Sunday, March 22nd was World Water Day, a day to celebrate water and bring awareness to the fact that far too many people still lack access to safe water and toilets.
One in ten of the world’s population lives without safe drinking water and 40% do not have adequate sanitation. These statistics are staggering to me considering water is our most precious resource. Water is life. How could something so simple be so scarce for so many people on our planet?
I traveled to Nicaragua last year during World Water Day and spent a week with WaterAid America seeing their work on the ground in the remote indigenous communities there. It was a life-changing trip that taught me how much we take for granted here in the United States.
I got to spend time with a woman named Linda who opened up her house to me and my team. Linda’s home had no electricity or running water, yet she made us feel comfortable. We watched as she used the skills she learned from WaterAid to build and maintain wells for her community. These skills helped her earn money so she could buy her children basic things like shoes and books for school. She’s like any other mother, wanting to provide for her children first.
We slept under mosquito nets and ate food cooked over a fire with only the light of a headlamp once the sun went down. We used the toilet Linda built outside her home and dodged wandering farm animals as we walked. Linda took us to see where she keeps her crops via a dugout canoe. Her granddaughter, Exelia, collected vegetables and flowers in her dress, handing me some of my own every so often. We did not speak the same language, but we could communicate.
When I got back from my trip, I wrote about it on my blog and I talked about it a lot with my kids. I wanted them to understand that life in other countries does not always look and feel the same as ours. When I realized World Water Day was coming this year, I asked their teachers if I could come in and talk about the importance of water and toilets in our lives. They welcomed me with open arms.
My youngest is in kindergarten and my oldest is in fourth grade. To cut down on the inevitable giggles that might come from too much “potty talk,” I decided to take the simple approach of showing the kids photos from my trip. They reacted to the photos and asked lots of questions. I chose photos that showed the type of toilets, wells and catchment systems that were being built by the people of Nicaragua with the help of WaterAid America.
We talked about how diseases can spread if people don’t have a clean and sanitary place to go to the bathroom or if you don’t practice good hygiene. We talked about the need to build more wells and systems so that women and girls could spend their days working and going to school instead of walking for miles to fetch water. We talked about how unsafe water can make people very sick and how water filtration systems could help.
I also showed photos of kids in school and swimming, baseball players, toothbrushes and children’s artwork. We talked about how while the kids might live differently in Nicaragua, they were still very much like them. They laughed and played and enjoyed things like baseball and drawing. The fourth graders smartly wondered if they could use the wind, water and sun to help power the communities I had visited. They quickly understood that developing countries might not have enough money and resources to replicate what we have in America. In both classrooms, we talked about how if we know about the problems in the world and we already are living with solutions, we could share that knowledge with others and help.
Even elementary schools kids can be global citizens.
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Jennifer Iacovelli of Anotherjennifer.
Do you think your kids understand how precious our water resources are?
Reggae band SOJA partnered with UNICEF’s Out-of-School Children initiative to produce the video “Shadow” to draw attention to the importance of education for all of the world’s children. Globally, an estimated 58 million children of primary school age and 63 million young adolescents are not enrolled in school. Like the girl in this video, many of them are girls. Yet data demonstrates that reaching the most marginalized children may initially cost more but also yields greater benefits. This video was filmed in Jigjiga, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where 3 million children remain out of school. For more on global trends regarding out-of-school children, visit the UNICEF website.
This year, the UN has decided to place a special focus on the role of health care workers in FGM. Although the practice of FGM cannot be justified by medical reasons, in many countries it is executed more and more often by medical professionals. This constitutes one of the greatest threats to the abandonment of the practice.
(c)TARA TODRASS-WHITEHILL / REUTERS / LANDOV image retrieved from Aljazeera America
Jennifer Prestholdt is a lawyer and the Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, a volunteer-based human rights organization that works locally, nationally and internationally. Her work in human rights takes her around the world, but she spends most of her time in Minneapolis, MN, where she lives with her children (two sons and one daughter), her husband, an elderly cat and a dwarf hamster.
As Jennifer’s kids are now all in school (1st, 4th and 6th grades), she is finally finding more time to do the things that she used to love to do, especially running, writing and knitting. Jennifer loves to travel and has had the dubious distinction of having been accidentally locked in a bathroom on five continents so far. Australia and Antarctica await!
In January 2011, Jennifer made a New Year’s Resolution to start writing about her experiences in order to share with her children the lessons learned from 15 years of work in human rights. The result is her personal blog, The Human Rights Warrior. The name comes from her son Simon, who was extremely disappointed to learn that his mother is a lawyer, not a warrior.