Student-led charity makes a difference with water

Karissa Bursch

It’s one of those charity success stories you hear about in the news. A brother and sister, both University students, start and complete an entire fundraising campaign in three months, and with amazing results.

Last September, Whitney and Andrew Wash began a campaign with Charity: Water, a non-profit organization that provides clean drinking water to people in developing countries. Their campaign raised $5,000 to build a well that would provide water for 250 to 500 people in the Central Republic of Africa.

The well is now in the process of being built and should be done by the end of the year. It will have a plaque on it that says “The University of Alabama.”

A replica plaque will also be made and put on display at the University.

“[The well] gives the local people of the Central Republic of Africa not only water, but also jobs and valuable community-building skills,” said Whitney, a junior majoring in fashion retailing.

Whitney and her brother Andrew, a freshman with an undecided major, first got the idea for the campaign when their church from home participated in a campaign.

“My brother and I are from Alabaster, and our church at home started a big campaign to raise $20,000 for the same charity, Charity: Water,” Whitney said. “Clean water is something that everyone could wrap their head around and get fired up about. The whole idea of $20 giving somebody 20 years worth of clean water was easy to promote. It’s something we’re both passionate about.”

Whitney said she had high expectations for the University.

“Out of a school of about 30,000 people, if we can’t raise $5,000 then something is wrong,” Whitney said.

They used a variety of tactics to raise the money for the campaign.

“There was straight up begging people,” Whitney said. “Me and my brother gave up our birthdays for the campaign. We collected money every week. Girls in Fashion Inc. gave up their birthdays or Christmas gifts for money. A main part of our funding came from private donations, and we had bake sales.”

The bake sales were especially successful, she said.

“We make really good cookies,” she said. “We had one cookie for one dollar. One dollar gives one person one year of clean drinking water. People would come and get one cookie before their lunch and come back after lunch and get three or four more. We had people come up to the bake sale and hand us a $50 bill and not even get one cookie.”

Fashion Inc., an on-campus fashion organization of which Whitney is a member, helped with the campaign. The Rock the Runway fashion show last October raised about $600 for the campaign.

Whitney recognized freshman Megan Whiting of Fashion Inc. as somebody who “helped more than anybody else.”

Whitney said Charity: Water was the foundation she and her brother worked through. She said one benefit of working with Charity: Water was being able to have an interactive side to the campaign.

“Charity: Water is awesome,” Whitney said. “They have their own website and you can start a campaign on there. You can post message, pictures and track your progress. It has a map that shows where the well will be. It’s a really cool and interactive website. It was also a huge push because you can donate directly on the website.”

“One of the greatest things about Charity: Water is that 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the well project,” Andrew said. “We can find out all about the well because they have GPS coordinates, photos and videos. It is absolutely amazing all the stuff they do so you can find out. Maybe in a year we’ll be able to look up the well on Google Earth.”

After the well is completed, Charity: Water will send pictures and GPS coordinates for the well.

While Whitney and Andrew may not be planning any more campaigns for this semester, they may have a trip to Africa in their future.

The siblings both said they got a lot out of the campaign.

“For me it was very refreshing and invigorating to see all these people so passionate,” Whitney said. “It’s hard to get people as excited about it as you are. Besides the obvious rewards of giving people water, [this campaign] restored my faith in humanity.”