“It’s a really awkward weight, very unbalanced and hard to carry,” says Nate Lepp, Executive Director of the Africa Community Technical Service Society (ACTS). The words come out laboured as he’s struggling to balance a large, yellow jerry can filled with water on this head.
Alongside him, roughly 40 Vancouverites are making their way down busy Main Street in a slow procession, jerry can on top, or in hand — an unusual sight among the many shoppers, young families and hipsters strolling down the street.
“What’s happening here today?” an elderly man asks a young woman cradling a half-full jerry can in her arms. “We’re walking in solidarity with Ugandans who don’t have access to clean water, ” she says and continues her slow march.
Walk for Water By The Numbers
$6,500 raised for clean water
The money raised will help build a new gravity flow water system for a Ugandan community that currently has no access to clean water.
To raise money and awareness for the water crisis in Uganda, ACTS put on its very first “Walk for Water” this June and asked its supporters to walk six kilometres carrying a jerry can — the average distance many Ugandan women have to walk every day to fetch water.
Despite the plus-30°C summer heat, ACTS supporters showed up in numbers, and not just that: prior to the event, they raised $6,500. The money will help bring a new gravity flow water system in a Ugandan community that currently has no access to clean water.
An Experience of Empathy
“Walk for Water is a fundraising event, but I think almost more importantly it’s an experience of empathy,” says Nate.
“Your body actually feels the weight of the jerry can, you feel the distance in your legs and the time that it takes.”
“It’s really hard to imagine otherwise what it’s like to have to walk for clean water.”
About a year ago, Nate experienced the challenges of carrying a 40-pound jerry can over a long distance for the first time. On a trip to Uganda, two women invited him to walk with him and the experience left a huge impression on him.
“I consider myself a relatively fit, strong person, but I didn’t even make it five minutes before I had to take a rest,” he remembers.
“My hope is that as people feel what it’s like to do this today, they’ll be more inspired to give the gift of clean water to the people in Uganda, so that they can experience that freedom as well.”
Clean Water Is Freedom
Today, the majority of people in Uganda live without access to clean water — a reality that affects almost every aspect of Ugandans’ life.
Access to clean water is crucial to survival and health, but it’s just as important for Ugandans’ economic livelihood, Nate knows. Currently, most women and children have to walk several hours every day to fetch water — time that could otherwise be spent on generating income through growing food or weaving baskets and mats.
“Once you give water, you actually give freedom. Freedom from disease, but also from this time being used up for getting water,” he says.
“There are nine million people in Uganda and a third are women. So three million women times three hours a day, that’s 9 million hours a day of unproductive labour. Freed up, it doesn’t take long before these communities are changing.”
A CONVERSATION WITH NATE
Nate talked with Chimp about the power of access to clean water, fundraising and how Chimp has helped ACTS and supporters with their fundraising efforts.
ABOUT ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER
Nate: There’s one community in which ACTS built a water system about nine years ago. It’s just a typical rural town. Not a lot of shops, not a lot of trade, no electricity.
Now you go there and there’s shops everywhere. There’s all sorts of businesses, carpenters, people welding. A couple of years ago the government brought in electricity. Schools are expanding because parents want to send their kids to a school with water. So, when they hear there’s water, they move there to get their kids into those schools.
Having clean water has made a massive difference.
Nate: I think it’s really important that fundraising isn’t just about clicking a donate button. For people to get together and connect together over a personal, physical experience like this, makes them feel like they are part of something bigger and makes them more connected to the cause. It’s just another way to build community.
Nate: This was our first experience using Chimp for an event like this and it’s a fantastic platform for fundraising events, because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to give people their own pages. It allows people to says ‘yes, we want to align ourselves with this campaign’. They can set up their page, click on ‘yes, I want to fundraise’, and within 10 minutes they have a page that they can send to their friends. Their friends can read about our mission and when they donate it goes directly into our bank account.
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