Imagine the single most important entity that governs all life on earth. Now imagine that there is the very real chance of it disappearing forever. Water is the building blocks of all life on this planet, engraining itself into the very core of human biology. It is amazingly flexible with its multitude of uses, surrounding us in all its forms. It has become something that has been taken for granted in Western societies, where its abundance is abused and treated like a right, not a privilege. It is estimated that as many as 1 billion people are without access to clean drinking water, a statistic that screams at us that we are doing something horribly wrong. But there is hope. We all just need to work together and offer a lending hand.
Charity: Water is a non-profit organization that works toward providing clean drinking water to many developing nations across the world. Established in 2006, it has helped more than 2 million people in dozens of countries across the world gain access to fresh water. The charity works on a simple principle. Rather than celebrating your birthday with a traditional party and wrapped presents, you can instead ask your loved ones to make a donation to the charity in your name. A simple $20 donation will be enough to give one person access to clean water, a gesture that expands to benefit many other aspects of that person’s life, such as health, education and employment opportunities.
Diarrhea has commonly been a problem that afflicts children among these communities if proper sanitation or water filtration is not practiced. Not only is the state of their health affected, but their school attendance also dramatically decreases. In a Swiss-engineered program titled SODIS (short for solar disinfection), simple bottles of contaminated water were disinfected on a sheet of metal by the sun’s rays in a short 6 hours. In this region of Tanzania (as with many other African nations), diarrhea is the main cause of absenteeism in school, resulting in only 10 to 15 percent of children passing the national 6th grade exams. With the introduction of this simple water disinfection method, the percentage is now a high 90 to 95 percent. It is clear that a multitude of problems can be solved by simply offering fresh water.
Gender equality can also be dramatically improved with the introduction of clean, accessible water. Women from these communities often walk hours to the nearest stream or well to fill a jerry can full of water, though it is often contaminated and exposed to toxins and pollutants. Charity: Water claims that, in Africa alone, 40 billion hours per year are consumed by water-related problems or diseases – just imagine what can be done if that much precious time was freed. Children can then focus on improving their education, while women can apply their time to earn an income and take care of their family. The organization views their project as a stepping-stone to all sorts of social advancements.
The charity operates with a very unique approach. People can donate their birthday in a selfless act that has the power to change the world. If every person gave up their birthday and asked guests to donate $20, imagine how much money could fund projects that could build wells and provide water. Charity: Water promises to donate 100 percent of all publicly donated funds directly to field projects, while operating costs would be covered solely by corporate donations. Stores have given up window space for advertisements, while celebrity-endorsed commercials have been aired on television and the web. Photos of the communities receiving the water were provided, as well their personal stories. Outdoor exhibitions in New York displayed tanks full of local, untreated water, showing what these communities would have to drink were they not filtered. People can raise money by selling wristbands, sky-diving, running a marathon – you name it! All these work to empower us to make a change, and a simple one at that. Make your birthday about helping people, knowing that by giving up a few unnecessary presents, you can literally change lives.
Charity: Water is expanding at a rapid rate, raising millions of dollars to buy new drilling rigs that have the capacity to provide water to 40,000 people a year. The organization vows not to stop until water is provided to all people around the world. By providing water, we can help create self-sufficient communities and give the gift of opportunity. There are many ways that you can help, but start by visiting the Charity: Water website. Start today. You can make a difference!
(All pictures courtesy of charitywater.org)