From daily trips to the campus Starbucks, to nights out in downtown Denver, many college students spend more than they intend to on beverages throughout the week. However, what may seem like a small expenditure in the United States can really add up to something much larger across the globe. The Wells Project, a new initiative at Mines, is challenging students to undergo a small sacrifice to make a big difference for families in Rwanda.
“The 10 day project is an effort to raise funds and awareness for the water crisis in Rwanda,” explained Hannah Thomas, President of The Wells Project, and an undergraduate student in the Petroleum Engineering department. Each November, participants forego all beverages except water for ten days and then donate the money they would have spent on drinks to building water wells in Rwanda.
The enterprise, which turns a decade old this month, draws participants from 25 universities and has funded 26 new wells in Rwanda to date.
“It’s neat to now have a network of other campuses that are doing the Wells Project all across the nation,” Thomas said. She first heard about the effort, which is coordinated through Living Water International, several years ago from friends at Texas A&M. Listening to a podcast by one of the board members inspired her to start a 10 days project at Mines—just days before the November 2016 campaign was set to begin. Thomas’ fledgling group managed to raise $900 that year, which goes quite far when it comes to water wells.
“The average American spends enough on beverages in 10 days to give a family of four in Rwanda water for 10 years,” Thomas explained. All money donated goes to the construction of new wells, which works towards quenching the thirst of the 45% of Rwandans who currently lack access to safe drinking water. In addition to providing clean water, the Wells Project also aims to teach locals about sanitation and bring new jobs to the area.
“The community involvement side goes to the local church or the community at large and teaches them about sanitation,” Thomas stated. “Many people just aren’t aware of the diseases that are in the water that they are drinking and so they have a big celebration at the end when the well is ready to go.”
Living Water International also hires local citizens to maintain the wells and troubleshoot any issues that might arise, which provides new jobs in the area and ensures that each well is a sustainable community fixture.
“You can see pictures of the people and pictures of the well,” explained Thomas. “It is a really tangible thing. It is not money that is going to some fund and you never see the impact you have.” While Living Water International has projects all across the globe, the funds raised through the 10 days initiative go entirely towards constructing new wells in the district of Ruhango in Rwanda, which specifically helps women and children in the area.
“If the men are out working, then the women have to get the water,” Thomas discussed. “They walk like four miles a day to get water and sometimes it is not even clean or may be from a river that is contaminated.” Members of The Wells Project at Mines fill large gasoline jugs with water to allow participants to experience how difficult this journey can be.
While the 10 days project at CSM raised $1,769 this year, Thomas’ next goal for the initiative is to obtain Tier 2 status through the Board of Student Organizations so that all funds raised can go directly towards building new wells. Regardless, the organization helps even those on a very tight budget to make a difference.
“What I really like about it is that it can be tailored to however much money you spend on beverages,” Thomas said. “It really just depends on you and it is a personal sacrifice that you make.”