Clean water. We turn it on in our kitchens to wash the dishes or to get a drink. We use it to shower. We use it to cook. We give it to our pets. We lavish it on our thirsty grass in the summer. FACT: My grass drinks cleaner water than most of the people in the world.
When we went to Ethiopia to adopt our son, Tariku, we learned his story more fully. He had lived for four years or so with his birth father and step-mother. They collected their water from a small dirty pond that was contaminated with God knows what. His family had no other choice. They needed water, and that was the water they had to use. Tariku's little brother became very sick and had severe diarrhea from the water. At the age of one, he died. From dirty water.
When we brought Tariku home from Ethiopia in April, he had severe stomach and blood parasites from the water...likely, the same parasites that ultimately took his brother's life. Of course, here in America, he had clean water and access to medication that got rid of the parasites relatively fast. The same sort of simple care would have likely saved the life of his brother.
Parents all over the world today do not have a choice about the water they give their children to drink. Their kids must have water, and if the only water that is available is contaminated, then that's the water they get. Tariku watched his brother be born and die in the same year all because there was no clean water available in his village. As a mother, as a sibling, as a human being...this angers me. Everyone should have the ability to drink clean water. Period. Have you ever taken the time to count how many outlets you have in your house for water? I counted mine today, and I have 10 places I can go in my house at any time to get clean water. Ten. Most people in Africa can't even get to an unclean water source within a ten-minute walk.
I'll never forget that about a month after we brought Tariku home from Ethiopia we took a weekend trip to Washington D.C. We visited the World War II Memorial where there is a gigantic fountain. We walked down to the edge of the fountain and Tariku got on his knees and leaned over and cupped the water in his hand as if he was going to drink it. I told him not to drink it because it was dirty and that wasn't what it was for. At that moment I realized that that water was much cleaner than any water he'd ever drunk in Ethiopia. He looked up at me confused after I had told him not to drink the water. He said, "For animals?" I said no. Then he said, "To wash?" I said no. Then he said, "What for then?". What for, indeed; we have the luxury of clean water being simply a decoration to look at.
If we can afford to have clean water as a decoration, if we can pay for it to water our lawns and fill our swimming pools, can we not afford to help a community like the one Tariku came from provide clean water for their families to drink?
When Tariku turned five, in celebration of his birth, his story, and his miraculous presence in our lives, our family decided to raise money to build a water well for a village similar to the one Tariku grew up in. With his permission, we asked his guests to forgo presents and donate to our well project through www.charitywater.org. We knew it was going to take $5,000 to impact the lives of 50 families. That's 50 families who could drink water without worrying it might kill them. Tariku, along with his friends and family members, met the goal and together we built our first well! Since the age of 5, Tariku has spread the word through his community, school, football team, by using his birthday, and Charity Water to raise more than $35,000 to build wells! What an adventure! It has been incredibly rewarding for him, our family, and our community. There is truly nothing more satisfying than helping someone in need.
But I know what you’re thinking: That’s great Amy, but what can I do? Here is my advice. Just look around. Who is in your life that could inspire you to help? It doesn’t have to be big in order to be impactful. Do you know just one person or a group of people who could use a hand? Is there an issue that you are passionate about? Helping others, whether around your neighborhood or across the world, can only happen if you take the first step. You don’t know where it will lead, but getting started is the goal. Can I challenge you to find something to get involved in this week, month, or year? It will change your life. It has changed ours and opened our eyes to unlimited possibilities. Go take a first step. Who knows what might happen?!
Amy Savage- Mother, Activist, World Changer