Creating Future Changemakers

why water

My love affair with addressing the clean water crisis began five years ago in the fall of 2008. After spending the summer participating in the Global Institute for Leadership and Civic Development in Prague, I returned to the United States with a renewed enthusiasm to make the world a better place. In my opinion, the best way to change the world was to open young (very young) people’s eyes and minds to the world outside their hometown and to teach them about important global issues.

But what global issues are appropriate to teach six year olds?

I needed a topic to which young children could relate. Among others, violence against women, war and conflict, and infectious diseases were too obviously scary and therefore out of the question. The global water crisis, however, was not. Everyone needs water to survive. Even children at the tender age of six can understand water’s importance as they see it, drink it, and/or play in it every day. With that realization, I began my project to empower young students to advocate for change.

An image can be a powerful tool. Knowing that, I wanted to publish a book about the global water crisis completely illustrated by children aged 6 to 10 years. At a local school, I taught students about the global water crisis in three stages (see below). After each lesson, the future advocates drew pictures of what they learned. Here are a few ideas from their illustrations:


Q: Why is clean water important?

A: Drinking, bathing, brushing your teeth, swimming, animal health, safety, cooking, and having fun

Q: What are the consequences of lacking access to clean water?

A: Unhealthy animals and people, violence, disease, conflict, and death

Q: How can you help?

A: Write letters to politicians, personal fundraisers, educate others, and donate to and/or raise money for water related non-profits

It was amazing to see the depth to which very young children could comprehend the global water crisis and feel excited about finding solutions. At one point, a young girl raised her hand to say that not having access to clean water was a major problem. Therefore, she had realized that dirty water was not the only problem, but also the ability to seek out and find clean water was another issue in and of itself. Towards the end, these little changemakers approached me with several ideas to raise money to quell the crisis. One girl brought in a bag of paperclips from her home and suggested that I sell them and then donate the proceeds. Other students brought in one, two or three dollar bills to donate. tell people

Growing up in a small town, I never was truly exposed to global issues in public school. Yes, we learned about world history, but we never took it a step further to discuss current global crises. My hope is that my fun and interactive lessons planted the seed in these students’ minds that the world is a big place with many big problems to solve.

I hope that one day, my students will be teaching others about successful solutions rather than about overwhelming problems.

By publishing the students’ efforts into one tangible, collective voice, my students not only learned about the global water crisis, but also automatically became advocates for change and that – in my opinion – was the most important lesson of all.

To view the book in its entirety, please download Why Water? here.

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Category: Uncategorized
Tagged with: Change    clean water    education    Global Health    Global Water Crisis    poverty    water    World Water Week    youth

Elisabeth Epstein

Hi everyone! I recently earned my Master’s degree in International Development from The New School in New York City in May 2012. With a concentration in International Development and Global Health, I have worked behind the scenes as a Research Intern for the PBS documentary Half the Sky in addition to serving as the Research and Advocacy Intern for The Hunger Project. Globally, I have taught English to kindergartners in China, have researched clean water and HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and have gained first-hand experience understanding how migrants and refugees deal with public health issues in both Mexico and Thailand. I am especially interested in food security, nutrition and hunger and the role of women and girls in each of these issues. In my free time, I enjoy playing with my ever-so-fluffy Siberian Husky, eating delicious food, training for marathons and traveling. Follow me on Twitter @E_Epstein!

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  • Hi Elizabeth

    Thank you very much for this. We often take water for granted in our everyday lives. It’s a powerful reminder from the children to all of us on how we need to act now to preserve natural resources for generations to come.

  • This book is terrific! It’s so tough to wrap your head around the thought that 1 in 10 people in the world today don’t have access to clean water to drink, and even more so for kids. I work for WaterAid, one of the leading organizations working to make clean water and toilets a reality for everyone, and can tell you that these types of materials really make a difference when it comes to better understanding the issues. More importantly, it helps get people excited about doing something about it. Thank you!

    • Elisabeth Epstein

      Thank you Alanna! That means so much to both myself and all of us here at Girls’ Globe. Keep up your great work at WaterAid.