Musician and activist Charlie Lowell from the band Jars of Clay talks about an exciting new development with his organization, Blood:Water Mission. They’re on track to completing their thousandth water project next spring!
It started with a simple equation. A human equation. One US dollar can provide clean water for one African for one year. Too often, we are paralyzed by overwhelming statistics regarding the world’s poorest nations, and any attempt feels like just a drop in the ocean of poverty and injustice. It’s the same value that ONE.org shares — that you and I can quite literally can make a difference in this world.
Five years ago, Blood:Water Mission started the 1,000 Wells Campaign on the back of this simple human equation. We wanted to partner with 1,000 communities in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing clean water to the people in each community. It’s the most basic of needs, but suddenly women and children are not forced to walk miles to collect (dirty) water from a local source. Boys and girls can attend school, women can start micro-finance projects, and the health of the whole community is immediately strengthened. It’s the first counter-punch at poverty.
Over the years, we have seen students, families, fraternities and youth groups connect with this simple story in such creative ways. A men’s fraternity in Florida holds a deep fried turkey fundraiser every Thanksgiving, raising a couple thousand dollars for clean water projects in Africa. Some high-schoolers in Tennessee held a prom fashion show one spring and talked about villages that were in need of clean water, raising awareness and support. Each summer, a team of cyclists ride from the west coast of the US to the east coast, stopping in towns to talk about the story of poverty and water, igniting a flame of compassion and generosity as they slowly make their way across this great country. At Jars of Clay concerts, we talk about the need and the effects of clean water, as well as support for those in Africa that are HIV-positive. We ask our audience to consider dropping just $1 in a bucket as a way to connect with one person in Africa, who is probably not unlike them.
This spring, we will complete the thousandth clean water project in Africa. What that really means is that about 700,000 Africans now have access to this building block of healthy, sustainable life. More than that, they have a hope for their future and for their children’s future that simply wasn’t there years ago. This is certainly not the end of the mission. We will celebrate the good work and the many partnerships, and then we will carry on — looking for more creative ways to support water projects, health clinics, hygiene and sanitation training, and AIDS support groups. These are some of the ways we will go deeper with communities we are already working with.
For the band, this story of hope in the face of suffering has certainly spilled into our lives and our songwriting. Our latest project, The Shelter, is a collaboration with other artists that celebrates community. It is based on an old Irish saying, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live”. It’s a picture we have seen time and time again in Africa — that we are all bound together by a human story, and that we truly do need one another.
Thanks to the many that have come alongside and taken ownership of this story of hope in Africa — whether you dropped a dollar in a box, led a campaign at your school or rode your bike across the US. It all makes a difference.
-Charlie Lowell, Jars of Clay/ Blood:Water Mission