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South West Water fundraiser visits WaterAid's work in India

image depicting Andy Blanks in India
Andy Blanks in India
Andy Blanks, from Landkey near Barnstaple, saw for himself the difference the money raised by South West Water fundraisers has made when he visited international charity WaterAid's safe water and sanitation projects in India last week.

Andy, aged 54, a Planning Manager from South West Water, was chosen to represent the company on the week-long trip along with fundraisers from 11 other water companies.

Andy travelled to Gwalior and Bhopal in the Madhya Pradesh region of India and spent time with families in rural villages and urban slums, sharing their experiences and learning about their daily routines.

India has a population of over one billion. Diseases are common throughout the country due to contaminated drinking water sources and poor sanitation. WaterAid estimates that only 31% of the population has adequate sanitation and 320,000, children under five die every year as a result of this.*

In the village of Jonhar, where WaterAid has yet to start work, Andy met community members who have to walk over a kilometer to fetch water from the only local water source - an unprotected, open well.

Andy said: "It was shocking to feel the weight of the water pots on my head and to know that women and children make the arduous trip to collect water up to five times a day. We learnt how family members are often sick and children miss out on school because of the poor quality of the water. It's terrible to think that 2,000 children across the world die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation when we take these vital resources for granted back in the UK."

Andy also met primary school children in the village of Padli and found out how the safe water supply and hygienic toilets installed by WaterAid are transforming their lives. There was also the chance for him to roll up his sleeves and help out with the construction of new household latrines in the village of Amrod.

Andy said: "It was really inspiring to see first-hand how the money we've raised means that WaterAid can help communities to take control of their lives and access the resources that they are entitled to.

"As a father myself, I'm really proud to be helping with the hands on construction of a latrine! It's going to make a massive difference to the lives of this family, especially the women and children. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like not to have a toilet or clean water for your children. The threat, not only of disease but of attack whilst collecting the water or finding somewhere to go to the loo, is unthinkable.

"Whilst in the slums, I was particularly shocked to find out from one family that they'd recently lost a child due to diseases caused by the situation they're living in. The lack of a reliable, safe water supply, together with open defecation around the slums, means that diseases such as typhoid are rife. It has really shown me how important WaterAid's work is.

"I hope to use my experiences to inspire my colleagues and our customers even more people at South West Water to get involved and raise funds for this vital cause."

Trip leader, Isabelle Herszenhorn, from WaterAid, said: "This trip was a chance for Andy to see how the fundraising efforts of South West Water employees and its customers is are making a real difference to communities in India. The money raised by fundraisers like Andy helps WaterAid change the lives of some of the world's poorest people, bringing safe water, sanitation and hygiene education."

Andy has been supporting WaterAid for 30 years. South West Water has been supporting WaterAid for over 20 years and in that time staff and customers have raised more than £4 million for the charity.

Read more on Andy's blog www.andyblanksblog.wordpress.com.

Notes to editors

  • WaterAid's vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.  The international organisation works in 27 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world's poorest communities.  Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 17.5 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 12.9 million people with sanitation.  For more information, visit www.wateraid.org, follow @wateraid on Twitter or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wateraid
  • Around 2,000 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation
  • 783 million people in the world live without safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world's population
  • 2.5 billion people live without  sanitation; this is 39% of the world's population
  • For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity
  • Just £15 can enable one person to access a lasting supply of safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation
  • **Sources: World Bank (2011) World Development Indicators database - databank.worldbank.org, WHO / UNICEF (2010) Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) report 2010, UNDP (2011), Human Development Report 2011
  • In 2014 South West Water will submit its business plan for the years ahead to the UK water industry regulator Ofwat. We are inviting customers to find out more and tell us what they think our priorities should be at www.southwestwater.co.uk/waterfuture.

Published: 7 March 2013

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