Why Water and WASH?
Water plays an integral role in the prosperity of developing, rural communities. Beyond having a safe water source for drinking purposes, water is also at the centre of good WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) practices for the overall health and well-being of communities, as well as improving participation in education and promoting gender equality. Ryan’s Well Foundation was created based on the knowledge that people in developing countries were falling ill and dying because they lacked access to clean drinking water. However, it is less universally known to what extent WASH education matters, and how a lack of access to this education hinders these populations from prospering and reaching their full potential. From a health perspective, these contaminated sources often carry water-borne diseases, such as typhoid and cholera, which can lead to life-threatening symptoms like diarrhoea. As well, a lack of proper WASH education leads to the spread of communicable diseases, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. In terms of education, when students do not have a clean water source to drink from or washroom to use, their education suffers. Water-related illnesses, caused by contaminated water and/or poor WASH practices, are a main contributor to lowered school attendance and enrolment for schools in developing countries. In addition, students, especially girls, can spend hours a day collecting water for drinking and washing, which is time they are unable to spend learning to read and write, or playing with classmates. For these reasons, Ryan’s Well Foundation focuses, not only on the construction of water projects, but also on the accompanying WASH education. This training is crucial because the benefits of clean water become null if for example, water is transported in unclean jugs or contaminated by animal and/or human faecal matter. WASH training also includes educating the benefiting communities on how to properly manage and maintain their new source, which is necessary for the long-term sustainability of the source and self-sustainability of the communities. In this respect, access to safe water sources and WASH training empowers both males and females to reach their full potential and become agents of change in their communities. So ‘why water and WASH education,’ you may ask? Because access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene has the power to transform communities and change everything.