I’m proud to be sharing a percentage of my royalties from WATER CAN BE… with WaterAid, a fantastic water charity. And I’m grateful to Hallie Tamez, Associate Director of Development for WaterAid America, for sharing her personal story about water here on my blog.
Why do we have to eat this?
Beans, rice and water…again? Every Wednesday, my siblings and I sat around the dinner table whining and choking down our weekly meal of beans, rice and water. At the time, it seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. After all, why in the world would parents serve such a seemingly meager and unexciting meal week after week when they could afford not to?
In hindsight, I realize my parents were actually pretty extraordinary. They believed in living experiences, not just talking about them. And in making us ?eat it,? they were actually making a point: millions of people around the world struggle with access to the basic necessities of food and water, and it’s not something to be taken for granted. My sense of a larger world emerged around the dinner table, guided by parents who were determined that my seven siblings and I would not grow up in a bubble of ignorance, blind to social responsibility.
I will be forever grateful to them for giving me that weekly taste of a stark reality, and a belief in my capacity to do something. So I set out to change the world and I became a teacher. And here’s the really amazing part: over 30 years later, I now realize that I have changed the world in ways only teachers can. By exposing kids to the world, encouraging them to explore, ask questions and dream big I set the fuse and empowered the next generation to light the flame!
I didn’t make my students eat rice and beans, but I did tap into my own desire to understand how and why things are the way they are, in order to nurture that same desire for curiosity and action in children of all ages.
My greatest revelation was recognizing that “teaching” is really learning, and learning comes from living experiences, not just talking about them. (Thanks again, Mom and Dad!) We all have the capacity to be both teachers and learners – it’s a simple concept that can create change in the world.
Today I’m part of a hard-working team at WaterAid, a leading international non-profit organization working with local partners to deliver safe water, toilets, and hygiene education to impoverished and vulnerable people living in many of the world’s poorest countries. This is an enormously important mission with implications for generations to come. I am still teaching and learning, just not in a classroom.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
? 748 million people in the world do not have access to safe water.
? Over 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s more than 1,400 children a day.
? Women in Africa and Asia often carry water on their heads weighing over 40lbs, the weight of an American four-year-old child.
? Children in developing countries spend far too many hours every day searching for water, keeping them from the joys of free play and attending school.
Here’s what I know:
? Kids are curious.
? Kids have empathy for other kids.
? Kids feel hope and see opportunity.
? Kids want to get involved.
Here’s what you can do:
Help kids live the wonders and necessity of clean water for everyone, everywhere.
1. Immerse kids in the world of water ? read Water Can Be… By Laura Purdie Salas
2. Stay informed: Sign up to receive WaterAid’s e-news updates
3. Activity: What happens when you flush?
4. Activity: Pump it up!
5. Activity: Do you have bad water habits?
What happens tomorrow can be determined by today. Why not offer kids the experience and tools to ignite their their power to influence a changing world. Living the realities of life without clean water and toilets is unfathomable to most of us, but young children can learn what it means to have clean water, what happens when you don’t, and why it’s critical for everyone in a happy and healthy world.
–Hallie Tamez, Associate Director of Development for WaterAid America
Thanks, Hallie, for this blog post and also for the great work you are doing. And, educators, if you’d like a short video you can share with your students to raise awareness about this issue, here’s one I made.
[iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/fSCj31deFqM’rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen]
And if you can’t access YouTube, here it is on my site.
I know there are a million important causes out there, but I hope you’ll agree clean water is a big one! Please help spread the word.