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Initiative raises funds for water development

Laura McCrystal | Monday, September 28, 2009

Student government will launch “The Global Water Initiative” – a year-long fundraising and awareness campaign for water development – with a T-shirt giveaway, lecture and benefit concert Tuesday.

The initiative marks the first time that Notre Dame student government has focused on one social issue for an entire year, Rachel Roseberry, chair of the Senate social concerns committee, said.

“We can pick an issue and really make a difference,” Roseberry said. “Water is such a fundamental issue. Globally, more than one in six people are without access to safe drinking water.”

All of the money that student government raises will go to The Water Project, a nonprofit organization. The funds will be used to dig wells in Kenya and possibly Uganda, Roseberry said.

Justin Pham, director of the Global Water Initiative project, said the organization was carefully chosen and they are confident in the work that The Water Project does.

“The issue of water development is so complex and there are so many issues surrounding it, we wanted to make sure that we chose a nonprofit that would address all those issues,” Pham said.

Student government also collaborated on the project with the Ford Family Program in human development studies – a part of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies – to better understand the issues behind the initiative.

“We wanted to make sure that we also had experts on our side about what water development was,” Pham said.

The Global Water Initiative will begin with T-shirt giveaway and information table this afternoon from 12 to 1 p.m. in the Dooley room of LaFortune.

At 7:30 p.m., Professor Steve Silliman will deliver a lecture in the Geddes Hall Auditorium about the importance of water development.

An outdoor benefit concert was planned, but weather forecasts caused Roseberry and Pham to move the event to the basement of LaFortune from 9 to 10:30 p.m. It will feature student performers, free hot chocolate and information about water development.

Throughout the day today, there will also be information tables at North and South Dining Halls and in LaFortune.

At all of these events, students will have the opportunity to donate money and sign up to become more involved.

“We want you to hear about the Global Water Initiative, but we want you to learn about it too,” Roseberry said.

After Tuesday’s events, Student Government will work to involve more campus groups in the fundraising process.

“It’s a unique way to bring everyone together,” Roseberry said. “Ideally, we’d like to involve every student and have every student feel like they’re a part of this.”

Future events for the initiative will include a documentary film screening, forums and fundraisers including the possibility of a benefit CD featuring Notre Dame student performers, Roseberry said.

The idea originally grew out of student body president Grant Schmidt and vice president Cynthia Weber’s campaign last spring. They realized that by focusing on one issue, student government and the student body could make a tangible difference, Roseberry said.

“This is one of the best places to start an initiative like this,” Pham said.

Roseberry and Pham said they are unable to set a specific fundraising goal because they do not want to aim too low. The cost of one shallow well in Africa is $4,500 to $5,000, but they hope that they will raise enough money to build more than one.

“This hasn’t happened before,” Roseberry said. “We’d like to present this from as many perspectives as possible because it’s such a complex issue.”