When it comes to speaking about the importance of access to clean, safe water, the issue seems so far away that it is often dismissed. Here in the UK, most of us take for granted the access to things like taps and toilets but for many, just finding a glass of clean water is close to impossible. According to WHO/UNICEF’s most recent report, one in ten people across the globe lack access to clean water, and an even more shocking one in three do not have a decent toilet; it is in times like this that charities like WaterAid are so important. We spoke to Harry Quick, the president of Leeds University’s WaterAid society, to learn a bit more about what they are doing around campus in their first year up and running.
What is it that your society aims to do?
Our society essentially aims to be a local representative group of the international charity WaterAid. We want to raise awareness of WaterAid itself: the problems they deal with, the issues they fight for and the work they carry out. We also want to run fundraising events to assist WaterAid in their work around the world.
And what sort of events have you been involved in?
To date we have hosted two events. The first was our GIAG in September when we screened the documentary Watermark (2013). This film featured stories from around the world that documented the vitality of water to human life and demonstrated how water shapes us and how we shape water.
We also hosted was a bake sale fundraiser for Global Handwashing Day. We took over a stall in the union and sold homemade cakes throughout the day. It was our first fundraising event and we got members involved by manning the stall, selling cakes around campus and speaking to people about the issues surrounding sanitation. Although we are still awaiting a final confirmation of our total raised, we expect it to be well over £100.
We are now planning our next event around World Toilet Day where we hope to bring in a WaterAid speaker to give a talk about the relationship between a lack of access to toilets and female insecurity.
Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
Why do you think your WaterAid is so important today?
Access to clean, safe drinking water, a decent toilet and safe sanitation are fundamental human rights. Alleviating poverty begins with providing people with these basic human rights and the work WaterAid carries out therefore lays the foundations for lifting people out of poverty. Moreover, the problems that stem from a lack of access to either of these rights are crippling, for example: 272 million schooldays are missed annually because of diarrhea, stripping young people of an education and thus a bright and prosperous future.
Why should people join this society?
We are an inclusive and friendly society. The issues we, and WaterAid itself, fight for are issues everyone can get behind. Additionally, as a new society we need all the help we can get to raise awareness and to bring on board bold, controversial and creative ideas for our awareness campaigns and fundraisers.
How does someone go about joining?
Joining our society is easy and free. People interested in joining can find us under the ‘Political and Campaigning’ section of the union’s societies website. We would encourage people to also sign up to our mailing list. Alternatively, people can join our Facebook group by searching ‘LUU WaterAid Society’ where we post regular updates. We also welcome both members and non-members to our meetings, details of which are emailed to members or found on our Facebook group.