Earlier issues of Water Vartalaap have dwelt upon various aspects of WASH – ranging from water treatment practices to means of facilitating drinking water to urban slums. While advocating the role of government and corporates to address this concern, we also applauded institutes who have been sensitizing the masses on this issue while discovering novel approaches to tackle the same.

The problem of access to safe drinking water has been discussed threadbare across various fora and channels but is all lost, or can this condition be salvaged in any way? There are indeed scores of people across countries and continents who have been contributing in big or small ways to resolve this crisis. Water Vartalaap marks the beginning of this new year with some inspiring and encouraging stories of such people.

While the problem is of epic proportions, it is seen that sometimes compassion, drive, and inspiration are all that’s required to resolve it at a local or individual level. This is evident from Leon Mc Laughlin’s story. Leon was a shoe-shine operator in Seattle for 25 years. Occasional travel to poor and developing countries piqued his interest in the problem of lack of safe drinking water. He gained preliminary information and knowledge about water purification from his customers who worked as waterworks engineers. Thereafter he even took a course in Water Management. He then went on not only to build a portable water purification system that didn’t require electricity or a complicated set-up but also to start a non-profit organization called “Clean Water Foundation”.

Instances of genuine interest in resolving the issue (of safe drinking water) and consideration for fellow human beings have been witnessed closer home as well. Venkataramana’s passion for creating a social impact led her to take up an assignment in Jaldhaara Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides access to safe drinking water and works towards social transformation in the areas of water, sanitation, and hygiene. Her job entails conducting programs to disseminate knowledge about the health benefits of consuming clean drinking water and maintaining hygiene. Apart from her zeal for her work, Ramana also displayed a keen interest in learning and developing her skills in the area of community work. While working, she also completed a Master’s program in Sociology, despite the frequent travelling as required by her job.

Likewise, Deepika took up a job as the operator of a water purification plant in Vibutipura in Bangalore. The area was facing the problem of contaminated water because of which water-borne illnesses were widespread. Concerned about the situation, Deepika wanted to contribute in some way to relieve the area of its water problems. She got the perfect opportunity not only to play a part in providing safe drinking water to her community, but also to simultaneously earn a livelihood when WaterHealth installed a purification plant in Vibhutipura. Deepika immediately opted to get trained for the job of operating the plant, her zeal for the job ensured her selection. Today Deepika is well-aware of the water purification process and the benefits of consuming safe water, which she shares with her friends and neighbours for widespread adoption of safe drinking water practices.

These and thousands of such instances across the world act as perhaps the proverbial ‘tiny drops’ that eventually form the ocean i.e. in their own small way such ‘unsung heroes’ together have the ability to resolve large-scale global problems like limited or no access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. The following sections highlight some more such stories.

We would also encourage all our readers to share stories of such unsung heroes that they have come across and we would love to share them through our publications.

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