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Carrying water, raising awareness


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When Casey O’Connell first walked down to the Iowa River on Thursday, he was feeling apprehensive.

The 21-year-old was preparing to fill a bright yellow, five-gallon water bucket and carry it on his head across campus with 25 to 30 other UI students.

But by the time O’Connell completed the task, the University of Iowa senior said he was grateful for the experience, in which students showed solidarity for the daily journey of millions of women in developing countries.

“I couldn’t imagine having to walk that every day of my life,” he said.

Students participated in Be Hope to Her, an event sponsored by the nonprofit organization Nuru International. The event, organized on campus by the UI Global Health Club, is one of 23 held on university campuses this year.

After the participants filled their buckets with water from the Iowa River, they trekked from the IMU and up the stairs of the Pentacrest to the Pedestrian Mall. They ended their journey at the Kautz Plaza on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway.

Though students used rolled T-shirts to cushion their heads, many said they found the experience physically exhausting.

“I was in a great deal of pain,” said UI medical student Jamie Tjaden. “It really hurts your deltoids because you have your arms outstretched.”

Students spilled water from their buckets as they made their way across campus.

“I splashed a few people, and I definitely slipped, but thankfully, I caught it before it caused any huge catastrophes,” said UI freshmen Kelly Grogg.

For young women in developing countries, the hours spent fetching water causes them to miss out on education opportunities, said Nuru grass-roots movement director Billy Williams. The goal of this campaign is to raise awareness about those women.

This is the second year Nuru has sponsored the Be Hope to Her event.

Nuru International is an organization dedicated to fighting poverty. It works with communities to provide sustainable and long-term solutions to the problems the community may face.

After last year, which saw Be Hope to Her events at 11 college campuses, the organization used the funds to drill four deep water wells near schools in Kenya.

Nuru officials are hoping to expand operations into Nicaragua and Malawi by 2011 and be in 10 different countries over the next 10 years, Williams said.

“We believe that if people have an experience like [Thursday’s event], they’ll be motivated to do something about it,” Williams said. “We can be in the generation that ends extreme poverty.”

The Be Hope to Her experience has changed some students’ views about clean water — including Ben Henkle, a Global Health Club executive board member and second-year participant.

“The contrast gives you some sense of what time and effort really has to go into this,” he said. “By creating a clean-water source, you allow people to have a greater opportunity — which can lead to a better future and a better life.”

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