April 2015: I was in a small town in Honduras working at a children’s home. My team and I helped out with the kids daily, we played, danced, sang, ran. We woke up when the kids started getting ready and went to bed way after they did.
The week that we had gotten there, it was Holy Week which meant the whole country shut down in celebration. The children’s home and three large barrels of water that we had for twelve team members for the whole week. Only 55 liters each.
Did you know the average American uses 150 gallons of water, every single day?
By the middle of the first week we had run out of water for anything other than necessities, as in simply drinking water and every so often being able to flush the toilets. One evening, we washed dishes in murky brown water; we scrapped off all the rest of the food we couldn’t stuff into our stomachs and then dunked the plates, cups and bowls in a bucket of water. Even at the start it was opaque. Afterwards the water looked like mud. By the end of the week, we were praying for water, in any form. We dug into the ground to try and fill up just a few buckets to be able wash dishes and drink.
By the end of the week, we all were having stomach pains. Some of us were ill. Some others were weak.
All from dirty water.
Swaziland. A small country located in South Africa. The total population about 1.2 million people. About 25% of the population between the ages of 15-49 have AIDS. Three times a week my team and I would walk 7 miles to the base of a mountain and work with kids.
We would dance, attempt soccer, sing songs, toss a ball back and forth, try and teach English and finally help serve lunch; the only hot meal these children usually received during the day. One day, a child had gotten ill and needed some water. I went over to the large bucket and poured some into a cup for him and took it back to him and helped him lift the cup to his mouth. Some water splashed on my hand but I thought nothing of it. That night I woke up with a feeling of my stomach turning. I knew what was coming. I jolted awake, unzipped my tent and ran inside to the toilets. I was going to be sick. Parasites. I didn’t drink the water, it only touched me and I touched my lips. The reality of the global water crisis is not something I have simply read about, it’s something that I have lived. I know what happens to our bodies when we drink dirty water. I have seen children with potbellies because of the parasites that are growing in their stomachs. I have seen women and children walk for miles each and every day simply to fill up jerry cans with dirty, contaminated water.
It’s a luxury in the Western world. We can turn on our taps and drink. We can flush our toilets. We can shower. We can wash our cars. We have access to safe water at our fingertips. Others do not have this luxury.
Did you know that right now 663 million people on our planet are without access to safe clean drinking water? In these areas where there is no clean water, the task of collecting dirty water tends to fall on women or children between the ages of 8-13. The average distance that a child in a developing community walks to fetch water is about 3.5 miles. Most people in developing countries use jerry cans (gas cans) to collect the water. When a jerry can is full of water, it weighs 44lbs. Can you imagine being an 8-year-old and walking 3.5 miles to collect dirty water and walking back home with a 44lb jerry can? I cannot. I can barely lift 20lbs!
There are hundreds of organizations that are working to help end the global water crisis. One of them, is called Thirst Project, a rag-tag group of hundreds of students from thousands of different schools all across the nations, working to help end the global water crisis. Thirst Project was founded in 2008 when a group of college students in Los Angeles, California heard about the global water crisis and decided that they wanted to be apart of the movement to put to the global water crisis into the history books.
They collected all of the money that they had, which amounted to about $70 (about 60 Euros), went out to Hollywood Boulevard and started talking with people. They challenged people to carry jerry cans filled with water that weighed about 44lbs all the way down the strip and back. Telling them about the global water crisis and handing out bottles of water. In one day, they turned $70 into $1700.
After that, a few people from local schools invited them to come speak at their schools on the global water crisis. Those schools did fundraisers and raised over $12,000; which is right when this group of crazy college kids realized that no one was educating students on the global water crisis and how much passion young people have to change the world. Which is exactly how Thirst Project was born.
When Thirst Project was created, the founders believed in two really important things. Number 1: if anyone could only give $1, they wanted to guarantee that 100% of that dollar would go directly toward building water projects, without Thirst Project taking any administration or overhead. But the only way that they could that this was if they had a separate group of people that were willing to pay for everything else. That was when the board was created. The board is a group of 15 epic individuals who gives crazy amounts of money toward all the things that no one wants to pay for like office space, electricity and post-it notes. So that way when anyone donates to Thirst they would be guaranteed that 100% of their donation was going directly toward water projects. Number 2: If anyone, a student, a school, or, an office, was able to fully fundraise an entire well, Thirst wouldn’t just say, “Thank you so much for your $12,00! You guys are rock stars!” But would provide the details of the community that your donation was going to. Then in a year, would report back with completed reports, photos and a personalized thank you video to the donor from the community.
In the past nine years, well over $8.8 billion have been raised to provide over 300,000 people clean water in over 13 different countries. Remember Swaziland? The country I got parasites in. I love Swazi, the country is beautiful. It’s breathtaking. It makes you wonder why we have so many things happening and why we can’t just take a moment and go and look at the stars. Thirst Project set a goal in 2012 to give the entire country of Swaziland clean water in a decade. To reach this goal, it will cost $50 million dollars. This seems like a lot of money, but it’s really not that much money when you consider that you will be giving the entire country safe water for life. Thirst didn’t just choose Swaziland by throwing a dart at a map. Swaziland was chose because of the HIV/AIDs rates, the ability to positively impact both health and wellbeing. When Thirst is finished, Swaziland is going to serve as an amazing cause study to take to the UN. We will be able to see and measure how water actually gives life. We will be able to see an increased level in health and sanitation, food security, educational opportunities and economic productivity. Thirst will use the data to push other water organizations to adopt our model of complete solution.
Now, Thirst Project doesn’t exist without its movement of young people. Young people are the ones who are helping us change the world. Students are the ones that are giving up their birthdays for clean water, dancing for clean water, having video game tournaments for clean water, hosting walks for water; all sorts of incredible things. Students are the ones who are looking outside of themselves, outside of grades, SAT scores, homecoming dates. Students are the ones who are hearing about this issue and wanting to get involved and change the world. Students, you are nothing short of amazing.
We all have the power to change the world, will you join us?