Walk into almost any grocery store in the United States and you will surely come upon a large row or even an aisle solely dedicated to water. Flavored water. Ionized water. Spring-fed water. Vitamin-infused water. The list goes on.
It’s funny, we’ve turned something that has always been an after-thought in America, a given, into a multi-billion dollar business scheme. Marketing has persuaded society that tap water is not good enough for us. That reliable, clean water isn’t sufficient. That it doesn’t taste good. That it doesn’t bring the same health benefits as other kinds of water. That the successful, wealthy, and trendy people would never be caught with tap water.
Meanwhile, according to the CDC, 11% of the world’s population, or approximately 800 million people don’t even have access to clean water on a daily basis.
For the most part, water in the United States is very inexpensive, accessible, and safe. I can go to my sink, fill up my glass, and have absolutely no worries that the water I’m drinking is going to make me sick. I can take a shower for as long as I want, water my flowers and grass, and still not worry that I’m going to run out of it. I can go to a restaurant, store, or school and know that I can order tap water, or use a drinking fountain and not worry a single bit about what bacteria or disease I might contract. My family used approximately 7,500 gallons of water this past month and paid exactly $22. If you do the math it comes out to around $.003 cents per gallon.
$.003 cents to have a gallon of clean water. That’s it.
Two hours out of the capital, over some difficult terrain, lies the community of Nyabikiri. A place where kids walk hours to school. A place without electricity. A place with no sanitation or running water. Yet, a place full of beautiful and joyful people who are constantly getting sick and sometimes dying.
I was fortunate to spend two weeks in Nyabikiri. I worked with the local school on their transition from French to English. I helped build a mud-brick home for a widow. I met people who literally had nothing, yet had the largest hearts and the greatest amount of joy I’ve ever seen in human beings.
These people could care less about material possessions that exemplify wealth in the United States.
They simply want water. Clean water.
Getting water was an intensive daily routine. The local watering “hole” was miles away for many. You had to carry large yellow jugs to and from. The watering “hole” consisted of a very small, dark brown pond that was not only being used by people, but also used by the animals, of which there was a cow in the pond at the time I went.
This is their reality.
There are no bottles of ionized water. There are no drinking fountains. There are no sinks with seemingly endless water at the push of a lever.
They carry ALL the water they will use for the day.
The jugs are heavy.
They are uncomfortable to carry.
And they are full of unclean water.
You see, the people of Nyabikiri don’t need the fancy waters of the grocery store. It would sound utterly absurd to them if they knew that people with access to clean water would pay large sums of money for other types of water.
They simply need clean water.
Water that doesn’t harm them.
Water that doesn’t kill them.
Clean water is part of goal #6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. These goals provide huge opportunities for educators to not only educate their students on critical issues in our world, but provide authentic and powerful learning experiences for students that combine understanding, awareness, and action towards solutions to some of our planet’s most pressing issues.
Our students are the future and they have the unique opportunity to shape it. They don’t need to be a certain age to start thinking about how to make their world a better place. And they certainly don’t need to be a certain age to start doing something about it.