622 PICS

Water for Life

My dream assignment is to use a combination of photojournalism and volunteer work to improve access to clean water for the world’s poor, by supporting international organizations already engaged in battling the world water crisis.


Clean water is the source of life, and the foundation for all sustainable development. It is perhaps one of the most basic human needs, and yet one of the biggest challenges facing our world today. However, it is an issue we can do something about--and I would like to try.

According to former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Anan,

“Water is essential for life. Yet many millions of people around the world face water shortages. Many millions of children die every year from water-borne diseases, and drought regularly afflicts some of the world’s poorest countries. The world needs to respond much better… This is an urgent matter of human development, and human dignity. Together, we can provide safe, clean water to all the world’s people.”
(March 22, 2023 - http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/specialevents/waterdecade-sg.rm )


My dream assignment, therefore, is to use a combination of photojournalism and volunteer work to improve access to clean water for the world’s poor, by supporting international organizations already engaged in battling the world water crisis.


I have spent the last 4 years doing documentary photojournalism for international development organizations, mostly in East Africa. Although I have documented a wide array of development work, ranging from micro-enterprise and agricultural development to maternal and child health, the issue that keeps grabbing ahold of me is this issue of water. Very often I find myself photographing people drawing water from dirty rivers, like in northern Uganda this past year, or rejoicing over clean water from wells, like in Southern Sudan a few years ago (http://gazette.gmu.edu/articles/13342/ or http://www.globalhealth.org/conference/view_top.php3?id=795 ).

At the end of 2008, I spent 3 months conducting a health needs assessment of a rural population in Rwanda, as the capstone to a Masters Degree in Global Health. My research revealed that the greatest concern of that community is by far the absence of clean, safe drinking water. As one farmer said to me:

“Clean water is life. But if you could see our water source, the river… dogs die there, cows defecate there, people bathe there, and then we drink! Is there really life there?!”


I plan to partner with a few carefully-selected humanitarian organizations who are already doing significant work related to water. I would visit their projects in various countries, volunteering my time and my photography experience to help them communicate the important work they do, in order to raise funds for future work. (Please see list of possible partner organizations, below.) One example might be Living Water International, which works in more than 22 countries on 4 continents to bring daily access to safe, clean water to over 6.9 million people. LWI confronts the global water crisis, as well as hygiene and sanitation development, through a community-based approach of training, consulting and equipping.


• 5,000 children die every day from water-born illnesses. That’s roughly one child every 15 seconds.

• 1.1 billion people live without access to clean water—that’s nearly one sixth of the world’s population.

• 90 percent of all diseases in the world are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and poor hygiene.

• At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.

• Every year, 4 billion cases of diarrhea result from drinking contaminated water; this results in more than 2.2 million deaths each year—the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing every day.

• In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 40 billion hours of labor are wasted each year carrying water over long distances.


It is abundantly evident that water is indispensable for human health and well-being. In fact, according to the United Nations Development Program, “Clean water and sanitation are among the most powerful preventative medicines for reducing child mortality. They are…a mechanism for reducing risk and averting death.” (UNDP, 2006)

Yet statistics also indicate a two-way relationship between extreme poverty and lack of access to safe water. Access to clean water is the foundation for other forms of development. Without easy access to water that is safe…
1) countless hours are spent in water collection rather than income-generating work
2) household income is spent on purchasing water and medical treatment for water-related diseases
3) children who suffer from water-borne illnesses experience reduced cognitive potential, increased absenteeism, and early drop-out
All of these factors contribute to keeping people trapped in poverty.

As the World Health Organization aptly states, “Water management is a key factor in the global battle to remove the scourge of extreme poverty and to build secure and prosperous lives for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world.” (WHO, 2007)


Living Water International - www.water.cc
Population Services International – www.psi.org
LOTI – www.lotint.org
Lifewater International – http://www.lifewater.org/
Blood:Water Mission - http://www.bloodwatermission.org/
Water for People - http://www.waterforpeople.org/
WaterPartners International – www.water.org
Global Water – www.globalwater.org
Water Missions International – www.watermissions.org
PATH – www.path.org
CARE – www.care.org
H2O Africa Foundation - http://www.h2oafrica.org/
Water Advocates – www.wateradvocates.org
Water and Sanitation Programme – www.wsp.org


World Water Council - http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/index.php?id=25&L=0%20onfocus%3DblurLink
UN Water - http://www.unwater.org/
Millenium Water Alliance – www.mwawater.org
Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council - http://www.wsscc.org/



Rank: 30



You have thought this out and water is so essential to our world. I hope you get to do this project. It really is a good one. Sherrlyn Borkgren
Please consider voting for mine too.


I love how your dream (and so many others) is something that will help others. It also sounds like your work would have a big impact, since you'd be partnering with existing organizations and it's something that so many so badly need.

Good luck!


Awesome, awesome.
God bless and Godspeed!


You are off with a lot of votes early for a great idea. Good luck. I voted for your dream. I believe in Pay it Forward, the Golden Rule, and affirming the worth of people and their dreams.


You are amazing and your ideas are inspiring! I celebrate the fact that you are following your dreams. Clean water is so simple yet so important, hope you win!


A great project! I voted. Please consider my project!


Beware of "votes for votes". It's a scam that gets you nowhere.


Great job. Where can we see some of your most recent pics of water and travels?


This is a great idea. There really are so many great ideas out there that are hardly getting the exposure they deserve due to this online popularity contest. Hope you and I can make it up to the top 20!


An awesome book that I really liked on this subject was "Not a Drop to Drink" by Ken Midkiff. Very important topic.


Nelly Anderson requested that i do this.
i am trying to stay alive myself.
i love life again.
love, Emit.


Your pictures are amazing...good luck with the project!


This is a fabulous idea. So many need clean water to survive...so many lives may be helped through this project. The benefits of documenting this human crisis will go on and on...

Thanks for reminding us to dream big and to take risks!


Great idea. Hope you win!!! This would be a wonderful project. We are behind you!
Kerry and Rick


You definitely have my vote. I hope you win.


Wonderful project idea - a picture is worth a thousand words and your photos will go a long way!


Your pictures are amazing, Sarah. I continue to be proud of the work you are doing. Good luck with this project!


Great idea Sarah! You are doing amazing work


Yeah Sarah Day!


Good luck Sarah! - Pete Cairns


Good luck Sarah -- your photographs and your project are fantastic. Kit Goldfarb


Beautiful work, Sarah; and more beautiful still your compassionate cause. All the very best to you! Louis Anderson


Sarah-I love that your dreams go far beyond yourself, whether you know it or not you're adding beauty to the world every day through your love and compassion for others!


way to go sarah! we are totally behind you in this!


Very good work Sarah! Good Luck. Teshome Lemma, MWP-Ethiopia


Way to go, Sarah!


Beautiful pictures and a wonderful idea. All the best.


good luck, sarah!


Hey Sarah, I think I finally figured out how to vote for you! You're project sounds amazing and I'll be praying you win! We all voted for you! Hope we can see you soon and God Bless you as you use your many talents to help those in such desperate need! Annie Thompson and Family

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