This is a story about how one person can make a huge impact on thousands of people in another continent by sharing our most precious resource — water.
It all started on a date night in 2008.
Sheryl Coyne-Batson and her husband, Bryan Batson, decided to check out the indie film “Flow: For Love of Water.” The movie showcases an unsettling trend in our access to water as the world’s dwindling fresh water supply is rapidly becoming privatized. Before viewing the film, Sheryl had no idea that most humans live on less than 5 gallons of water a day. And, on average people walk four miles to access those five gallons. Besides the long walk, access is challenging since five gallons of water weighs 40 pounds.
To put that in perspective, most of us use more than five gallons before we even head out the door in the morning, freshly showered, teeth brushed, and our favorite beverage in hand. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water per day.
The movie had a profound effect on Sheryl, and she knew she had to take action immediately. She wasn’t a conservationist at the time, but Sheryl knew that the problem was immense:
- 783 million people lack access to clean water
- Almost 2.5 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation
- Every minute a child dies from a preventable water-related illness
- Water collection is a task that is traditionally performed by girls and women. They spend a combined 140 million hours a day collecting water, which has profound implications for educating girls.
In April of 2008, Sheryl and Bryan co-founded a non-profit, Ten for 10 | Water for Africa. The goal of Ten for 10 is to:
- Provide greater access to clean water
- Decrease preventable water-related illnesses
- Increase access to education, especially for girls
- Allow for better sanitation
Sheryl and Bryan started fundraising by holding pop-up dinners in 2008. They started with 10 people in their dining room, with local guest chefs cooking. In turn, the 10 guests provided 10 people with clean water (“Ten for 10”).
Their dinners were so successful that they eventually transformed their living room into a dining room. Now Ten for 10 raises money throughout the year through community awareness and partnerships. On February 25, 2017, Ten for 10 will host a dinner in Plano, Texas, featuring Chef Tre Wilcox of Top Chef fame. (There are a few seats left if you’d like to support them.)
As they established goals and created an infrastructure, Sheryl and Bryan learned that every $1 invested in water and sanitation equates to an $8 economic return due to increased productivity. They also learned that simplicity is truly an art. For example, the well location methodology created by their water partner that was eventually adopted by 7 other NGOs. One critical part of the methodology was to situate water sources near schools, so girls were encouraged to attend. Selling water is considered women’s work, and the seller gets voted in by members of the community. This creates jobs for women and role models for girls.
So, what difference can a person make? A huge one! Since Sheryl and Bryan launched Ten for 10:
- Over 4,000 people received clean water
- 14.6 million hours were saved on water collection activities. To give you perspective, this equates to 238 years. That is an incredible opportunity to divert time, effort, and resources to farming, education, and improved sanitation.
For more information about Sheryl’s work, or to make a donation, please check out Tenfor10.org.