Water walk helps children in developing countries

NANAIMO – A public event organized by Vancouver Island University's Free the Children group aims to walk the walk so children don't have to.

Children in developing countries can spend hours walking long distances just to collect water for their families.

A public event organized by Vancouver Island University’s Free the Children group aims to walk the walk so these children don’t have to.

The Water Walk takes place Aug. 4 starting at Country Club Centre.

Organizer Dominique Saab said the event aims to raise awareness and money to build a community well next to a school in Kenya to allow girls, who are often responsible for gathering water for their families, to go to school.

“The idea is that girls can go to school and bring back water for their families,” she said. “Usually the water source is really far away and it’s dirty.”

The well reduces the spread of water-borne diseases, as in many developing countries, the same water source that is used to collect drinking water is often also used as a dumping ground for human and animal waste.

Saab does not plan on making Water Walk participants carry the heavy load that some children in developing nations bear several times each day; instead, she encourages people to collect pledges leading up to the walk.

Donations are also accepted the day of the walk, but neither donations nor pledges are needed to participate in the fun walk.

“People don’t have to make a donation,” said Saab. “We would like to raise some money, but also awareness.”

Registration for the walk begins at 10 a.m. in the Country Club parking lot and the walk starts at 11 a.m. The event also includes children’s activities such as face painting and sidewalk chalk.

Saab said the well costs about $5,000 and the club has more than $700 towards it already, thanks to Wellington Secondary School students, who teamed up with the VIU group this year to work on Free the Children initiatives and organized their own water walk fundraiser a few months ago.

The club is also fundraising to build a school in Ecuador and so far they have about $3,000 towards the $8,500 needed for this project.

Both projects are through Free the Children’s Adopt a Village campaign. Free the Children is a global network of children helping children, with more than one million youth involved in its education and development projects in 45 countries.

Saab started doing fundraisers for the organization in 2007 when she was a student at Wellington and raised more than $10,000 to build a school in Kenya before she left high school.

To collect pledges leading up to the walk, please e-mail Saab at dominiquesaab@shaw.ca.

For more information about Free the Children, please go to www.freethechildren.com.



Sidebar: water issues in developing nations

u 80 — per cent of illnesses in developing countries are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions

u one — in every eight people around the world does not have access to safe drinking water

u 2.5 — billion people worldwide are without access to adequate sanitation facilities

u one — out of four deaths in children under the age of five around the world is due to a water-related disease

Source: Free the Children