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Clean water and the gift of time

By Scott Harrison, Founder of charity: water

In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren pointedly states that, time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it.” Having spent thousands of hours visiting charity: water projects in the field, I’ve seen firsthand how circumstance limits that set amount of time for the 663 million people around the world living without clean water. I’ve also seen clean water change lives in the most transformational way: by returning time in their days.


Photo credit: charity:water

Today alone, women and girls in Sub-Saharan Africa will waste 21 million hours fetching water for their families. However, when a clean water access point comes to a community, those women are given the most wonderful gift–the gift of time. For these women and girls, time means so much more than just hours in a day; it means the opportunity to be in school, start a business, or raise a family.


Photo credit: charity:water

A woman we met in Mali named Bintou used to wake up before sunrise and spend three hours each morning waiting in line to collect dirty water from an open well outside her village. However, when her village received solar-powered pumps, a water tower, and a series of tap stands, families had access to clean water right outside their homes. For Bintou, this meant increased health, strength, and time to work on her pottery–doubling her income. And she is not alone. Tencia in Mozambique saw her bread-baking business (for which water is an essential ingredient) grow from $89/year to more than $178, and Umu in Mali saw her hairstyling appointments double. For them, water changed everything. More than economic return, however, the gift of clean water gives women an opportunity to enjoy their life in a more dignified way.


Photo credit: charity:water

“Before the water taps,” Umu tells us, “we used to spend all day getting water from the open well. Sometimes we didn’t even get water. But now it’s easy. We wake up early and do work quickly; we have time to earn money and do other things — even take a rest. We didn’t think this day would ever come… it has changed our life.”

There is a powerful and humbling clarity that takes place when we’re able to slow down and appreciate how precious our time truly is. It’s even more powerful when we are able to give that gift to others in order to reach their fullest potential. We’ve been grateful to work with the Caterpillar Foundation for the past five years to walk alongside hundreds of thousands of women, providing time and dignity through clean water.

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