StillSpeaking Youth raise money, awareness through water poverty campaign
Written by Emily Schappacher
October 21, 2013
Can you get by on only 4 liters of water per day? That is the question more than 100 members of the United Church of Christ's StillSpeaking Youth will face this week as they take DigDeep Water's 4Liter Challenge. While the average person needs to drink 2-3 liters of water every day to stay hydrated, 4 liters is only a fraction of the roughly 50 liters people use for other necessities like bathing, cooking and cleaning. The 4Liter Challenge symbolizes the extreme shortages of clean water experienced by nearly 1 billion people worldwide and, through their efforts, the youth group has pledged to raise $1,000 to build a well that will alleviate this problem and provide an abundance of clean drinking water for a community in need.
"We have a global responsibly for one another, and this challenge expands our ministry beyond ourselves," said Waltrina Middleton, the UCC's minister for youth advocacy and leadership formation. "By looking at something as simple as water, something that we take for granted, we see how shortages impact people around the world in different ways."
The 4Liter Challenge was launched this fall by DigDeep Water, an organization that works in communities throughout the world to provide access to clean water and promote education and advocacy to change the way people think about the water they use. DigDeep Water had a prominent presence in the StillSpeaking Youth area at General Synod 2013 in Long Beach, Calif. Representatives led a workshop where youth walked to a local pond to retrieve water – the way people in undeveloped communities need to do every day – and then learned about the different toxins and bacteria that can be found in such water sources. DigDeep Water also introduced the 4Liter Challenge and distributed reusable water bottles to those who signed up to participate in the campaign – with instructions to fill it up just four times a day to stay within the 4-liter limit.
"We challenge Americans to live on just 4 liters of water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing for a couple days in a simulation of water poverty," said George McGraw, founder and executive director of DigDeep Water. "The idea is to connect them more intimately to people suffering from water poverty in the field, while making them more aware of just how much water they are consuming here at home."
The 4Liter Challenge continues the work the UCC's SillSpeaking Youth did this summer at General Synod, Middleton said, adding that the campaign is a way for youth to bring the momentum and inspiration from General Synod home. She compares the effort to the youth group's protest outside of the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center in support of the worker-imposed boycott on the hotel chain and their requests for fair treatment and higher wages. By the end of General Synod, the Hyatt Hotels Corporation and the worker's union announced a national agreement that resolved the long-standing dispute between the two organizations. Even though their efforts might have been small in the big picture of the hotel workers' fight for fairness, the youth were able to see firsthand that any effort can help make a difference, Middleton said.
"Our time in Long Beach didn't bring about this change, but the very fact that the young people were 200-strong on that picket line and could see, almost immediately, the result of their leadership and protest was inspiring," Middleton said. "We want young people to see that their part, even though it may seem small, can make an impact."
To donate to the UCC's StillSpeaking Youth 4Liter campaign, visit its website.