About 100 University of Toledo students walked four miles Saturday around the main campus with gallon jugs of water in hand to raise awareness of the lack of access to drinkable water in underdeveloped countries and to raise money for a water purification unit for Haiti.
"The walk is four miles long because we want people to get a feel for how far someone in a developing country has to walk to get water," said Antonia Chavez, 19, a UT sophomore and the director of the Walk 4 Water event. "You can prevent suffering from countries around the globe."
Ms. Chavez coordinated the event, timed to coincide with Earth Day, that kicked off about 1 p.m. at UT's Centennial Mall, where participants assembled in front of a working electric water purification unit. Organizers hoped to sell at least enough $10 T-shirts to raise the $750 that such a purification unit costs, she said.
Drops of water trickled from the purifier as event participants bought the shirts and checked out the unit. Others picked up the plastic one-gallon water jugs or gathered brochures from Clean Water for the World, a nonprofit organization in Kalamazoo, Mich., whose representatives spoke with event volunteers over a deafening beat of rap music blaring from loudspeakers.
The brochures quoted World Health Organization estimates that one child death occurs worldwide every 15 seconds from water-related disease, including 1.8 million annual deaths from diarrhea. For children younger than 5, water-related diseases are the leading cause of death. At any given time, half the world's hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from water-related disease.
"I just care about people," Kelly Quarando, 21, a UT senior majoring in biology, said to explain her participation. "It's really unfortunate that people around the world don't have access to clean drinking water."
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The event's inspiration came from Western Michigan University, where such events began, Ms. Chavez said.
Chuck Dombrowski, 68, a retired Cleveland businessman who is a Clean Water for the World board member, said the first walk was held there three years ago and has become an annual event. The group seeks to provide simple, adaptable water purification systems, at no charge, to communities without access to drinkable water, the group's mission statement says.
The unit on display was destined for Haiti, Ms. Chavez said. Organizers chose the country to illustrate the need for potable water in underdeveloped countries, and photos and statistics were displayed on stands alongside the purification unit.
Just one such unit can supply clean drinking water to a village of 300 families, according to event organizers.
"Here [in the United States], we use 80 to 100 gallons of water each day," said Dr. Celia Regimbal, assistant professor in UT's department of early childhood, physical, and special education and the faculty adviser for the event. "In these third-world countries, they only use about 5 gallons per day. This event supports a noble cause."
The 90-minute event was hosted by UT's Christian Service Program and the Catholic Student Association.
Contact Mike Sigov at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6089.