Imagine a world where you turn on the tap, only to find the water is not running today. You then have to take hours out of your day to walk miles to collect water from an unsafe source. Would you have the energy to keep up with work or your family?
This is the harsh reality for 1 in 9 people in the world.
The World Water Crisis affects communities in all reaches of the globe. Women collectively spend over 200 million hours each day bringing home water from distant sources. Time spent carrying water takes precious hours out of their days to be able to work, take care of their homes, and pursue their own interests.
The unclean water brought from ground water sources like ponds, rivers, and streams causes complications when it comes to sanitation and disease prevention. During a pandemic where frequent handwashing and access to clean water are essential for keeping the virus at bay, an easily accessible clean water source is essential to keeping a community healthy.
The water crisis also has a harrowing effect on children across the world. Every 21 seconds, a child dies from water-related illness. The educational implications for children are also astounding because the need to carry water can keep them from being able to attend school and in turn find opportunities to raise their socioeconomic status.
The Commitment to Clean Water
Water is essential to all life, so we knew from day one that we had to do something about the devastating effect of the water crisis on the world.
This is why TOMO partners with Drop4Drop, so that your breathtaking crystal water bottle isn’t just a water bottle. It is a conduit for change. Every single water bottle sold provides clean drinking water to one person for the rest of their life.
We had an interview with Drop4Drop Project Director Prisha Barua, and Charity Co-ordinator Sam Pyant to find out more about what it’s like living without access to one of life’s most basic necessities.
Keep reading to find out more about how Drop4Drop is helping change the lives of millions of people globally, how they manage the challenges of doing essential work during a global pandemic, and the ways we can become part of the solution.
TOMO: Prisha, you’ve been with Drop4Drop since 2019. Has the organization changed much since then? How much has Drop4Drop grown in your time there?
Prisha: “I actually started as a volunteer at Drop4Drop before 2019, and have loved the charity and everything it stands for since!
Drop4Drop has grown in the last couple of years, though. We adapted to the needs of the current climate, such as how we launched our hand-wash/sanitation projects at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and were granted essential worker status in countries across the globe to carry out imperative work!
We have provided clean water to over 1.6 million people so far, with this number always increasing."
TOMO: Can you explain seeing what the water crisis is like firsthand to anyone who might not be aware of the situation? Are there any memorable experiences you’ve had concerning the crisis that would be important for a reader to know?
Sam: “It's an incredibly complex set of challenges that occur from a lack of clean water. I think that's the thing that hits when you are faced with it. The knock-ons from the health issues, the lack of access to medical supplies when faced with the effects of unclean water, the devastation that causes to families.
The amount of time and energy needed to find, collect, and carry back safe water when you don't have it accessible to you is astounding. Think about what not having that time and energy to put into yourself and your family means.
In a lot of instances, the parents simply don’t have the time in the day to collect water because they have to concentrate on working to survive. There is no choice but for it to fall on the children to collect. This time away from education affects their chances for the rest of their lives.
I think it’s easy to detach from the facts and figures when it’s not about an individual just like you or a family member - They become broad and abstract. When you are faced with the realities of them from individuals, it’s incredibly confronting. That’s not to say there is no hope, resilience, and good humor by the bucket load, there’s just no ignoring the realities the challenges posed.”
TOMO: Seeing the effects of the clean water crisis every day must be difficult. What keeps you going?
Prisha: “It is definitely upsetting to see the situations that community members across the globe are in, struggling for a basic necessity like clean water, but this is definitely what keeps me and my team members motivated to work together to provide clean water to those that need it most!
With 100% of donations going directly into projects, this has shown us many of these struggles are preventable with the right resources and sustainable water source structures in place. Fully understanding the grave difference access to clean water makes in individuals' lives definitely keeps us motivated to continue working tirelessly on our mission!"
TOMO: How does Drop4Drop stay engaged with local communities, even after the well is built? What happens if a well breaks down?
Prisha: “The aftercare of Drop4Drop projects is an imperative part of our process. We have great relationships with our in-country partner teams on the ground, who train local community members on maintenance and up keeping their water source once the project has been implemented.
Wherever possible we set up water committees within the community, who are trained to tackle these issues themselves should they arise. However, our teams are always on hand to ensure the water sources are fully functioning should communities need to reach out.”
TOMO: You’ve worked on water projects in India, Africa, and in emergency relief situations. Why India and Africa?
Sam: “After first working with other UK-based charity partners that had the links with teams on the ground, we were frustrated that we weren't getting the accountability, efficiencies, and reporting we wanted. After some research, we found a partner in India that could offer a great partnership on all points and we haven't looked back since.
We have met with hundreds of organizations and follow our nose to work with people who are the right fit for our organization and who can offer this level of transparency and accountability that we require.
We found ourselves able to get exact community GPS locations, pictures, and videos of community members among other valuable information... This is super important for us and we wanted to be able to have complete transparency with our donors and show them exactly how far their donations have gone.
In our partner selection process, we also ensure they work with the best geologists and hydrologists to ensure that the projects will have longevity.
Up to 60% of the water points across Africa are down at any given time, this is marginally due to bad planning/management. So, we ensure we don’t have those problems by carefully selecting our partners and project locations.
We look for places that aren’t currently being reached by other organizations, and they have to be in it for the right reasons and fit with our ethos. All the places we work are where there is the greatest need but also where we find trailblazing and truly effective organizations to work with.
We couldn’t find this kind of accountability elsewhere, so we knew we had to be the charity to implement this!”
TOMO: Are there any unique challenges that arise from working in each of these areas?
Sam: “All the areas we work in come with their own unique sets of challenges. A lot of people have been let down by their governments, organizations, and other charities who promise and don't deliver, or if they do implement project it usually isn't designed to be sustainable and long- lasting. Many projects fall into disrepair, causing distrust in people's ability to deliver.
Managing expectations and people who are frustrated by broken promises can be difficult to navigate, but the partners we work with are experts and incredibly adept at working with the communities they live amongst to face those sorts of challenges.
Things like climate change can challenge the work as well - droughts, dropping water tables, or monsoons bring their own challenges to water sources. It’s important for the teams we work with to be adaptable in the face of these challenges. Problem-solving is a big part of deciding who we work with.
For instance, we worked in one area of India after a severe drought period. The water table dropped below the pump level – the team we work with quickly worked with those communities to purchase and access submersible pumps. They converted the wells to ensure they kept working until the water levels returned.”
Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic
TOMO: This past year has been tough for everyone, and areas of the world like India are still being ravaged by the pandemic. Would you be able to paint a picture of the challenges COVID-19 might bring to a community without clean water?
Prisha: “This past year has definitely been incredibly difficult for charities all around and we've seen the effects this has had particularly on community members and our in-country partners across our project locations.
We are still hearing a lot about these struggles from our partner in India as well. There are many challenges that COVID-19 has brought. These can be detrimental to a community without clean water, as they have no facilities to practice proper hand-washing techniques or sanitation procedures to fight the virus.
Our teams were granted essential worker status so they were able to try and combat this issue by setting up hand-wash stations. They are using their experience in water provision to train communities on sanitation techniques and ways they can try to fight the spread of the virus safely and effectively.”
Moving Towards a Better Future
TOMO: Drop4Drop has been helping communities gain access to clean water for over 10 years. What are some of the long-term effects you’ve seen of providing communities in need with clean water?
Prisha: “The provision of clean water to communities is incredibly life-changing, especially the long-term effects. With the provision of clean water, many community members are opened up to opportunities that may have been inaccessible before.
For example, this allows women and children, in particular, to reinvest time previously spent on water collection into opportunities for education and employment in the future if they choose and also be able to spend time with their families.
They can reclaim time that was lost to water collection to live a life without the worry of the basic necessity of water collection.”
TOMO: Do you plan to expand to other areas of the world in the future?
Prisha: “We are constantly looking to expand our areas of work to reach as many people in need as possible!
Our team travels out to each of the locations, meets the local communities and grassroots organizations, and carries out research into how safely and effectively we can work in each location to ensure we’re carrying out the best and most effective work possible.”
TOMO: I’ve seen some big-name celebrities show their support for Drop4Drop. Some who come to mind are Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran, Stella McCartney, and James Corden. What kind of value do these celebrity endorsements bring to Drop4Drop campaigns?
Prisha: “We are super grateful for the celebrity endorsements and campaigns we have done with celebrities like Ed Sheeran. Our campaign with Ed Sheeran back in 2018 actually provided clean water to over 300,000 people across India and countries of Africa, so this was a brilliant success and we loved working on it!
We’re grateful for the awareness campaigns like this raise for the World Water Crisis. It shows others how easy it is for all of us to provide clean water to thousands of people if we work together.”
TOMO: Drop4Drop partners with quite a few different companies outside of TOMO Bottle. Can you give us any takeaways from coordinating company partnerships? How different is it from the more traditional means of receiving donations?
Prisha: “We are really grateful for our partnerships, such as our relationship with TOMO, which has already provided clean water to 1,725 people. TOMO's third project is under construction in such a short space of time!
These company partnerships are essential for us as a charity, especially over the past couple of years due to the circumstances. We can’t stress enough how amazing it is for us to be able to work with a company that is also giving back and doing good.
It is also definitely easier to reach more people and provide more clean water in a short space of time if we work together!
Companies have a great power to make the right choice, and we’re super grateful for the people that are making those choices.
We believe there is real power in this and the demand from the consumer for an ethically minded company that’s doing positive things with their profits is something that is important to many people these days.”
TOMO: If a company or person wants to collaborate with Drop4Drop, what is the process like?
Prisha: “We are super open to collaborations and we love to team up with organizations who are looking to give back and partner up with a charity. I think some organizations maybe don't realize just how accessible it is for them to do!
If anyone would like to reach out about a partnership, they are welcome to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work with this organization to tailor the partnership in a way that works well for everyone.
A lot of people are really surprised at how little amounts can make such a difference, especially because 100% of all donations go directly into projects!
People are also surprised at the high level of accountability and reporting we provide that can be shared with companies’ consumers.
This is where we feel we’re unique as a charity, as we struggled to find this level of accountability and transparency elsewhere.
We have created the charity we would want to donate to and our donors are always blown away by the incredible difference they’re able to make.”
The TOMO team is grateful for the time Prisha and Sam put into answering our questions about the wonderful work Drop4Drop is doing in the world. The challenges that the World Water Crisis poses to the world may seem insurmountable, but it is thanks to each and every person’s effort that we can give the gift of clean water to those in need.
Julia Bratu, TOMO Team: Julia is a copywriter and content writer who specializes in sustainability and the luxury industry.
Her mission is to make complex topics more accessible to the average person by writing fun, reliable, and inspiring content.
Water Facts. Drop4Drop. (n.d.).
Collecting water is often a colossal waste of time for women and girls. UNICEF. (2016, August 29).
Kids' Health Issues: 2014. Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego. (n.d.).
Nauges, C., & Strand, J. (2013, May). Water Hauling and Girls' School Attendance. Policy Research Working Paper 6443.