Americans turn the tap and expect to get nothing but clean water. That’s a luxury many people in other countries don’t have. But organizers of the annual “Walk for Water” at Western Michigan University hope to change that one village at a time. The event will be held on Saturday, March 23rd, from 1 to 3 p.m. It starts and ends at the plaza near Western’s Miller Auditorium.
The group Clean Water for the World sponsors the walk it hopes will raise about $10,000. Executive Director Paul Flickinger says that amount would pay for eight or ten water purification units that will be sent to small communities in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean as well as Central and South America.
Flickinger, who’s a part-time art instructor at WMU, says more than a billion people around the world don’t have access to safe drinking water. About 4,500 children die every year because of water-borne illnesses. Several videos on the Clean Water for the World webpage vividly illustrate the issue, including this one from Africa:
That problem impressed and appalled Jerry and Judy Bohl of Otsego when they visited El Salvador in 1995 and saw many people forced to use water that was obviously unsafe. Flickinger says they connected with students and faculty at the Rochester Institute of Technology who developed a simple and relatively inexpensive system to purify water using ultraviolet light. Clean Water for the World started in 2002 with the installation of its first purification unit in El Salvador. Since then, Flickinger says the group has expanded to Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Ghana, Kenya, and India.
Flickinger says the six-mile “Walk for Water” course around WMU’s main campus was chosen because that’s the average distance women and children must walk to get water in developing countries. Walkers ask friends to pledge donations that support Clean Water for the World. Similar walks will be held in Toledo and Bowling Green, Ohio.