Connecting Water with Those in Need
Water By working together, we can make global access to clean, safe water a reality; but we each have an integral role to play in the fight.
We sat down with Sabrina Pourmand for a chat about what we can do to reverse water shortages in the third world.
Mediaplanet: What does charity mean to you?
Sabrina Pourmand: Charity, in its most basic form, is the act of kindness. I've been working for over a decade for social good and the industry and issues are indeed complex and challenging. However, the beauty of charity is that every person is capable of an act of kindness. Kindness spawns generosity, and generosity has an amplifying affect. Charity, kindness and generosity inspire joy in both the person being charitable and those receiving the act. My job is to ensure that charity happens effectively but I also practice charity in my everyday, through small acts of intentional kindness.
MP: What has been the most striking experience throughout your travels?
SP: In 2005 I lived in the Andean plains of Peru at over 11,000 feet altitude. I was working for a fantastic micro finance organization called Pro Mujer. I was 23 and very green. I watched bureaucrats and people in power finding ways to fill their own pockets while indigenous women labored in every possible way to earn an income just to put their children through school and to get them medical care.
"You can do anything you know how to do to help change the lives of people in need. The craziest thing you can do is nothing."
Through it all the women whom we served, without fail, would ask me about my experience in Peru, asked after my family, my health and offered me endless invitations to join them and their families for dinner—even though I knew they barely had enough for themselves. In 2010, I was a humanitarian responder to the earthquake that devastated Haiti. I was floored by the parallels. Women who were living in squalid tent camps were resourcefully finding ways to scrape by. And every time I visited the camps, they never failed to inquire after my well being, asking me how I was coping in Haiti. Can you imagine? They were genuinely worried about me. Like the Peruvians, they also never forgot to ask if I had a boyfriend.
When I arrived in Jordan in 2013 to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, even after experiencing severe violent trauma and displacement, true to form, women would invite me into their tents in the refugee camp, offering me tea and sweets and refusing to talk about themselves until I had shared the status of my health, my family's health and my reproductive plans!
Upon return from Jordan, I grabbed cocktails with my best girlfriends from college. At a hip bar in San Francisco, before updating me about their lives, they insisted that I inform them of my well-being, updates on my family and, what else, my love life. Long story short: No matter where we live and what we're enduring, at our core we are all the same and kindness is universal.
MP: What is the benefit of engaging corporate partners and individuals to provide clean water to those who lack access?
SP: Since charity: water was founded in 2006, over half a million donors have joined us to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in need. This community has done all kinds of things to raise awareness and money for clean water. Couples have traded their wedding gifts for donations. Kids have sold lemonade, sold their artwork and even sold their toys. Entire companies have traversed deserts on foot or generously doubled the impact of others through a matching gift.
What we’ve seen is that one often inspires the other. The story of one kid running a lemonade stand could inspire a company that sells lemonade to give from their profits and spread awareness amongst their customers. That company may go on to inspire the people in their networks and communities to join them in providing clean water.
For us, it's not just about a CSR gift, but how we can bring people together around making an impact, inspire generosity and continue to make an impact.
MP: How have your strategic partnerships affected the global water crisis?
SP: When we started, over a billion people didn't have access to clean water around the world. In many of the areas we work in, people spend hours each day collecting water from an unsafe source. Not only is the water dirty, but the time spent collecting it prevents kids from going to school, parents from earning an extra income, or allowing time to spend with family and friends.
Just recently, the UN declared that statistic is now 663 million people. While that's still 1 in 11 of us, it represents an enormous effort by thousands of individuals and organizations that have worked to make this happen across sectors.
An exciting trend we're seeing is the growth of these partnerships across our work. Each year, we see more companies reach out with excitement to join us in bringing clean water to people in need. The impact that these partnerships have had is incredible. This year alone, hundreds of thousands of people will gain access to clean water because of their support.
MP: What can we do to have a real impact on the global water crisis?
SP: You can do anything you know how to do to help change the lives of people in need, and I believe that the craziest thing you can do is nothing.