What impact does clean water have? Can clean water change lives? By impacting health and education, clean water can change an individual life as well as an entire community.
As the dawn begins to break over the mountains in rural Honduras, Maria, her siblings, and her cousins are already awake and dressed for their morning chores.
The children wake up at 5 a.m. when it’s still dark outside, and since there is no electricity, the concrete home with dirt floors is lit only by candle light or battery-powered lanterns.
As they walk into the sky illuminated only by the moon and stars, they each grab empty jugs and bottles of varying shapes and sizes – everything from soda bottles to cooking oil jugs to plastic urns. Even the smallest 4 year old clutches his own small container.
They trudge down the dusty road a 50 or so yards and turn to parade single file down a worn path through the forest. Countless steps from little feet have pounded the grass flat and worn dirt spots along the trail.
Eventually, the path turns muddy and is riddled with slippery moss-covered rocks, but the kids, who trod this path multiples times a day, know it well and move nimbly down the hill. Some of the them do bear bruises or scars, the marks where they have fallen or scraped against a broken tree branch.
6 kilometers is the average distance that people in the developing world walk for water—water that is often contaminated with life-threatening diseases. On Saturday, May 19th, thousands of participants from around the globe will walk or run 6k to bring life-changing clean water to communities in need. Each participant’s registration fee provides life-changing clean water for one person, so when you participate in the Global 6K for Water you take that 6K distance away from people in need.
After several hundred feet, the kids come to a concrete dam that was constructed to contain a stream trickling down the mountain – a stream that originates farther up in the mountains and passes through coffee plantations gathering pesticides and animal feces.
Each taking their turn, they use a hose to fill the containers with the contaminated water and turn to make the trek back up to the house. Some of them pause to take a few sips of the water, not even considering how polluted it is.
As a result, many of the kids will develop stomach issues, contract parasites, or get diseases like hepatitis.
This water is used for drinking and cooking, and they make this trek 4 times each day – twice in the morning and twice after school.
A couple of hundred feet down from the “drinking water” well, there is another concrete dam where the kids and adults come to bathe and wash clothes in the same polluted water.
This one stream must serve the whole community, and during the dry season, there may not be enough water to go around.
It is estimated that the average person in the U.S. uses anywhere from 70-100 gallons of water a day when you consider flushing toilets, baths, etc. (source)
And while most in the U.S. don’t have to worry about clean water, the EPA suggests that 1 trillion gallons of water are wasted each year across the States. (source)
We often take for granted that we can just turn on a faucet and have clean water or take long, relaxing baths or jump into our swimming pool to cool off.
There are countless statistics and facts (source) that discuss how people in the U.S. abuse water usage and waste water on a daily basis.
Yet there are kids around the globe who walk an average of 6K (3.73 miles) to get water that is often polluted with pesticides or contaminated with fecal matter.
Having clean water can change the life of a child in many ways:
Clean Water Affects Health
Health benefits are the most obvious way that clean water changes the life of a child.
With drinking contaminated water, kids are often malnourished and underdeveloped. Due to stomach issues and parasites, their bodies are not able to absorb the nutrients of the food they are eating.
If they do not get the vitamins and minerals that are needed for healthy development, then they suffer both physically and mentally.
They are also exposed to a myriad of illnesses like diarrhea and diseases like being hepatitis. These require visits to the medical clinic in the next town over and medications that may not always be available.
Clean Water Affects Education
When kids are sick with these issues, they often miss school and lose out on the few educational opportunities that they do have.
The may also miss school or have to drop out of school at an early age to work in order to help the family financially.
This is also true for young girls who need private and hygienic spaces. Many girls will drop out of school without access to proper facilities.
As their education suffers, they become trapped in the cycle of poverty unable to move forward because they lack the basic knowledge or skills for a trade.
With access to clean water, they can avoid these physical problems, receive the tools they need, and build a better future for themselves.
Clean Water Affects Finances
As mentioned above, many kids and adults spend a lot of time gathering water.
Because of the time walking to and from the watering holes or wells, they are limited on how much time they can spend working.
With access to clean water, the kids have more time for studies, and the adults have more time to focus on earning an income.
Women and children are the ones who mainly gather the water, so with the additional time, many of the women have been able to generate more income for their family by learning a skill, practicing a craft, or picking up a few odd jobs.
In addition, these kids who are allowed to continue in their education are more likely to grow up to learn a skill or become a leader or open a business that can impact a family financially.
Clean Water Affects the Community
While visiting a community that has had clean water for 2 years now, there is a marked difference in the two communities.
As the men in the community came together to lay 39km (24.2 miles) of pipe to bring clean water to their community, it created a bond that continues to this day.
The men and women formed a board that work together to oversee the maintenance of the water pump and filtration system.
Many of the men learned new skills as they worked to lay the pipe and were taught how to manage the equipment. The community has bettered themselves as result.
Without water, one of the most basic essentials of life, all other growth in a community will slow or stop all together. When you introduce clean water into the picture, the community is able to move forward with the flow of the life-giving liquid.
How Can You Help?
There is much that we can do to help remedy this tragic clean water problem that afflicts 1 in 9 people worldwide.
1. Sponsor a Child
You can sponsor a child through World Vision to meet a physical need and bring spiritual hope.
World Vision has children all over the world in need of sponsors. When you sponsor a child, you help provide an education, food, clothing, school supplies, medical care, and other necessities.
In addition, part of the sponsorship goes to help improve the whole community so that all the children in that community have a chance at a better life and a more secure future.
2. 6K for Water
World Vision is hosting a Global 6K for Water on May 19. You can participate at a local event or just join your friends and family to walk around your neighborhood.
Every registration fee provides clean water for one person in need through World Vision’s water projects. When you and thousands of others cross the finish line, you’ll be helping change the lives of women and children by freeing them from a life spent collecting dirty water.
Every water project is part of a holistic, community-based strategy which addresses a broad range of critical needs, such as food, health, education, economic development, and more—all carried out with the love of Jesus.
If we work together, we can solve this clean water crisis in our lifetime.