By Julie LaGuardia, Head of Brand Partnerships at Water.org
Water.org joined forces with Stella Artois in 2015 to launch the Buy A Lady A Drink campaign to help raise awareness of the global water crisis and provide clean water for the millions of people in the developing world who lack access to it. This crisis disproportionately affects women, who spend millions of hours a day collecting water for their families. By providing access to water, we can positively change the lives of women, their families and their communities.
Last year, through this unique multi-platform partnership, our collective efforts helped Water.org provide 5 years of clean water for more than 290,000 people in the developing world – and we hope to accomplish even more together this year.
Deep in the mountains of southern Honduras lie tiny remote villages, where the impact of the global water crisis plays a heavy hand in daily life. It takes hours to get to them, across unforgiving terrain -- climbing over boulders, slogging through mud, crossing fingers across broken bridges, curving around precarious cliffs. Young children and old grandparents alike traverse this terrain daily in flip flops, enduring unbearable weather, leading livestock up impossibly steep inclines, balancing heavy cantaros on their heads.
We took our campaign film crew on this journey to these villages last fall, where we were privileged to spend time with several women whose families have received access to safe water through our programs.
Each woman greeted us warmly and proudly, with a huge smile, a story to tell and a plate of fresh-baked tortillas to share. They carried themselves with the strength and assuredness of earned wisdom, at the same time radiating a quiet grace. They welcomed us in with open arms, and I was struck by every delightful detail: The way the afternoon sunlight streamed through a cool, open-air house built by hand, warming a stray kitten curled up on the dirt floor. The cheerful yellow of an unlikely rose that peeked up through a kitchen window. The pinks and greens of their water jugs; the reds and oranges of their sun parasols; the bright whites and blues of their school uniforms. The worn but freshly laundered stuffed animal hung alongside the tiny shirts on the clothesline, ensuring a little one’s most treasured friend was well cared for. In spite of their hardship, they had made a beautiful home.
We spent several days in one village with Guillermina, her husband and 3 young children. We asked her what life was like before they had water, and what it’s now like after.
Guillermina used to make 8 trips to the river every day to collect water for her family. The walk was long and treacherous; the water was unsafe. Her children were often sick. She was always tired. They never had enough.
She remembered the moment they finally got safe water in their home, and they all jumped for joy when they got to take their first showers. Words like “laughter” and “fun” filled her stories of their new life, their days now spent playing, singing, visiting friends, or just resting.
These things sound like such luxuries. But think about what contributes to our suffering: when we can’t pay our bills, when we’re feeling defeat, when we’re struggling to meet pressing deadlines or just to make ends meet. We’re desperate to relieve our stress, to fill our unmet need. Then think about what contributes to our happiness: a good meal with our families, a good snuggle with our partners, a good laugh with our friends, a good night’s sleep in our beds. Access to safe water gave Guillermina’s family that sense of abundance, possibility and peace. All things that make our lives worth living.
Guillermina didn’t want her family to worry about water. She wanted her family to enjoy life. For her kids to be kids, to be engaged in their activities, for their time together to be both productive and fun. To be active in their community, and to help others prosper. She wanted a healthy, happy family unit that could do more, have more, contribute more, be more -- together. Not just to survive – but to thrive.
With access to water, Guillermina's dreams had unfolded all around her. We saw it in her proud husband, who can now grow crops on their land to help put food on their table and money in their pocket. In her polite young daughter, who always made sure we had a place to sit or a bite to eat. In her talented young son, who taught himself how to play guitar and entertained them all after dark each night. In her many friendly neighbors who came by to visit. In all the smiling children at the tiny schoolhouse across the way, holding hands, playing their games and singing their songs, their happy little voices trailing behind us as we finished our work there each day.
The sense of peacefulness, togetherness and opportunity was palpable in this tiny vibrant village. Helping Guillermina get safe water helped her give others new life. For Water.org and Stella Artois, this is what leaving your mark is all about.
Julie LaGuardia is the head of brand partnerships at water.org. Go to Water.org to learn more about the global water crisis and its impact on women in the developing world. To see our 360 film about Guillermina’s family, learn more about our partnership with Stella Artois and leave your mark, visit BuyaLadyaDrink.com