EXCLUSIVE: The founder of “The Thirst Project” talks to Charity Spring

SethMaxwellSeth Maxwell was a 19-year-old acting student in Los Angeles when a brief meeting with a friend who’d just returned from Africa changed the course of his life forever. Upon learning that almost one billion people lack access to clean water and that water-borne illnesses account for more than 80% of all global disease, he gave up acting to focus on water education. The Thirst Project is a movement of young people who are raising awareness around and bringing solutions to the global water crisis. Combining outreach and water well implementation, The Thirst Project has completed more than 392 freshwater development projects across the globe and reached 200,000 American students with its eye-opening educational programs.

Charity Spring scored an Exclusive interview with him.

Tell us about The Thirst Project. What is the initiative all about?
Almost 1 billion people on the planet do not have access to safe, clean water, and 4,400 kids under the age of five will die today from drinking dirty water. The Thirst Project is a movement of high school and college students that builds freshwater wells in developing nations and impoverished communities to provide people with safe, clean water.  A nonprofit organization, The Thirst Project travels across the United States speaking at schools to educate students about the global water crisis and challenge them to fund raise to build wells. 100% of all public gifts go directly to funding freshwater wells on the ground. The Thirst Project has given more than 180,000 people in 11 countries safe, clean water.

Your initiative is innovation at its best. How did you come up with this idea?
I was 19, living in Los Angeles, studying in college, and I had a friend who was a photojournalist for National Geographic, who returned to LA from a trip that she took all over the world for about a year and a half. We got together at Starbucks to catch up, and I sat, stunned, as I looked at picture after picture after picture of three, and four, and five-year-olds on the side of the road, drinking water out of puddles, ponds, swamps, stuff that looked like chocolate milk. And I wasn’t just looking at some far off or removed “sad pictures,” but I began to listen to the most piercing stories of people who she had befriended over a three or four month period each of the communities she worked in, many of whom she watched died of dysentery, cholera, things I had never even imagined. All as a direct result of just drinking dirty water. seth maxwellI went home and began researching, and discovered that there are almost one billion people on the planet, still, today, in 2013, who do not have access to basic, safe, clean drinking water. I learned that 4,400 children under the age of five die EVERY DAY as a result of drinking dirty water. So, I couldn’t ignore it. My entire worldview was shattered. I started by just raising awareness on my college campus with my friends. Shortly after we started, two schools asked us to speak about the water crisis at their school and what we were doing about it at our campus. Just one month later, both schools had done fundraisers and raised over $12,000 that they gave to us to build wells. THAT was the moment I knew we could do something significant, and The Thirst Project was born.

Seth, you are one of of the youngest social entrepreneurs today. Do you see yourself doing something else too in the near future? Something even more ingenious and breakthrough in the world of philanthropy?
Thank you so much for the kind words and compliments. I don’t think of myself as some crazy innovator. I just think of myself as responding to a need in the most natural way I could. I don’t know that I’ll work for The Thirst Project FOREVER (I’m only 25, after all), but, I’m here for the foreseeable future. We made a huge commitment last year to give the entire nation of Swaziland safe, clean water within the next decade, so I’m definitely here for the next 10 years. Who knows after that. :)thirst-project

The Thirst Project is operational in different parts of the world, how do you decide the location of your project?
We have a Water Project Technical Board (separate from our actual Board of Governors). This Technical Board is comprised of 3 Civil Engineers and 2 Hydrologists. Their sole role in The Thirst Project is to oversee the water projects we implement and maintain our Sustainability Practices. They are the ones who determine where we build, how we build, how we engage communities, etc. Thirst-Project_Logo

How can our readers help in making your noble cause a huge success?
The best way for teens to get involved is to bring us to their school on our School Tour! To do that, email Amber@ThirstPoject.org! After that, DO SOMETHING! Raise awareness on your campus, host a fundraiser, and get your friends and school to raise funds to build a well!

PLEASE provide support to this noble cause by volunteering and donating. Extend a helping hand and save a dying kid :)

 

kidswaziland kid

The Last Call

photo credit: jenny SchafferBREAKING NEWS today is often centered around the mayhem the weather is causing. Be it the recent snow blizzard in the USA or Hurricane Sandy. People are experiencing more extreme weather today than ever before. When nature hits us with something new we take yet another step towards the extinction of life on our blue planet.

Carbon emission is one major cause of global warming, clearly one primary reason for what is happening around the world. China and America lead in contributing to carbon emissions.

Another cause is deforestation. We zero in on a particular patch, cut the tress, use the wood and there you go; you have an area to construct your next concrete jungle. The Flaura and Fauna and animals of that area become extinct and you know how large this area is becoming.

People of China now wear masks in their daily routine. Can it get any worse? Apart from the cows that you count sitting right in the middle of the roads in India, they are on the list of endangered species as well!

photo source:www.xikmo.comWe have never known so many air-born, water-borne and land-borne diseases. Some of them are as new as the magazine kept next to you. Why?

We have been exploiting and raping Earth of all its natural resources to an extent that it is now calling out for help, giving out signals that it can’t bear the load anymore, but we are too often deaf to such calls. We are continuing our ‘noble work’ of  over grazing the lands, polluting the rivers, adding to the carbon emissions, testing nuclear power, and the list is endless.

eco friendlyI switch off the electricity when not in use. I prefer using the public transport even though I have a personal car. I prefer buying Baggase paper to wood paper. I don’t keep the water running while I am singing to myself in the bathroom. These are some of the small things I do to balance out my ‘sins’ because I am sure I am contributing to the pollution some way or other. I can’t completely stop that, but I can do my bit to help balance out things.

The Earth is making a Last Call, crying out for help. It’s loud this time. I can hear it. Can you?