A refreshing nonprofit: student campaigns to provide access to drinking water worldwide
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Many American teenagers might be overwhelmed by (or ambivalent toward) global water crises. But Santa Barbara natives Spencer Dusebout, Scott Schurmer and Jack Davies challenged their peers to get involved. In 2008, the teenaged trio founded Hands4Others (H4O), a grassroots campaign dedicated to providing safe and sustainable access to drinking water around the world.
During his international travels, current Westmont third-year Dusebout witnessed extreme poverty in developing countries. On a trip to Belize as a fifteen year-old, Dusebout encountered children and women forced to spend most of each day locating and hauling small amounts of filthy water — water he would have considered unfit for showering with, let alone drinking.
H4O was Dusebout’s and his co-founders’ call for action. As they began to raise money to fund their first water system in Kenya, the small team expanded their mission. “H4O became a movement of young people intended to be the generation to solve the world’s water crisis,” said Dusebout. “There are such low expectations for young people these days, and we are motivated to defy those expectations. The work we have done, and the fact that we have expanded internationally, is a testimony that young people can make a difference.”
The nonprofit organization has now provided over 150,000 people in eleven countries with access to clean water. Dusebout shares H4O’s vision with audiences worldwide. He has led trips to Honduras, Kenya and Uganda, where young people have installed water filtration systems and assessed communities for future projects.
H4O has active chapters in a number of U.S. cities including San Francisco and Denver and has also formed partnerships with college students in Scotland and England. The recent launch of H4O clubs in high schools nationwide has provided students with the knowledge and resources to get involved. “H4O clubs really have the ability of transforming ordinary students into extraordinary leaders,” said Dusebout.
“H4O impacts more than just the villages that we visit,” said Dusebout. “It offers an opportunity for today’s youth to step outside of their own world and help others in need. H4O changes lives all over the world, including those of the communities of the youth who get involved.”
H4O has garnered the attention of young activists like 18 year-old ASP North American World Tour US Open Surf Champion Lakey Peterson. Peterson now champions H4O’s current clean water campaign and the launch of Safe Water Timor, a joint-initiative with Water Missions International.
Next month, the Santa Barbara chapter of Hands4Others will sponsor its annual Walk4Water, a fundraiser to raise awareness and funding to implement clean water solutions. All proceeds will help finish a three-year project to bring clean water to the entire island of Rote, India. The event is scheduled for May 10 at East Beach. For more information, visit www.sbwalk4water.org.