Why I Walk for Water

On March 2nd, I participated in PCI’s Walk for Water. My 9-year-old son walked with me, in the rain. It was awesome.

I’ve been aware of the global water crisis for some time now.

What’s the global water crisis, you ask? Well, did you know that at least 2.6 billion people – 41 percent of the global population – do not have access to any sort of basic sanitation system? It’s true. As a result, millions suffer from dehydration and life-threatening, preventable diseases that claim the lives of thousands each day.

Even though I am aware of the sad facts, it’s difficult for me to step outside of my safe – and well-hydrated – middle class bubble sometimes. Oh sure, I use old bottled water to nourish my plants, I turn off the faucet when I brush my teeth and I can’t tell how many times I’ve interrupted my daughter’s shower time with the request to: “Rinse and finish, kiddo. Save some water for the rest of us. Do you know there are kids your age on the other side of the world who go for days without water?? Drinking water. Forget about a hot shower.”

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She may not appreciate my efforts now, but hopefully, one day she will.

On that note, taking my young son with me on PCI’s Walk for Water was really important. He’s a sensitive and smart kid anyway, so I knew that participating in his first charity walk would make an impact.

It did.

When we arrived at the site– early on a Sunday morning, it was raining. There was a moment when I wondered, “Wow, it’s really coming down. Are they going to have to cancel the event?”

I hoped not. It occurred to me how the girls and women who walk for miles, day in and day out, collecting, and then carrying clean water for their families never get to take a rain-day.

Rain or shine, we were walking.

Many other participants felt the same way. The energy at the event was buzzing. I glanced around after we registered to take in the scene. Happy people wearing bright blue Walk for Water participant tee-shirts under warm layers and rain slickers. Vividly colored umbrellas gave the scene an almost festive vibe. There was even a photo booth on site, where participants could don silly wigs and sunglasses and pose for photos.

The walk was about to begin. On stage was one of the event organizers, a high school student. What a wonderful and globally-aware charity for a kid to be take part in. Not just one kid – many. Groups of high school students stood around together in groups, raising their hands and smiling as their schools were recognized for participating and raising funds for the event.

Another speaker was a teenage girl. She was young, but spoke with such presence. Her demeanor – as well as her colorful skirt and top, representative of clothing worn in her native Africa – compelled the audience to watch and listen attentively. She spoke warmly, thanking us for raising money to help build and maintain wells in her country’s villages. Such wells would make it possible for families to have access to water on a daily basis, without having to walk for miles and hours.

gabe-halfwayShe said that, in her country, when wells showed up in the villages, it made her people so happy. Happy for water, yes, but even more grateful to know that there were people in the world willing to give their time, efforts and money to help – all the way on the other side of the world.

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Finally, it was time to start walking. The course was a 5K loop. But that’s not all. Lined up along the start were bright orange buckets, filled with…you guessed it – water! As participants of the Walk for Water, we each carried a bucket along the entire route in order to truly experience the effort required for young women and girls to provide water for their families.After the midpoint turn around, I reflected how my bucket of water was such precious cargo. I carried it levelly and carefully so as not to spill, keeping in mind for much of the time, how every single drop could save a life.

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PCI’s 2014 walk for water may be over, but the memories and my increased awareness will remain. There’s more to learn and do to help people survive and thrive. World Water Day is held annually on March 22nd, as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

What about you? What will you do to help others in the world?