Group raises awareness for clean tap water


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People conversed and swayed to the music of a small concert in Public Space One near a painting of a little girl in a yellow and red sari kneeling near a tap, pursing her lips in hope of catching a drop of clean water.

The image of the young girl — the subject in Paul Morehead's Chandigarh Indian Girl — was one of several paintings hanging at the Tap with the Beat water-sanitation awareness event Thursday night.

The function, sponsored by the Iowa United Nations Association, the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, and three UI students, sought to raise public awareness of the need for clean water in developing countries.

"There are billions of people in the world that don't have clean water and contract horrible diseases from the water that they have," said UI senior Laura Stoddard, an event co-organizer.

Stoddard and classmates Mallory Burggraaf and Jen McLinn organized the art show and concert as a part of their Human Rights Advocacy class. Burggraaf said she and her group members believed that the music and art show would appeal to a wider variety of students and community members than a presentation or panel discussion.

"We decided that we really wanted this to be something that a variety of people would be interested in attending," the UI senior said. "We wanted it to be interdisciplinary so that a lot of different types of people would come to the event."

Burggraaf and her peers set up the event to promote UNICEF's Tap Project, an effort to raise money for countries that struggle to provide clean water. The Iowa United Nations Association asked local restaurants to join a tradition UNICEF started in 2007 by giving patrons the option of donating $1 to water sanitation projects in Vietnam, Togo, Cameroon, and Mauritania for each glass of water ordered with their meal. Hearth, Moonraker's, One-Twenty-Six, Oasis, Sushi Popo and Elikia are signed on to participate in the Tap Project's fundraiser.

"We love the campaign — we think it lends itself well to our community in Iowa City," said Yashar Vasef, a member of the Iowa United Nations Association. "We envision this as something that's growing by the year, and at some point, we'd like to have 50 to 100 restaurants across the state involved."

Vasef said the money from the UNICEF Tap Project will be put toward solutions to infrastructure challenges in developing countries that keep clean, accessible water away from its residents.

"In some of these places, women have to walk up to 15 kilometers to reach the nearest clean water source," he said. "Water is such a basic need. This really affects everybody."

Vasef discussed the water problem using a display of water bottles, each containing dark brown water and labels with the names of diseases such as hepatitis and malaria — diseases that are commonly contracted through consumption of dirty water.

"Just visualizing that and thinking about people relying on that to drink is something that catches people's attention," he said. "Things of that sort really go a long way."

Some of the night's paintings will be sold, with some of the money going to the Tap Project. The co-sponsors also set up an optional donation container at the event.

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