Guest Post: World Merit, WaterStar and My Week with Project WET

Supriya Khound is an environmentalist, women's rights activist and social entrepreneurSupriya Khound is an environmentalist, women's rights activist and social entrepreneur Supriya Khound is an environmentalist, women's rights activist and social entrepreneur working on promoting organic farming. She is from Assam, India. Supriya recently spent a week in the United States as part of her prize for winning the World Merit Clean and Conserve Water Challenge and wrote this post to summarize her experiences.

I read an article earlier this year about children in my home country of India dying from water-related diseases. Previously I had done some work with children on issues related to climate change and environment, so I wanted to bring these issues together and do something that could impact more children and spread awareness on issues related to water and sanitation hygiene (WASH).

Coincidentally, I had also stumbled upon the work of World Merit earlier this year. I was extremely excited to see their work engaging young people from around the world to work on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One thing which stood out immediately for me was their focus on small-scale actions to impact larger goals, because that has always been my philosophy! Small-scale actions in any form go a long way toward having long-term impacts.

On the World Merit website, I saw the Clean and Conserve Water Challenge. It got my attention immediately as it gave me access to a lot of information and taught me methods with which I could further my interest and work on WASH. I signed up to download the free Clean and Conserve material and to take the training. I loved how interactive and fun everything was designed to be. I felt it would resonate with kids in my part of the world, so I took on the challenge they had set up to teach the materials to local kids and produce a video. I restructured the materials a bit to reflect our local context in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Then, taking a week out of my schedule, I made appointments with schools around the Dibrugarh district in Assam and taught over 1,000 kids in less than a week about the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene. Friends recorded my work, and a professional editor made a video of my work from the footage. That week was probably one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life!

Supriya helped teach 1,200 kids in Minnesota about water at a festivalSupriya helped teach 1,200 kids in Minnesota about water at a festival I entered the video in the World Merit contest, and I won! I was also recognized as an official WaterStar. The prize was the opportunity to visit the Project WET Foundation office in Montana and take part in a Clean and Conserve water festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. As I was preparing for the trip, my first thought was, “How can I scale up this work now?”

I decided to get in touch with the state government here and see if they would be interested in having a few chapters designed on WASH which could be part of their curriculum in schools. I was very happy to see their interest and their willingness for us to develop something. I informed Project WET about it and they too were very happy to assist.

My trip to the United States was meticulously planned by the Project WET staff, who figured out an itinerary that would suit me best and helped me plan my whole trip. I landed in Minneapolis in late September and was scheduled to attend the Water Festival in Minneapolis the next day. I met Allison and Morgan and was very happy to see how both were expertly training multiple batches of kids. They used a mix of interaction and games for them to understand some basic concepts of water conservation and hygiene. I got to participate in the trainings and assist them. I couldn’t have been happier with this experience.

Following the Minneapolis event, I got to spend the next couple of days with the entire staff of Project WET in Bozeman. I got to interact with most of the staff and had some interesting conversations with them. I was amazed at how they have such a huge impact across the country and the world.

Supriyal also took part in a training in St. Paul that reached 41 educatorsSupriyal also took part in a training in St. Paul that reached 41 educators I got the opportunity to go through some of their publications, which included vast information on WASH. These materials have been meticulously designed, published, translated and circulated around the world. As I sat there, I kept exploring ideas on how we can use this content to sensitize and spread awareness in my region.

Spending time with Project WET in Bozeman reinvigorated my belief in continuing my work on WASH. They were extremely open and supportive to all my ideas and offered to support me in whatever capacity they can. For me this support means a lot, as it enables me to further my work, engage other people in it and impact more lives.

I hope to be able to work with Project WET to develop curriculum-based modules in correlation with conditions in India. I hope to be able to garner more support both through the government and other civil society organisations to engage in this issue. I also want to continue training more kids on WASH as its not only fun but the smiles I see at the end of every session makes everything worthwhile.

I cannot thank World Merit enough for facilitating this, Ecolab for partnering with Project WET to develop the Clean and Conserve materials and offer them to the public free of charge and Project WET for making everything happen. I hope my gratitude will reflect in the work I continue to do in future in keeping up my commitment of training at least 5,000 to 6,000 children by July of next year. This was not only a life-changing experience, but along the way I also built amazing friendships and developed great ideas in less than a week’s time.

 

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