SALISBURY, MD---A student-led initiative that began with a rock concert at Salisbury University is providing clean drinking water for a village of about 250 in Ethiopia.
In 2012, James Townsend of Abingdon, MD, founded the SU Student Activism Club as a way to combat student apathy and raise awareness of global issues. The organization planned Gullstock, a campus music festival, to help raise funds to build a clean water well for the African community through the philanthropic organization Charity: Water.
The concert raised some $800, starting the club on its way toward reaching the $5,000 needed for the well. Shortly thereafter, fundraising efforts received a large boost when the club won the SU Student Government Association’s “Be the Change” online video contest, netting a $2,500 prize. Additional fundraisers, as well as private donations, helped the group exceed its goal.
“By building a clean water well in a village, we are giving those in need the chance to use the time normally spent collecting water to raise their families, get an education and even start their own businesses,” said Townsend, whose initial visit to Africa as an undergraduate inspired the initiative.
Townsend hopes the well will help the villagers’ economic needs, as well. The money once spent on health care due to waterborne illnesses could be used on food, shelter, schoolbooks and uniforms, he said.
The Ethiopian community the well serves has noted its importance, building a fence around the structure to keep animals from polluting the water source. Each family using the well pays a small fee, which goes into a fund for future maintenance costs. A plaque at the structure reads, “Funded by Charity: Water, the Students of Salisbury University.”
“I’m so happy and proud to have been a part of something like this that has come to fruition in a real, impactful way,” said Townsend.
Since his initial visit to Africa, he has returned to the continent as the winner of a national competition hosted by Chegg for Good, which landed him an internship with The ONE Campaign, an advocacy organization focused on fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease in the developing world, especially Africa. Earning his B.A. in international studies and mass communication from SU in 2012, he plans to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in mass media.
While he is no longer a student at SU, he is happy to know that the organization he founded is still serving its intended purpose. During the second annual Gullstock in 2013, the Student Activism Club raised funds to benefit earthquake victims in Haiti.
For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU website at www.salisbury.edu.