Bridge over water troubles
Chicoan describes her fundraising bike trek and why the effort remains so vital
For Shirley Adams, water isn’t just a source of life—it is her life. The woman affectionately called Water Girl by her friends and family has spent the past two years providing clean water to the world through her self-made foundation, Bridging the Gap by Giving.
Last summer, Adams and her husband, Grant, biked across the United States to raise funds for the organization. The CN&R previewed her ride and recently reconnected with Adams in honor of World Water Month.
Over a cool glass of, naturally, water, Adams recounted her trip with a warm smile and her unique bubbly energy.
“It was just a total blessing,” Adams said. “We saw our country and just fell in love with it all over again. We met the most amazing people that were interested in our cause and so generous.”
The trek took the couple 3,828 miles—from Florence, Ore., to Yorktown, Va. Sponsors donated money for each mile the couple rode, as well as giving flat donations.
Much of the money donated to the cause came from strangers they met along the way. In every town they visited, the couple would meet community members, informing them about their journey.
“People would give us anywhere from $5 to $4,000,” Adams said. “We didn’t even know them but got home and realized that they had sent in checks.”
All in all, the ride generated $60,000 ($25,000 of which was matched by the Conrad Hilton Foundation). Adams donated it to World Vision, and 100 percent of the proceeds went to the West Africa Water Initiative, a program that provides clean water to communities in Ghana, Mali and Niger.
For countless individuals worldwide, clean water is a necessity that is all too often a luxury. It is estimated that 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to clean water. The World Health Organization states that nearly 4,000 children die every day from diseases resulting from drinking unsanitary water.
These facts are what drive Adams, former owner of North Valley Swim School, to recommit daily to remedy this situation.
Adams said that in addition to offering financial contributions to other countries, she seeks to educate people here on water issues. She passes out brochures just about everywhere she goes and brings up the topic of water in almost every conversation she has.
“People are still ignorant, even though the information is out there,” Adams said. “It’s easier to feel a little safer if we don’t force ourselves to know the statistics. That needs to change to fix the problem.”
Indeed, regardless of ignorance or apathy, those statistics persist. According to Water Partners International:
• The world’s population only can access seven-tenths of 1 percent of the world’s fresh water.
• One in six people worldwide lacks a supply of purified water.
• While the average American uses at least 100 gallons of water a day, the average African family uses five.
• Water-borne diseases are killing more people than warfare.
Adams said it is only through change that access to clean water will become a reality for all global citizens.
The change doesn’t necessarily have to be on Adams’ scale. Although BTG has donated nearly $150,000 to water causes in its two years of existence, Adams stresses that the small contributions of an individual can be just as significant.
BTG’s latest effort is just that: small yet significant. In cooperation with World Water Month, BTG is asking individuals to send in a contribution that matches their water bill.
“It’s not a big expense for people,” Adams said. “It’s easy for them to do. It’s the little things that make Bridging the Gap go, and this is one of them.”
Aside from raising revenue for overseas water projects, Adams said the water-bill match just might make others reflect on their own water wealth.
“All we have to do is turn on the tap when we want a drink of water,” Adams said. “In other nations, women and children spend an average of three hours walking to collect water.”
This is something most Americans cannot even fathom. Yet when they see the reality of the world water crisis and take action, Adams said it is what makes her effort so worthwhile.
“The best thing about this is seeing others become interested in truly helping those outside ‘our world,’ “ Adams said. “It’s amazing how much fun it is to really do good.”