Charity Tuesday: Rachel’s Ninth Birthday Wish for Charity Water

Rachel Charity Water PageInstead of asking for gifts like most girls turning nine, Rachel Beckwith only asked that her friends and family donate to Charity: Water so that more children would live to see their fifth birthday. When her own birthday arrived on June 12, she had raised $220 — a very admirable amount, but $80 short of her goal.

Sadly, Rachel was involved in a serious car accident. She spent three days in the hospital before passing away on July 23, 2011,  just a little more than a month after her ninth birthday.

In the days following, thousands of people visited Rachel’s Charity Water Page to donate money to her campaign and leave messages for Rachel and her family. On the page, Rachel wrote about her reason for starting the fundraising campaign:

“On June 12th 2011, I’m turning 9. I found out that millions of people don’t live to see their 5th birthday. And why? Because they didn’t have access to clean, safe water so I’m celebrating my birthday like never before. I’m asking from everyone I know to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday. Every penny of the money raised will go directly to fund freshwater projects in developing nations. Even better, every dollar is “proved” when the projects are complete, and photos and GPS coordinates are posted using Google Earth. My goal is to raise $300 by my birthday, June 12, 2011. Please consider helping me.”

Though it is sobering to read this message in light of Rachel’s passing, there is much inspiration to be taken from the comments beneath it. Thousands of people have donated, and beside their donations they have left their sympathies and well wishes.

UPDATE: Her initial campaign is now closed. The final donation total was 1,265,823.

Rachel’s mother Samantha posted a message thanking everyone for their donations and kind words:

“I am in awe of the overwhelming love to take my daughters dream and make it a reality. In the face of unexplainable pain you have provided undeniable hope. Thank you for your generosity! I know Rachel is smiling!”

More than $160,000 worth of the donations were raised by Rachel’s church. It was at this church that Charity: Water’s co-founder came to speak, thus inspiring Rachel to start her campaign. Visit Rachel’s Charity: Water for information on how you can help continue the legacy left by 9 year old girl.

Fighting the Heat – Chicago Urges Citizens Not to Open Fire Hydrants

Water hydrantYou’ve seen the image before. A hot summer day, everyone sweating, and a fire hydrant is opened up. Water goes everywhere and kids scream in delight. While we all view that as classic summer fun, a recent article in the New York Times suggests that the city of Chicago isn’t eager to join in on the fun because opening up a fire hydrant is illegal. And now the city is looking for way to crack down on it.

Chicago has been going through a heat wave recently, with heat indexes climbing up to 108 degrees on some days. The city has taken issue with the opening of fire hydrants because it affects the way the Chicago Fire Department operates and how it extinguishes fires. Chicago’s Department of Water Management released a few figures that have the city worried. Over 18,000 fire hydrants were opened illegally in 2010 and open fire hydrants lose nearly 34,000 gallons of water per hour. The resulting total damage adds up to “hundreds of thousands of dollars” every year as well as low water pressure for several citizens.

Alternatives to opening fire hydrants have been offered, including by Alderman Edward Burke of the 14th Ward. His plan involves a new bill that calls for the opening of water recreational facilities, such as pools and spray parks, though locals are unconvinced that these facilities will ever be opened. Not to mention that the cost of a full water park has a price tag of $400,000.

Alderman Robert Maldonado of the 26th Ward of Chicago supports Burke’s new bill. But he also has reservations that echoes the complaint many in the community have. “It’s a tradition of decades and decades and decades to open up those fire hydrants,” argues Maldonado.

It’s a tough decision for city planners and officials to make. Opening fire hydrants is part of the city’s colorful history and one of the more fruitful methods for combating growing heat problems. But it’s also a costly expenditure for the city and its citizens, and alternatives like Burke’s water facility bill may hopefully offer the compromise many are seeking.

Hydration Stations: Wave of the Future?

The drinking water fountain has been around for centuries, but two different men invented the modern drinking fountain in the early 1900’s: Halsey Willard Taylor, and Luther Haws. Each man founded a company that produced drinking fountains. Taylor founded the Halsey Taylor Company, and Haws the Haws Sanitary Drinking Faucet Co. The way that water is served in public places was changed by Taylor and Haws.

Halsey Taylor developed his drinking fountain in part because his father had died from typhoid fever caused by water that was contaminated. Luther Haws worked both as a part-time plumber and as a sanitary inspector in Berkeley, Calif. One day at a public school he was inspecting he saw children drinking water from a tin cup tied to a faucet. Both men shared fears about the health risks associated with public drinking water. Water fountains developed by both men are still widely in use around the world.

In a couple of earlier blogs we mentioned two ongoing efforts to map U.S. water fountains, both smartphone apps: Thermos‘ Oasis Places, and WeTap, started by The Pacific Institute and Google. WeTap’s current map shows that this effort has spread across the U.S. from its origins in Berkeley, Calif. and the Bay Area. Dr. Peter Gleick, President of The Pacific Institute, maintains that the declining availability of drinking fountains has led to the rise of bottled water sales: “one of the reasons for the explosive growth in the sales of bottled water in the past two decades (the average American now drinks nearly 30 gallons of commercial bottled water per year, up from 1 gallon in 1980), is the disappearance of public drinking water fountains.”

Today, many feel that the drinking water fountain may be going the way of the telephone booth. Concerns about the sanitation and safety of drinking water fountains may be fueling their loss, in addition to boosting bottled water’s popularity. But bottled water has been shown to be dangerous to the environment and user, as well as being prohibitively expensive. An attractive alternative are hydration stations, machines that deliver filtered water, which are being installed in many schools and offices. In addition to the water offered by hydration stations often being purer and safer than drinking water fountains and bottled water, they help eliminate single use plastic bottles. Hydration stations are especially popular on college campuses, where activist students have been making others aware of the disadvantages of bottled water, and raising awareness about the safety of schools’ drinking water fountains. Maybe hydration stations will eventually supplant water fountains and even bottled water as the source of choice for drinking water.