790 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. SDG 6 challenges the world to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” Today, this is a challenging issue. Collecting water in places that do not have it readily accessible can take all day. Many girls cannot go to school because they must venture to other islands or villages to collect drinking water for their families. In 2018, girls are still not able to receive an equal education because of developmental problems. This must change.
Sophie Hollingsworth, an American Health Security Specialist, founded AquaAid International after seeing the impact of a volatile water supply in Panama. After years of commitment, her organization has helped over 800 people in communities in Nicaragua, Vanuatu, and Namibia to access clean water locally. The systems that AquaAid designs and establishes for communities are unique. They build water filtration systems completely out of local, sustainable materials so that villages can drink surface water from nearby rivers and collected rain water, rather than trekking long distances to dug wells. They also educate communities about the project so that they can maintain their system themselves, without the help of outsiders. AquaAid teaches the people on how they can make the most out of their filtration system and life lessons such as the importance of hand washing to improve public health. Many germs were being spread through daily work, which expanded quickly if people did not clean them off. The children that follow and teach the lessons have become agents of change in their communities. They spread their knowledge to others, who also follow the lessons, until they become normal customs.
Sophie has dedicated a large portion of her adult life to water accessibility and education, and as a result made an extensive effect on communities and the world. At only 16, she began her efforts by researching the issue and founded the nonprofit organization AquaAid by the time she was 18. Sophie believes that she was able to accomplish her goals at such a young age because she asked for help. Other people with more knowledge in a certain topic were able to fill in the gaps in her research and work, and piece together the entire organization.
I am inspired by Sophie’s determination and effort put into helping others. She is one of my role models, and I was honored to be able to interview her about her projects. Early on Sunday morning, she video chatted with me from Australia, and I am tremendously appreciative that she helped me fill in the gaps in my knowledge about accessible water.
With the help of organizations like AquaAid, achieving the goal of sustainable water for all is becoming more and more possible everyday. SDG 6, which aims to accomplish this by 2030, gives these organizations a goal to strive towards in their work. Although the time restraint might be shorter than what some scientists may think possible, it pushes everyone to work together to reach this aspiration someday.
I asked Sophie what we can do as individuals to help. She suggested that we think about how much water we use when showering, washing dishes, or doing laundry. By being more aware of this, we might be able to reduce our usage and be able to think more about the rest of the world. How can the water we use daily impact an entire community?