Water is Life

Imagine your day without water. You wake up. You don’t shower or brush your teeth. You don’t water your lawn or wash your car. And yet, you could still live without these activities. What you can’t live without, is water to drink.  

Water is Life. It is not only a fact; it’s an Edmond based, non-profit international effort to bring clean drinking water to as many people as possible. Ken Surritte, Water Is Life president, was in Africa when it really hit him; the absolute and undeniable need for water.

“I was in Nairobi getting ready to leave Kenya. I had the shower turned on and it was the first hot water I’d seen in a long time. The overwhelming thought of ‘water is life’ came over me. Truly in Africa, water is life. The kids I had just seen in the orphanage would give anything for the water that I was letting go down the drain,” said Surritte.

He and others started an effort to deliver water to areas lacking clean water supply. It appears to be a simple plastic tube or straw, but it will purify water from any source for up to a year.

The straw consists of membrane filters at the bottom of the straw, iodine crystals that kill the waterborne diseases and a charcoal filter which removes taste and provides the child with clean water.

Surritte says 6,500 people a day die from a lack of clean drinking water and 5,000 of those are children. “Our passion is to try to get these into the hands of as many kids as possible.” Water Is Life is currently in 27 different countries.

The organization goes into an area and gives everyone a straw. They leave extras in case one gets lost or broken. This is to ensure the straws don’t become a bargaining chip in poverty stricken areas. Each straw filters two to three liters of water per day for one year, Surritte says this buys the organization time to come in and build a sustainable solution, such as water wells.

It’s the immediacy of the straws’ effectiveness that is so essential. Now Water is Life is getting involved in one of the most horrific disasters the world has ever seen, the recent and heartbreaking earthquake in Haiti.

“We’ve got 6,600 (straws) already on the ground in Haiti, mainly with medical teams,” says Surritte. “We took our emergency stash and sent them all and then have others that we ordered and they’re already there as well.”

“My encouragement would be for people to roll up their sleeves and get involved in some way, whether it’s with us, a church group or civic organization. Go and do something. Go and make a difference,”
says Surritte.

One eyewitness account of the earthquake comes from Ruben Cenea, who was trapped inside his classroom when disaster struck. He describes waiting for help. “Nobody wanted to come because it was dangerous and the earth (would) shake every while,” says Cenea. Eventually he was rescued.

Cenea works for a non-profit called Mission of Hope Haiti that has education and health programs in the country.
Mission of Hope’s Executive Director Otis Garrison says the organization is currently serving between 200,000 and 300,000 meals a day to earthquake survivors. “Don’t forget Haiti,” says Garrison. “The light of the media is slowly going out, but the problem is still as big as it ever was.”

Water Is Life is currently working on getting a desalinization pump for sustainable water in Haiti. The need for impact and change is enormous, for Haiti and elsewhere. Surritte wants everyone to take action in whatever way they can.
For more information on Water Is Life, please visit www.waterislife.com. For more information on Mission of Hope Haiti, please visit www.mohhaiti.org

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