Kristin MacKenzie '13, December 13th, 2011
The facts are out thereâ€”884 million people in the world lack access to clean water and a child dies every 15 seconds because of water-related disease.
Five years ago, a group of Texas A&M students personified what Aggies do bestâ€”they recognized a need and did something about it. They created The Wells Project, an organization that raises awareness and funds for the current water crisis in Africa.
“It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own lives, our own luxury, our comfortâ€”especially when the message of society is often, “It’s all about me,'” Mays student Valerie Whitt ’12 emphasizes.
“I remember being moved by the reality of the water crisis,” says Whitt, who served as the 2011 Wells Project president. “I realized how clean, safe water was something I took for granted every day.”
The Wells Project’s mission also hit home with accounting major Will Whitehill ’13, newly appointed president for 2012. “I have a passion for the thirsty,” he says. “When I saw them on campus a few years ago and found out about the cause, I knew The Wells Project was for me. The things it stood for were the same passions God had laid on my heart.”
A growing issue
“Water is the most basic human necessity, but roughly one out of eight people do not have access to clean, safe drinking water,” Whitehill says.
Often referred as the “silent crisis” for its ability to slip out of media headlines, the global water crisis claims more lives than any wars or natural disasters. It halts progress of developing countries, forcing the impoverished to live in vulnerability and uncertainty.
“While we can conveniently walk to our sink and fill a glass of water without fear of getting sick and dying, there are hundreds of millions of people in the world that lack access to clean water,” says Whitt. “But instead of feeling guilty or overwhelmed by this reality, we can feel empowered.”
Empowered to create change
In 2007, a group of Aggies, motivated by their faith to create change, founded The Wells Project. The Wells Project is partnered with the Houston-based nonprofit Living Water International. The organization seeks to engage Aggies in the global water crisis by funding clean water wells in communities across the globe.
Whitt says the solution of drilling wells is “simple and sustainable.” “It is estimated that just one dollar can provide clean water for one person for an entire year,” she stresses.
Whitehill calls the organization “more than a social group or resume builder,” but says, “The Wells Project is a place for students to work for a common purpose and to bring an end to something that is affecting 884 million people around the world.”
The Wells Project members are divided into three teams: campus outreach, community outreach and an event team. Each member’s talents and passions are highlighted, as they “pour their energy” into campaigns around the Bryan/College Station area, says Whitt.
According to Eric Newman ’11, the 2010 president and current advisor to the organization, The Wells Project’s reach isn’t constrained to A&M. “Here’s the coolest part,” he says. “What started at A&M in 2007 is spreading to campuses across the nation. This year, more than 20 colleges and universities (from Southern Cal and Pepperdine to Virginia and Georgia Tech) participated in 10 Days, The Wells Project’s biggest campaign.”
“It’s been very cool to see the growth not only internally, but also externally as other schools develop their Wells Projects based off of Texas A&M’s model,” Whitt adds.
10 Days Campaign
The Wells Project’s largest annual campaign centers on a simple premiseâ€”spend less to give more.
The 10 Days Campaign is a Living Water International initiative predominantly launched through The Wells Project on college campuses, and encourages students to make water their only beverage for 10 days. Students donate the money saved from not spending on coffee, soda, etc., and that money funds the drilling of wells around the world.
Whitt puts the 10 Days Campaign into perspectiveâ€””Imagine how many lives you can change if you give up a couple coffees? If you and your roommates gave up a couple coffees? If every student at Texas A&M gave up just one coffee? It’s exciting to think about. You matter, and every little bit helps.”
This year’s campaign (held Oct. 10-19) raised more than $70,000 nationally, with nearly $20,000 coming from The Wells Project Texas A&M.
The business of compassion
Although the organization boasts a wide variety of talents and majors (“from engineers, to business students, education majors and biology,” as Whitt says), Mays students have predominately led The Wells Project.
The founder, Henry Proegler ’09 (finance), 2010 president Eric Newman ’11 (business honors/management), 2011 president Valerie Whitt ’12 (business honors/supply chain) and 2012 president Will Whitehill ’13 (accounting) say the invaluable lessons they learn in class translate into their leadership of The Wells Project.
“The skills and abilities I have learned in my business classes have affected the way our community team interacts with the community and has opened my eyes to more efficient, effective and engaging ways to partner with businesses, schools and churches,” Whitehill says of his time at Mays.
Whitt agrees, saying, “Being a business student has helped in the logistics and marketing of running a large scale campaign, as well as in the general management of an organization of 50 members and learning to lead effectively. We strategize how to best engage the students at Texas A&M, how to most effectively and clearly communicate our message, and constantly evaluate to see how we can improve and continue to grow and sustain this organization.”
A promising future for The Wells Project
Taking the reigns as president, Whitehill says he’s honored and privileged to serve in the position. “The presidents before me have established a legacy of dedication and service to the Wells Project, which is something I plan to uphold and instill in future presidents.”
With a significantly increasing number of members each year, Whitehill has big plans for The Wells Project’s future, including events involving athletics, campus “water days,” and a group mission trip to an affected country.
Regardless of the plans, Whitehill says The Wells Project’s purpose remains clearâ€” “Creating awareness about the water crisis and its effects is at the forefront of what we do, so finding a way to make the campus more informed and passionate about the water crisis is one of our biggest goals as we prepare for this next year.”