Like so many others, Mary Elizabeth Ellis recognized the need for clean water in faraway places, but it wasn't an urgent concern. Well Aware, an Austin- based nonprofit that funds and implements clean water systems for impoverished communities in Africa, opened her eyes to the dilemma.

WELL WORTH IT: For many, access to clean water is a fact of life, but for many others, such as in Africa and even parts of the U.S., clean water is scarce. Ellis has put herself in their shoes and is determined to help. Photo: Starla Fortunato

“I never thought about access to clean water having an impact beyond people getting water to drink and use for farming and their households,” explains “The Grinder” star, who typically donated funds only during a publicized crisis. “It's estimated women and children spend 140 million hours each day collecting water. That time could be spent working an income-generating job, caring for family members or attending school.”

The personal touch

“When my friend Newton Hopkins began raising money for Well Aware, during their annual Shower Strike to build wells in honor of his mother, I wanted to help out,” Ellis explains. “Seeing photos of the wells that had already gone up, and knowing that founder Sarah Evans was a friend of my friend, I trusted my money would truly be going where I intended.

“‘A clean, local well can have such a huge impact in providing a better life for any person, but especially a woman or child.’”

“It's important to be active in making social advances both at home and in places I may never in my lifetime visit. A clean, local well can have such a huge impact in providing a better life for any person, but especially a woman or child. That woman could be me. That child could be my son.”

Back in touch

Today, Ellis describes the time and energy as an “empowering” investment. “I’ve had an opportunity to interact with people I haven't spoken to in years,” she adds, “as well as people I've never met. I was in Texas visiting family during their last campaign, so every time I got another donation, I would call out how much had been raised, and we'd all cheer together.”

On average, Well Aware can provide lasting clean water to a person, for life, for $10. “Become a recurring supporter,” Ellis encourages. “Have your business become involved on a larger scale. Ask your friends to donate for your birthday or talk about your favorite water charity on social media."

“I hope people won't think of humanitarian organizations like Well Aware as taking money away from ‘us’ to give to ‘them,’ but as catalysts making all of us as human beings healthier, wealthier and, ultimately, better at existing peacefully together on this earth.”