Carrying two gallons of water each, students trekked more than five miles from UT Tower to Town Lake to raise awareness about the approximately one billion people who are forced to walk miles for clean water every day.
The walk was organized by Students for Clean Water, a student organization that works to raise awareness about water problems in developing countries. Nutrition senior Zabin Marediya, the organization’s president, said in some areas, children as young as 5-years-old retrieve water with jerry cans, which can hold about five gallons of water, or up to 40 pounds.
“The gallons we carried are an iota compared to 40 pounds of water,” Marediya said. “It was an eye-opening moment because people do not realize how hard it is. Every day people have to walk so many miles to a water source that is disease-ridden and very bad for them.”
According to the nonprofit organization water.org, 3.4 million people die each year from sanitation issues, including a lack of access to clean water. Children collectively miss up to 443 million school days due to water-related illness.
Public health senior Jesse Contreras, Students for Clean Water vice president, said despite the fatigue, the walk was a positive example of doing anything possible to raise awareness for those in need of clean water.
“My arms were pretty tired by the time we got back,” Contreras said. “But I cannot complain since it was not like the 40 pound jerry cans.”
Students for Clean Water has raised more than $65,000 for clean water since its inception two years ago with efforts that include benefit concerts, a semi-annual pancake party and profit shares with local businesses. Students for Clean Water is currently working to provide the Rulindo District of Rwanda with clean water for the first time.
In addition to university efforts, the organization advocates support for Austin initiatives for clean water. Some of the organization’s members participated at the Gazelle Foundation’s “Run for the Water” Sunday morning. The Gazelle Foundation focuses on improving the quality of life for those in Burundi, Africa by funding and building clean water projects in Burundi.
Plan II junior Jaclyn Kachelmeyer, Students for Clean Water member, woke up early to run a 5k route for the race. She said although she was exhausted, she was glad to participate in the race because it was for a good cause.
“We try to support water-related causes whenever we can,” Kachelmeyer said. “Clean water is a right everyone should have, and as students we can work as a large force to raise awareness.”
Printed on Monday, October 29, 2012 as: Students walk with water jugs, advocate access to clean water