Circle K hosts speaker to discuss water availability

The Oswego section of Circle K, an international club, brought two guest speakers from the Thirst Project to hold a presentation in the Campus Center on Nov. 1 with the goal of bringing awareness to the water crisis that is plaguing countries around the world.

The presenters, Kangi Downing and Brandon Howa, travel across the states to different middle schools, high schools and universities to speak. They began the presentation by showing a video of Jake, a senior who shared how he became involved with the Thirst Project and what he did to make a difference right away.

“The world can’t afford for us to wait,” Jake said in the video. “As you sit here watching this, 663 million people around the world don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water.”

On average, Americans use 150 gallons of water a day. In many developing countries, people struggle to find five gallons of water, and often the water they do find requires carrying heavy jerrycans for miles only to collect contaminated water that gives many people diseases and causes death, especially in children.

“Waterborne diseases kill more people than AIDS, malaria and world violence combined, including war,” Jake said. “The water crisis kills more kids every day than anything in the world. A child dies every 21 seconds from drinking dirty water.”

The presenters got the audience involved in the presentation by offering the opportunity to view a virtual reality representation of what it is like to live in these developing countries where citizens do not have easy access to fresh water that people take for granted in the states.

In the 13 countries in which the Thirst Project has worked, most people have to walk an average of four miles to collect water from open and unprotected sources that are shared with animals.

At the front of the room, the presenters also had an empty jerrycan that was for donations as well as a five-gallon jerrycan that was filled with water. The presenters gave audience members the opportunity to try to carry it and get an idea of what people in these countries will carry for miles every day.

It is most common for women and children to be the ones to carry the water, meaning that children are not going to school and women cannot work. Instead, they are walking for up to eight hours a day, carrying full jerrycans of water that would weigh approximately 42 pounds.

The Thirst Project was founded in 2009, and in the eight years since, has raised $ 8.8 million, worked in 13 countries and served over 330,000 people. When freshwater wells are put in, the disease rate in these countries drops 88 percent and the child mortality rate drops 90 percent.

The Thirst Project is not only aimed to bring attention to the water crisis as a whole, but also to the issue that it is not only drinking the water that causes problems.

Schistosomiasis, more commonly known as Bilharzia, can be contracted from just touching the water and can cause serious health concerns. People in these countries walk miles every day to collect water that they know will harm them and their families.

The Thirst Project is aimed at ending the water crisis, which they call the worst humanitarian issue the world is facing. The number of people who lack access to clean water has gone from 1.1 billion to 663 million, in part due to organizations like the Thirst Project. While there is a lot left to do, there are many who are vehemently working to bring that number to zero.

“Everyone has the ability to make a tangible difference in someone’s life,” Howa said.

Many students present originally came for credit. Freshman Jason Tomlinson, who lives in Johnson Hall, came for the GST credit, but upon attending the event, he found a growing interest in the topic.

“I didn’t really know anything about the water crisis,” Tomlinson said. “Cindy told me something about it being the leading death in children, and it just interests me.”

Others, such as junior and resident mentor for Johnson Hall, Cindy Pietrakowski, have attended multiple Thirst Project presentations and feel very passionate about the topic.

“This was my sixth time watching a presentation about the Thirst Project,” Pietrakowski said. “And each time, I still feel chills hearing about the impact the water crisis has.”

A single donation of $25 saves a person’s life, and each well cost $12,000 to build. The presentations mentioned numerous ways in which all kinds of people can get involved. By spreading the word, hosting a fundraiser, making a donation or joining the Thirst Project, there is a way for everyone to help.

“Sometimes, all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage,” Downing said. “20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something good will come of it to make a difference.”

Samantha Flavell | The Oswegonian

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