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Nonprofit Works To Improve Water Accessibility In Zimbabwe

When Oklahoma State University (OSU) junior Lily Chavez studied abroad in Zimbabwe, she was shocked to discover the extreme measures women there must take to provide clean water for their families. The semester in the southeast African country inspired Chavez and other  OSU President’s Leadership Council students to create the nonprofit Wishes for Water, an organization designed to increase sustainable water accessibility by building wells in the nation’s rural Hurungwe School District.

Photo Courtesy Wishes For Water

While in Zimbabwe, Chavez was troubled by how difficult it was to access clean water. She received a letter from a Zimbabwean village head pleading for a sustainable and local source. 

Each day, women in the village had to travel miles to transport clean water for crops and to cook, drink, and bathe. Because of the distance, they did not have time to go to school or work. In addition, the water’s poor quality had negative health and financial effects on the community, even lowering school enrollments.

Chavez knew she had to help make a difference. On her return to Oklahoma, she further researched options for better, sustainable clean water access in the area. Chavez then gathered a team of students to help create a new nonprofit. She learned quickly that just one borehole for a well costs at least $15,000 — but even that doesn’t guarantee that water will be found or safe if so.

Wishes for Water was the result of her research. A team of students and university leaders helped Chavez reach the organization’s first goal: raising an initial $15,000 to build the first sustainable well.

The funds were raised not only by students but by the Stillwater, OK, community. Donors were entered into raffles for items like brewery tours and sporting events for every dollar donated.

Photo Courtesy Wishes For Water

“It’s amazing how we can change so much with something simple — a basic need,” Chavez said to the Stillwater News Press.

Wishes for Water now partners with international and local Zimbabwe nonprofit Tererai Trent International. Together, the two recently began construction of the first well. 

Chavez hopes it is one of many that changes the daily lives of rural Zimbabweans. She is particularly hopeful that the women of the impacted village, who used to spend their entire day in transit, are able to explore options for work and education. 

Overall, she also hopes their lives will be safer and that their children can attend school. In fact, villages that are able to build a supply have seen their school enrollment triple after a clean water source is added.

Photo Courtesy Wishes For Water

“We’re doing this not for ourselves or our resumes, but for the people whose lives seriously depend on this,” Chavez said to The O’Colly. “We want to uplift communities and see them grow and innovate. We know that change is very possible and very necessary.” 

Wishes for Water continues to grow in size and donors. The entire nonprofit team is driven to provide sustainable and clean water to more communities in Zimbabwe.

“The team is energetic, positive, and tenacious,” Joshua Taylor, Oklahoma State Hargis Leadership Institute director, told the Stillwater News Press. “They believe wholeheartedly in their mission.”

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