Charity: water celebrates World Water Day with 407 awe-inspiring human profiles


There are currently 663 million people around the world living without clean water, and 18-year-old Hiwot of Adi Etot, Ethiopia was one of them.

Hiwot used to spend up to six hours a day collecting one Jerry Can of water for her family. And Hiwot's story of balancing farm work, raising her child and collecting water for her family is not uncommon in her small Ethiopian community. 22-year-old Haymanot, 19-year-old Berey, 21-year-old Frewoyini -- each of these women shared the same story of putting aside education to focus on chores each dependent on the task of acquiring water.

As 26-year-old Muzey's bio states, "It upsets her to give dirty water to her children, but she has no other choice."

The outside world would likely know nothing of these human stories, if not for charity: water's new "Someone Like You," campaign, which was fully released today in conjunction with World Water Day.

RELATED: A look at charity: water's trip to Adi Etot

World Water Day has been observed annually on March 22 since the United Nations General Assembly designated the international celebration in 1993. Charity: water -- a non-profit with the mission of bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries -- is celebrating this year's annual event with 407 profiles on the people they just brought clean water to in Adi Etot for the first time.

The New York-based non-profit had originally planned an October 2016 trip to Ethiopia in sync with the organization's "charity: ball," at which fundraiser attendees some 6,685 miles away from Adi Etot were able to view the human profiles of someone in the impacted African community.

"While we were there it became so personal," said charity: water branded content lead Tyler Riewer, who was on site in Adi Etot during the October trip. "You start to get a sense of how everybody there resembles somebody that you know."

Riewer mentioned one person in particular had reminded him of his late grandfather, and said his team wanted to give that intimate experience to the rest of the world.

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The group spent two weeks in Adi Etot in October, and then prepared for the big December gala at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After people were offered the opportunity to donate $30 each (which charity: water cites as the amount it takes to bring one person in a developing country clean water), the audience was surprised with an Adi Etot live stream, where they watched as water erupted from the community's ground for the first time.

"Everyone had gotten up early to walk in the dark to watch water erupt from the ground for the first time," said Riewer, who described singing and dancing in Adi Etot at the site of the water's eruption. Tyler was able to return to Adi Etot for the December groundbreaking, and was featured on the event live stream.

He emphasized the joy of being in Ethiopia for the event, noting, "I would say I had the better seat in the house."

WATCH: See the emotional gala reveal of Adi Etot's new water source

Today, 1.8 billion people around the world use a source of drinking water contaminated with faeces -- putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. This fact, Riewer says, is hard for most people in developing nations to process.

"There are people who have lived in [the Adi Etot] community for 91 or 85 years who have never known a life with clean water," said Riewer. "It's so hard to fathom what a life without clean water looks imagine what my local water source would be if I didn't have access to clean water."

That, in so many ways, is what the "Someone Like You" campaign is getting at -- the often-felt disconnect between those affected by a global health and environmental crisis and those safe from harm. Using the charity: water interface, anyone can enter their age, values and a little information about how they spend their time, and these answers will generate a profile of someone who is most similar to them.

Where 1-in-10 people lack access to safe water around the world, Riewer says this 1-on-1 connection allows people to "get a sense of how our community can help change the lives of this community."

"The opportunity for us is to try and paint that picture and show people, connect people with people just like us who were unfortunately born in a place where this is their water source," Riewer said.

A recent Yale study shows 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, but only 50 percent think it will affect them personally. With that in mind, one might assume at first that Americans don't care about water pollution. According to, though, the U.S. doesn't even break the Top 10 in countries with cleanest drinking in the world, and this was evidenced with the escalation of Flint, Michigan's water crisis last January.

RELATED: Inside Flint, Michigan's water crisis

According to a March 2016 poll conducted just two months after the National Guard was mobilized to help distribute clean water in Flint, a reported 61 percent of Americans said they were worried "a great deal" about pollution of drinking water.

Just as Adi Etot suffers from a dry season, California spent most of 2016 in a state of drought. While the National Drought Mitigation Center says more than three-quarters of California is now out of the drought, Jeremy Miller writes for the New Yorker that the golden state's water troubles are far from over.

This year's World Water Day theme, "Wastewater," focuses on solutions around reducing and reusing waste water that comes from homes, industries and cities around the world. The theme for 2016 was "Water and Jobs," while 2018's annual event will focus on "Nature-based Solutions for Water."

Charity: water's international projects are nothing new. According to their own figures, the non-profit has funded over 22,000 water projects in 24 countries -- impacting over 7 million people. They even publicly track their project coordinates using Google Maps.

The organization also maintains a model where 100 percent of public donations go directly to someone in need of clean water.

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"Dirty water means walking to a source that's far away, often waiting in line, taking nearly half the day," Riewer explained, saying this time-suck leads to women dropping out of school and the work force, and fosters a global cycle of poverty.

While the health benefits of Adi Etot's new water source will take hold immediately, Riewer said his team hopes to return to Ethiopia later in 2017 when the substantial long-term impact can be seen.

"World Water Day is an awesome opportunity because it's a day when the entire planet turns their attention to the world water crisis," said Riewer. "It's just a really cool opportunity for us to share, spread awareness."

RELATED: A look at how people around the world get water