By Hai-Ryung Sung
Access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation should be a right for all people. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Many people still suffer and die from waterborne diseases they contract because of an inadequate supply of water, lack of sanitation, or poor hygiene. In many developing countries, women and children are forced to carry heavy bottles of water for many miles.
As a Rotary Scholar, I had the pleasure of taking part in the GlobalRun4Water recently in North Carolina, USA, raising awareness and money for water- and sanitation-related projects. My scholarship was funded by a global grant sponsored by Districts 3640 (Korea) and 7710 (North Carolina), my host district, which also organized the run. Scott Rossi, a member of the Cary-Kildaire Rotary Club, came up with the idea for the event, and has earned the affectionate nickname, the “Water Guy of District 7710.”
Each year, the event has grown. During the first three years, Rotary members raised more than $40,000 through sponsorships and community support. Funds have been used to support water projects in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Lebanon, Bolivia, Uganda, and Guatemala. This year, almost 300 runners turned out on a rainy day for the 5k race. Others chose to carry heavy bottles along a one-mile course to experience a taste of what women and children in other parts of the world have to go through daily to fetch water.
My doctoral studies touch upon the field of water, sanitation, and hygiene. As a member of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group, I started a project involving Rotary clubs in the United States, Korea, and Cambodia to improve maternal and child health through better water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. The initiative also seeks to change hygiene habits of villagers and improve the delivery of health care.
I hope this effort reduces the morbidity and mortality rate among mothers and children in rural areas of Cambodia. I am thankful for the opportunity my scholarship has given me to take actions like these to improve the quality of life in these villages.
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About the author: Hai-Ryung Sung is a 2013-15 alum of the Rotary Peace Center at Duke University/University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a Rotary Scholar whose studies are funded by a global grant. She is pursuing a doctorate in environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina, and hopes to use her degree to improve health through better water, sanitation, and hygiene practices.