Water is the hub of life and often, with the way life is demanding of our lifestyles, we take it for granted. We forget that the water cycle is also the life cycle and because of the devastating amount of countries struggling without clean water today, thousands of families are torn apart as the repercussions of unclean water bring about unpreventable diseases and often, death. It is known that every fifteen seconds a child dies from a waterborne disease. It's been noted that nearly one billion people lack access to safe water and someone who has seen the affects of the water crisis firsthand is Gary White, co-founder of Water.org. White’s become a leader in his own right, involving himself in a dynamic and remarkable vision for changing the world.
White, an engineer by training realized the power of clean water after spending time in the slums of Guatemala City, nearly two decades ago. When White studied at the Missouri University of Science and Technology back in the mid-1980’s, he took a trip to see what was happening in the world and how he could help. After watching a young girl carry home water scooped from a filthy container, White was taken aback by the sources made available for drinking water. Not only were these sources gross in appearance and backwards in the technical aspect but they were clear indications of onset sickness and death for the community, particularly the children with weakened immune systems.
That experience motivated him to fight for sustaining water sanitation, pushing him to find answers on why these problems exist in the first place and what solutions can be made.
Since then, he has committed his professional career, investing himself personally with tremendous heart to discovering the various ways to address the global water crisis’ needs through what he co-founded and is the executive director of, Water.org.
When White began working with water, his initial thoughts of those in developing countries, in need of clean water was that they’re uniformly poor and need charity solutions so drilling wells could work but that’s not the case as to what he told the Kansas City Pitch last year.
“There’s never going to be enough charity in the world to get water and sanitation to that many people, so you have to look for more innovative solutions.”
One thing White recognized early on with his quest for change was that it was crucial that the safe water movement worked with communities to be effective as there is plenty of expertise in the developing countries. Working with local groups brings forth better results and amplifies long-term success.
In March of 2009, White was inducted into the community of Skoll social entrepreneurs, when WaterPartners received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. The award which recognizes the most innovative and sustainable approaches to resolving the world’s most urgent social issues was founded by eBay’s first president, Jeff Skoll as part of The Skoll Foundation. White’s entrepreneurial vision is ambitious but nonetheless, driven modernization in the way clean-water projects are handled and financed. In 2008, he was inducted into the Philanthropy World Hall of Fame.
Before the inception of Water.org, the organization’s roots were planted with White’s WaterPartners organization from the late 1990’s. It was July of 2009 that the organization finally merged with H2O Africa (co-founded by Matt Damon) and resulted in the launch of Water.org. As part of the microfinance-based WaterCredit Initiative, Water.org uses local partners to help provide inventive solutions for long-term success hoping to forge sustainability in the sector.
If there’s one thing to recognize most about White’s efforts with the water crisis and the difference he’s making with Water.org, it’s that he’s a natural born leader. Leadership is action, not position. The way White has gone about making positive changes in the world of water sanitation isn’t just commendable, it’s remarkable and inspirational, proving we can all make a difference if we push ourselves. Leadership and learning are indispensible to each other and White proves that with a crusade like Water.org’s, advocating for clean water and sanitation in developing countries, bringing awareness to the forefront is important and vital.
Afterall, all the water that will ever be is, right now.
World Water Day, designated by the United Nations as the day of the year when we shine a light on the global safe water and sanitation issue is March 22 and extends to a week of efforts through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. For more information on how to donate your voice and make a difference, check out One Week For Water.
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