Do me a favor. Count to 45. I’ll wait…
… Ok, you can put your socks back on – there won’t be any more counting. According to most of the studies on world health, somewhere around 3 kids under the age of five just died in the time it took you to count because they didn’t have access to clean drinking water or safe sanitation. That’s right – depending on whose statistics you use you can come up with a ballpark of about 5,000 kids under the age of five die every day from this. About 3.75 Million people die of water related disease a year (per this study done by the World Health Organization.. I’ll let you look for the other statistics yourself)
That was my reaction when I first saw this quick video (that states the cost to bring clean drinking water to the world is about $10B while us Americans spend somewhere around $450B on Christmas presents each year). I knew people were dying of hunger. I knew kids were dying in war ravaged countries. I knew there were AIDS orphans throughout Africa. It never really hit me that that many people die because of what they drink. It never occurred to me that so many people are kept down because of their daily trek to a distant water source to bring contaminated water back to their thirsty family.
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As I type this my home office is a little bit of a mess. Looking around I see three 20 ounce empty water bottles, a couple empty 12 ounce cans of Coke Zero and an empty 1 Liter empty seltzer water bottle. Look around you right now. See any drink containers? Yeah. 3.75 million people die because they share their drinking water source with a bathroom, a disease infested river and all that lives within it or some muddy puddle that someone just washed their hands and face in.
It never even occurred to me that kids aren’t getting educated right now because they are journeying miles to bring water back home that we wouldn’t even touch – let alone drink… It never even occurred to me that people are poor in many places simply because of water. I never imagined that some women spend 15-20 hours per week on the task of bringing water back to their family. Forget about Women in Technology chapters there in those villages…
Now I’m not saying this to challenge you – or me – to say we have to live in guilt. I’m not sharing that video link with you (here it is again) to tell you you have to give up every last possession, you have to give up every trip to Starbucks, etc. No, I’m just sharing it with you because maybe you are like me – maybe you never stopped to consider this crisis that is happening in our world. That’s okay, we can make a difference – even in small ways.
What Can We Do?
There are many groups out there helping in many ways with this water crisis. First – let me tell you they are making a difference. Villages are thriving because of clean water being brought to them. People are alive because of these groups. The grim statistics are improving but they still have far to go. Until everyone in this world has the ability to drink clean water without spending their day journeying for it we aren’t done. But it is important to remember – a difference is being made and help only increases that difference. Some organizations are giving the tools and tricks to filter water in innovative and inexpensive ways. Some groups are drilling wells so they can have the water where they are. What do they need? Awareness – maybe you aren’t at a point where you can help out one of these groups directly but you can let people know they are there, right? They also need money.
They aren’t asking for a lot to solve this problem. We are talking about a $10B problem from one source – This summer the iPhone topped $28B in revenue for Apple. Black Friday 2009 (just that weekend) saw around $41.2B in sales… This is the kind of problem that a small sacrifice (though I wonder if that is even the right word?) from everyone could see a world of difference.
I realize that there are SO MANY other needs out there. I just think that drinking water – clean drinking water – is potentially the most basic of those needs. Fixing it leads to fixing other aspects of life. Fixing it in our generation is a powerful message. Fixing it now means we can tackle that next problem next.
A Challenge For December (and beyond)
It’s 12/1/2011 when I am typing this. I am going to go a month drinking water tap water in most places – unless on a flight or finishing off a gallon in the fridge already. When I feel tempted to go grab an iced tea or a cappuccino while driving to a client site – I am going to figure out the cost that I would have spent and set the figure aside. Same thing at the restaurant, etc. Even “just” living on tap water – I’ll still be living better than the billions without safe or clean water. I don’t get many presents for Christmas or my Birthday any more but if folks ask – I’ll ask them to make a donation instead. I’ve also decided to give an additional portion of my consulting gross revenues to the Living Water charity starting now – and I’m going to keep doing that until this isn’t a problem anymore.
I don’t share this to brag. I don’t share this to say I’m better than you – I guarantee you I am not ;-) I share this to encourage you to see what you might do. Maybe you can share the story of the water crisis in the world with someone. Certainly you can pray. Perhaps you, too, can do the Christmas gift giving frenzy just a tiny bit lighter this year or skip the latte and pitch in to bring fresh, cool and clean water someplace it has never been before. Talk about a Christmas gift! Imagine drinking mud your whole life and someone offering you a sparkling glass of fresh water? Maybe you are wiling to see some percentage of your company’s revenue going to making sure we can tell our kids we live in a world where everyone has clean water.
I encourage you to check out the source of the video: Advent Conspiracy. Or the organization I’ve felt led to support: Living Water. Or do a quick Google search for water charities and find one that works for you. Living water has placed about 10,000 wells so far and they’ve seen lives changed from their presence. They are a recognized and audited charity.
Who else is in?
#sqlwater works as a hashtag here, I think. You don’t have to be a SQL person to join. Blog about what you are going to do, leave a comment here if you want. Tweet about a small (or any size) “sacrifice” you are willing to make this month and tell us which charity you’ve picked and why. I’ll keep my updates going on that twitter hash tag and here. Remember – the goal in sharing here isn’t for us to brag about the little bit we are doing. It is to encourage each other along and to raise awareness. I know we are a giving community donating to waks, marathons, food banks, cancer treatment or awareness, etc. I think it is great and I happen to think we still have a little room individually to give but as a community of small donations? We can bring water to those in need – right now. Who else wants to hep out?