Often times, we can't anticipate the happiest days of our lives. Sometimes they will burst upon us like a surprise present, and other times we barely recognize when we are in the throes of one. Who was able to know how they would feel on the first warm spring day at the park, an impromptu dinner with friends, or the day you became a parent?
We catch and keep these moments in our hearts, and if we're lucky, in a photograph. Then we go back and replay them, share them, and use them to inspire us.
Water is a commonly found in "best day" photos. For some across the world, it's a new well in their community. For others, it is a new, safe water source at home.
While safe water may seem like a given to many of us, it's not for many people. In fact, one in nine people around the world don't have ready access to safe water. If this seems shocking, you won't believe what a success that number is: Only a few years ago, it was one in eight.
The burden of this crisis falls largely on women and children. In developing countries, women and children walk an average of 3.7 miles each day to collect water (which is often unsafe), carrying vessels that weigh up to 44 pounds. As a result, girls are unable to attend school, women are unable to hold a job, and the cycle of poverty and disease continues.
Given these realities, it's not surprising that for women and girls around the world, the day they gain access to safe water is one of the most important in their life. It's a day of hope, freedom and opportunity. (This one-minute video, The Power of Water, is a good illustration.)
In my work over the past eight years with Water.org, a nonprofit organization working to end the global water and sanitation crisis, I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to listen to women in Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh, and Haiti as they speak about their water struggles and their inspiring action to ultimately gain access.
Parvathi, a mother who lives with her husband and two children in a village 200 miles west of Bangalore, India, is an inspiration in the fight for clean water. Parvathi used to spend two to three hours collecting water from a public tap, which was a very difficult experience. The walk to the tap was long, the wait in line even longer, and it was common for violence to break out over the limited supply. This is not even to mention the opportunity cost for Parvathi. The most difficult part? After all of this, the water she collected wasn't even safe.
But Parvathi didn't give up. Like all mothers, she was determined to improve life for her family. When she heard about WaterCredit (small loans for water and sanitation access), she took charge of the situation, gaining access to a loan and a life-changing water source near her home.
Parvathi's situation is not unique. To date, more than one million people have benefitted from WaterCredit; more than 90 percent of all borrowers are women.
March 22 is World Water Day - a day to celebrate the progress we've made as a global society and to recommit ourselves to ending the water crisis.
In honor of World Water Day, and of all those working for water access improvements in their homes and communities, Water.org and Johnson & Johnson invite you to Donate A Photo of one of your happiest days to help bring safe water to those most in need around the world. For each photo you donate to Water.org,* Johnson & Johnson will donate $1.**
Each of us has an important role to play in ensuring that all the families like Parvathi's have the chance to experience the joy of safe water. Whether it's donating a photo, tweeting, taking action on Capitol Hill, or raising awareness of this issue among others you know, we just want to thank you.
One day, water day will be every day. Picture it; and don't let it go.
* On average, $25 enables Water.org to bring one person sustainable access to safe water.
**Johnson & Johnson has curated a list of trusted causes, and you can donate a photo to one cause, once a day. Each cause will appear in the app until it reaches its goal, or the donation period ends. If the goal isn't reached, the cause will still get a minimum donation.
Follow Nicole Wickenhauser on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Water