By Brian Henry
The Thirst Project was launched 10 years ago when, at the age of 19, Seth Maxwell and some friends handed out water bottles in Hollywood to educate people about the water crisis.
Since then, The Thirst Project has been collecting money to build freshwater wells, latrines, and hand washing stations in developing countries as part of its goal to provide safe and clean drinking water to the 663 million people who do not currently have access to it.
"It's not just a big number. What it practically means is that in developing communities around the world, women and children will walk from their homes to whatever standing water sources are available," Thirst Project CEO and Co-Founder, Seth Maxwell told Cheddar on Thursday.
Maxwell told Cheddar that those rivers, ponds, or swamps are often shared with animals that drink and defecate in the same water, causing very serious, but preventable, waterborne illnesses.
"Most people don't realize that diarrhea or dysentery actually kills more kids every year than HIV and malaria combined."
In celebration of World Water Day on Friday, Maxwell is going back to L.A. where the project was launched a decade ago.
"We're going back to Hollywood and Highland, having a press conference to talk about what we've accomplished and also cast the vision for where we're going next. "
"We've worked with 2.3 million students who have raised over $10 million dollars. And we commit to give 100 percent of all that money directly to building water projects. All of our operating expenses are funded by a private group of donors led by our board. Those students have helped us give 390,000 people in 13 countries safe, clean water. For us, seeing that needle move, knowing that when we started a decade ago, 1.1 billion people didn't have safe water and today its 663 million, we will absolutely see the end of this. Not just in our lifetime, it's in the next 15 to 20 years."
While there are other organizations working to bring water to developing countries, The Thirst Project stands out because of their focus on youth involvement.
"We actually have a school tour that travels across the country speaking at assemblies at high schools and colleges to educate students about the water crisis. Then those students do dances, video game tournaments, walks, fundraisers to build awareness and funds to build water projects around the world."
Maxwell stressed to Cheddar that the water is the "single most pressing humanitarian crisis that we face as a global community."
"If you care about education and you want to go about trying to build schools or outfitting them with teachers to try and combat education inequality, you can't do that if all of your kids are out walking 6 to 8 hours a day, quite literally, just to fetch dirty, contaminated water. Or if they're home sick with easily preventable waterborne diseases. So if you care about education, you care about water. If you care about food and hunger, you can't develop agricultural initiatives without safe and sustainable water. It really does touch and impact every single sector of community life and development. I really think it is the most pressing crisis we face as a global community."
Following the World Water Day press event, a Walk for Water kicks off. Members of the Thirst Project will be joined by celebrity supporters like Garrett Clayton, Steven R. McQueen, Monique Coleman, Chester See, and Charisma Carpenter.
Ahead of the event, Maxwell reminded Cheddar just how far a small donation can go.
"Twenty-five dollars ー not once a month, not once a year, [just] one time ー gives one person safe, clean water for the rest of their lives. "
For full interview click here.