Water wagon idea needs votes to save lives

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Sawchuk has seen the need developing countries

Andrea Sawchuk wants your vote.

No, it’s not for the upcoming civic election but rather a proposed aid project that will only be successful through the power of the Internet and social media.

“It’s based on social media. Right now, we’re at the ‘spread awareness’ phase,” she said.

G Project is an online initiative put on by the Planeterra Foundation and G Adventures, a tour company that promotes sustainability and giving back to the communities where it offers tours. The project calls for participants to enter ideas for projects that will help the world and offers funding to those that generate the greatest amount of interest from the web-viewing public.

Sawchuk’s idea is entitled the Maji (Water) Wagon. She hopes to design and produce a wagon that can be used to haul water, reducing the amount of labour involved in hauling water long distances, which is a fact of life for many Africans.

“Everyone’s putting in water wells. Everyone’s raising money to get water to people in Africa in sub-Saharan regions. Mine is a bit different. You can get a well to everybody,” said the St. Albert-raised humanitarian.

The webpage that details her proposal (found at www.thisisyourplanet.com/ideas/community/141) explains that the task of obtaining water for families in most parts of rural Africa falls on the women and the children, mostly girls. They must walk for long distances carrying heavy containers of water. It’s backbreaking work, it takes them away from school or other valuable chores, and the end result is still water that isn’t fit for drinking.

She referred to a recent United Nations report that estimated women spend at least 16 million hours every day collecting drinking water in 25 different countries. It also stated that almost one-fifth of people in sub-Saharan Africa rely on water sources that lie more than 30 minutes’ walking distance away. The average roundtrip distance is 6.4 to 9.7 kilometres. Because of the weight of the water, the journey back takes much longer.

The Maji wagon is an inexpensive but sturdy and useful wagon that will make the trips a little bit quicker and a lot easier on the women and children’s bodies. It’s light and has a built-in spill proof water container that filters the water plus a spigot for easy pouring. Furthermore, they are made with recycled materials and are described as indestructible. The water container is also removable so people can use the wagon for other purposes too.

Sawchuk views them as the brightest light for the future for so many people. She said she’s seen all sorts of sad sights in her travels, such as children living in dumps. Everywhere she’s gone, the conversation has always turned to water as the lynchpin for solving so many problems.

“I’ve seen the need myself after being in some of these impoverished areas,” she said.

If she wins, her project will receive funding of $25,000. Sawchuk has been in contact with other non-governmental organizations that are interested in extending the benefit of that money.

Right now, she just needs to make the top four in her category in order to make a direct pitch to a committee of people that includes Dr. Jane Goodall.

The popularity of each project isn’t just based on votes but also on how many times each page is commented on and shared with others. This is tabulated as the proposal’s “pulse.”

“It’s not just votes: it’s views, it’s shares on Facebook. It’s everything together that creates this overall score,” she said.

As of last Friday, Maji (Water) Wagon had a pulse of 171.9 while others were up around 2,000.

Supporters can vote once a day until the contest ends at midnight on June 3. As of Friday there were more than 250 proposals in the competition.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.