Guest blog post by: Lifewater International
Lifewater International is a 46-year-old safe water access, sanitation, and hygiene nonprofit headquartered right here in Northwest Arkansas. We take a holistic approach to teaching safe water, sanitation, and hygiene practices, and we work to provide sustainable solutions for the people we serve in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania. In 2020, we strategically moved our US headquarters to Bentonville, Arkansas, and have focused on educating the area on the work that we do, and why we do it. Despite the miles that separate us from the communities we serve, we can’t help but notice similarities between the people we serve and the people in our NWA community.
Cycling is a big part of life here in Northwest Arkansas. We cycle for fun, for exercise, and just to unwind from a long day in the office. But, in some places in the world, cycling is a double-edged sword; it is used to transport something that can do more harm than good.
This photo comes from one of our program areas in Tanzania. In these regions, cycling is not done for enjoyment—it is necessary for survival. Before Lifewater intervention, it is common to see women and children with two or more five-gallon jerry cans strapped to their bicycles. These filled jerry cans weigh 45 pounds each and make the trip for water especially difficult. On top of that, many community members make the trip multiple times per day. The water they transport is often from unprotected water sources that are shared with multiple communities and livestock, and can be filled with diseases that make their families sick, or even kill them. Imagine the weight, both physical and mental, that comes with that journey multiple times a day.
Safe, clean water is something that we collectively take for granted. But, when we look at the numbers concerning the global water, sanitation, and hygiene crisis released by the World Health Organization, it is clear to see that the problem is bigger than you and I could have ever imagined.
- 703 million lack basic access to water
- 1.5 billion people lack basic access to sanitation
- 2 billion people lack basic access to hygiene
- Every 2 minutes, a child under the age of 5 dies from a preventable waterborne disease
These are scary numbers. Often, with the work we do at Lifewater, we are asked, “What can I do where I am that can make a tangible difference in the areas that you work?”
If you have spent any time in Northwest Arkansas, you will notice that there is no shortage of opportunities to get involved in community events. Here at Lifewater, we see the connection between our community and those in the areas we serve. That’s why at this Square to Square, October 7th, 2023, we encourage you to pedal with a purpose and to connect one cycling community to another. For those unfamiliar with its purpose, Square to Square is a 30+ mile bicycle ride that takes place twice a year in Northwest Arkansas. The ride is between the Bentonville and Fayetteville Downtown Squares, alternating its starting line each time. For the October 7th ride, we will begin in Bentonville and end in Fayetteville. We are asking everyone who has a heart for cycling, or for making an impact in the global water, sanitation, and hygiene crisis to help us raise funds that will go directly to aid those in Tanzania, ensuring that women, children, and families get the resources that they deserve.
- What does that look like?
- Can’t make it to Northwest Arkansas?
- Haven’t been on a bike in years?
No problem! We are asking you to fundraise from wherever you are and join us for the 30+ mile ride from your favorite trail or from a stationary bike. Or, if you aren’t interested in cycling, we invite you to fundraise without having to ride. We have set up a peer-to-peer fundraising site where you can compete against other fundraisers from various organizations and see who has made the greatest impact in the area. By raising $10,000 while doing something we do every day for leisure, we will be able to bring improved water, sanitation and hygiene to multiple people for the next three years, changing their lives forever. $60 is all that it takes to change the life of one individual for one year, from one cycling community to another.
Ready to sign up, donate, or learn more? Visit give.lifewater.org/s2s now.
About Lifewater International:
Lifewater was started in 1977 in San Luis Obispo, California when our founder, Bill Ashe, saw a need that was going unrecognized. Just a few miles south of his home, he noticed that residents in villages in Mexico were suffering due to deplorable conditions with their drinking water. Though many of them did have wells that they could access, many of the wells were in a state of disrepair. Bill Ashe made it his mission to repair those wells to ensure that people in those villages had the most essential of all elements: water. After taking multiple weekend trips that year, the word spread of the work that he was doing, and support followed. Fast-forward to today, Lifewater has worked in over 45 countries, focusing on supplying safe water access, improved sanitation, and improved hygiene to those who are most in need.
In 2020, we made the strategic decision to centralize our US operations to Bentonville, Arkansas. With our focus on global integration (150 of our 180 employees live in the areas where they work), sustainability, and education, Lifewater is setting the bar in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector.