Students donate to make a difference for Africans without water
University of Illinois students raise money for and awareness of a global crisis.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - 23:33
WOULD YOU DRINK IT? Students involved in a campus group don't think so. (Photo: Justin Pettit)
One dollar is enough to supply water to one person for one year. On the campus of the University of Illinois, students aren't worried about getting enough water for themselves, but some are raising money for others in Africa.
"Honestly, I fully believe that water is one of those things that is keeping developing countries in the third world," said senior Justin Pettit. "It's a pivotal resource."
Pettit recruited more than 60 students to help him raise money to build one deep-water well in Africa. They teamed up with Living Water International, an organization that quenches thirst in over 20 countries including Asia and Central America. Last week the students raised $1,000 in just one afternoon, in pursuit of their $5,000 goal.
"The fundraiser went extremely well," said Pettit. "Most people were just shocked, they had no clue that there was even a water crisis."
There are 42,000 deaths each week related to drinking unsafe water and living in unhygienic living conditions. Just about 90 percent of those deaths are children younger than five years old.
"There's no reason why anyone should have to drink dirty water. It's an injustice," said Pettit.
Once students learned the news, many were willing to donate.
"You don't think that poor college kids can raise that much," said junior Heather Norris. "One dollar really struck people."
Norris explained that as kids walk to Jamba Juice in between classes to buy their $4 drink, they can give one-fourth of that and save a life. They don't have to give $25 to make a difference — they simply give what's in their pocket.
"A lot of people were like 'my one dollar can't do anything,' but we had jugs filled with dirty water, asking them if they would drink the water, and it changed their minds," said Pettit.
Pettit, Norris and more than 50 others stood outside on the quad holding gallon jugs of dirty water. They shouted out statistics and asked strangers for support and donations. That one afternoon, and the months leading up to that have taught the students a lot about raising money, dealing with the skeptics and interacting with international folks.
"My passion for the event has blown up over the three months," said Norris.
"The whole process of learning and corresponding with international folks has been awesome."
Pettit agrees. As an environmental engineer, he's had the chance to put his education from the classroom and apply it to the real world. His focus is in hydrology and water quality. With this project, he's learning first-hand the powerful impact of being an engineer.
"There are plenty of projects on our campus focusing on purified water," he said. "Next semester my classes will really focus on stuff like this."
The students have learned to organize, manage and market the group in campus town. Three months ago they had a vision, and now they're truly bringing it to life.
"This type of an event is completely doable. Even if you can't do an event, anything that can get done, should be done," said Pettit. "Any idea is a good idea. Anything that gives people clean water."
Norris agrees, "Water is the difference between their life and mine," she said. "Water is so easily taken for granted, but people need it every day. We're making sure that students know that they can make a difference. We're making it aware that there are problems in the world."
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