Texas A&M University students recently carried buckets of water around campus to simulate the experience of walking to access clean water and to raise awareness of the one billion people in developing countries who struggle with clean water scarcity.
The event, called “Walk4Water,” was organized by Just4Water, a student nonprofit organization dedicated to providing self-sustainable water solutions to developing countries, said Adriana Huerta, head of the organization’s fundraising committee.
During the event held Nov. 19 at Rudder Plaza, students walking to class could stop by the booth and sign up for a walk led by organization members. Each participant carried a bucket around the plaza and the Memorial Student Center, a 15-minute walk that included brief stops to discuss water scarcity statistics and information.
Students also donated money to the cause, which will help fund the annual trips to developing countries in Latin America, Huerta said. Just4Water members travel to rural villages that lack access to clean water and help build wells.
Without wells, villagers in such areas must walk to the nearest river, fill a bucket with several gallons and carry it back home, she said. The precarious journey often takes place on mountainsides, and a spilled bucket means another trip back to the river.
The villagers’ only available sanitation method is boiling, which does not process the water enough for human consumption, Huerta said.
The organization also teaches the locals how to use the equipment so they can build their own wells and increase their self-reliance.
Last year, Just4Water partnered with Avodec, an organization in Nicaragua, said Marco Heras, president of Just4Water.
“The first water well we did was in a community. After we taught Avodec how to use our equipment, they did one at a hospital that was seeing 200 patients a month. But the hospital was only getting water three days a week,” he said. “Now they have water every single day and they are planning to expand their hospital.”
Engineering students who are part of the organization research the country’s soil and water characteristics prior to designing the community wells, Huerta said.
Additionally, Walk4Water is sponsored by First United Methodist Church of La Grange, The Barn at College Station, El Payasito Mexican Restaurant and Bahama Bucks, who matched $5 for every person who walked.
Although the event was an important fundraiser, the focus was to help A&M students understand the magnitude of the issue and to appreciate their own easy access to clean water, Heras said.
“We want the students at A&M to know how blessed and thankful they should be because they turn on the faucet and they have water right there,” Huerta said. “There are actually one billion people in the world who do not have access to drinking water. It is a huge number we just don’t consider at all.”
Heras said the best way to make an impact is through networking and raising awareness. “You don’t know if the next person you meet is going to be the one who will change the world,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to get awareness on campus.”
After their walk, participants reflected on the experience and what it means to walk for water.
“It really changed my perspective,” said a Walk4Water participant. “I will be much more conservative with my water usage.”
Heras said Just4Water hopes to expand to the national level and be recognized as a nonprofit organization. Currently, the group is trying to start chapters through different universities in places as diverse as El Paso, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Mexico City.
More than 200 students participated in the Walk4Water event, which raised $5,500 for the organization"s service trips.