Living without clean water is not something most of us have experienced. Without access to safe water, survival becomes an everyday confrontation. Picture living with stomach flu every day for the rest of your life. Now imagine walking all day, every day for five gallons of dirty water. Then, think about boiling the water to purify it, losing half of it to evaporation and then finding more hours in the day to replace what you have lost.
This is just where the problems begin.
Diarrheal diseases are caused by unclean water, and are the second-leading cause of death in children worldwide. 93 percent of children in water-stressed areas are missing a minimum of one week of school per month to diseases caused by dirty water. School-age children sacrifice precious class time to search for water for the school’s sanitation and drinking needs. 92 percent of the families we interviewed deny their daughters’ education to help in the family’s search for water.
At the onset of puberty, a girl’s education is at risk and she is often condemned to collect water for her family and community, sometimes late at night. The reality of not having access to clean water gets even worse, as 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence during their search for water.
AIDS is another major world health concern, which at first glance, may seem unrelated to the Global Water Crisis. There is a horrible misconception in the developing world that if you have a sexual relationship with a virgin you can cure yourself of AIDS. Ground water resources are in remote areas, and collection happens well before dawn and long after dusk. Predators holding these mistaken beliefs hide out in the remote areas where water is collected, and child rape becomes a common occurrence.
There is no mistake that the Global Water Crisis is huge. To tackle this issue, we have to get over being afraid of how big it is, and realize that we can all participate in the solution. So often, we read about a humanitarian issue and say, “That’s terrible; someone should do something about that.” Have you ever considered whether that ‘someone’ could be you? The idea that everyone has the ability to affect change in the world lies at the very foundation of our organization.
Driven by compassion and a need for justice, Save the Rain has been providing clean water and food security to hundreds of thousands of East Africans since 2005. Our goal is simple: to create new possibilities for people by helping them gain reliable and safe access to clean water. Our solutions are based on the people we help becoming the people who help others. We believe the receiver can become the giver and, to date, we have a team of 200 people building rainwater catchment systems and sustainable gardens. All of whom were originally recipients of help.
Despite our efforts, we’ve only scratched the surface of this global issue. By 2025, the United Nations estimates that almost two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed regions.
At Save the Rain, we believe the solution to this crisis is falling from the sky—all we have to do is catch it. We harvest rain because when one inch of rain falls on a thousand square foot area, 600 gallons of clean drinking water can be harvested—and freely delivered by nature—to every doorstep.
All of Save the Rain’s projects require no electricity, no filtration, use only locally available materials, are all constructed by hand, by local labor, and require very little maintenance.
Our work begins with the construction of a large-scale rainwater harvesting system built on top of the village primary school. These systems are large enough to provide communities with safe, reliable and accessible drinking water. Schools that now have a rainwater catchment system report a 94 percent improvement in attendance and a 96 percent improvement in their students’ academic performance. In 2009, a group of resilient East African women came together. Through Save the Rain, they have been weaving the fabric of a multi-generational solution to access clean water—one residential rainwater harvesting system at a time. Today, 120 women builders construct rainwater harvesting systems and family gardens at people's homes. Over 6000 systems have been built, stopping the need for women to walk for water at all. This program is called the Women’s Water Initiative. Large enough to sustain a family of eight for a year, these systems empower women and unchain families from the cycle of poverty and disease. This project keeps growing every day.
Deforestation directly affects the viability of rivers, streams and even rainfall. When rainfall becomes irregular, food becomes scarce and water becomes even more difficult to find. We educate primary school students and residents on the issue and distribute more than 12,000 trees each year.
Measuring health, evaluating program challenges and successes, maintenance checks and regular water quality tests are all part of how we measure the impact of our projects. The results of our work show a 97 percent improvement in general health and that 88 percent of mothers now feel they have everything they need to provide their family with an abundant life.
We need to challenge our perceptions of scarcity and abundance. In the developing world, abundance is not about luxury. It’s about providing everyone with possibility, and clean water is where all possibility begins. At this time, during this global pandemic, many of us are just trying to manage the world as it currently is. But the water crisis didn't disappear because Covid came. In fact, it got worse. It only costs Save the Rain $15 to bring a child clean water for the rest of their life and life of their future offspring. Now more than ever, we need to advocate for those us who live without basic resources like clean water.
The Dalai Lama once said that we have arrived at a time when meditating on, praying for and conversing about issues is not enough, and that we must move our intentions to taking action. I invite you to use your voice to advocate for the billions of people living without access to clean water. We have the power to make clean water available to all – one raindrop at a time. Imagine what an abundant world that would be.