”
The machines he’s referring to are actually quick-dry, reusable diapers that are sent to Haiti and other impoverished countries.
Through his company, affectionately named DriButts, he hopes to prevent infant deaths from fecal-related diseases.
“I never thought I’d venture into the diaper-making business, but after two years I can honestly say I’ve never been happier with what I’m doing,” says Michael, a 1994 graduate of Leesburg High School. “This has already changed many lives.”
His foray into the diaper-making industry began two years ago while installing water filtration systems in remote Haitian villages. He saw something that troubled him.
“A mom was holding her baby when all of a sudden the baby began pooping. Afterward, the mom bent down and threw the baby’s fecal matter outside the home.”
Upon returning to the United States, Michael learned when children are not properly diapered, their feces contribute to the spread of deadly diseases, bacteria, and parasites.
He was also startled to discover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that 2,195 children die each day of diarrhea—mostly due to poor sanitation and hygiene practices.
Within months, Michael and his wife Starla invented a reusable diaper made of polyester and spandex that doesn’t trap bacteria and can easily be washed. A bamboo insert is placed inside the diaper for superior absorbency. The couple made the first 800 diapers from the comfort of their home, but today the diapers are mass produced in China.
Recipients are taught how to wash the diapers with soap and water and hang them to dry, a process that takes 45 minutes. They are also instructed to bury waste in areas where people do not go.
Although each diaper costs $15 to make, the Wahls ask for $30 donations so each family can receive at least two diapers.
“We want our donors to know where their money is going, so each time someone donates, we send them a picture of a mother and child who benefitted from their contribution,” Michael says.
Right now, most diapers are being sent to Haiti. However, Michael would like to expand his worldwide reach into Africa, Central America, India, Thailand, and Fiji.