We see water in abundance every day — in swimming pools, showers, pouring out of the kitchen faucet unchecked. But for many people around the world, access to water is anything but a certainty; in fact, as many as one out of every six people in the world do not have access to clean water. Many charities have been created to help the victims of this water crisis; one of them, Hands 4 Others (H4O), was created by three Santa Barbara teens and has grown into a nationwide organization dedicated to “changing the world one person, one family, one village at a time.”
H4O began in 2008, after the then 15-year-old cofounder Spencer Dusebout took a life-changing trip to Belize. “[I] witnessed poverty at such a grand scale there, and it was really hard for us to come back to Santa Barbara and live in the Santa Barbara life, and reconcile what we’d seen in Belize,” Dusebout said. “We had this really strong feeling that we had to do something to give back, to help others, because we have so much here, and that’s what really put everything in motion.” After working to fundraise for other charities, Dusebout and his cofounders, Scott Schurmer and Jack Davies, realized that there were very few youth-driven organizations in existence at the time and decided to form their own, focusing on raising awareness among their peers. “It was really important to us to get as many of our friends involved as possible and really create a thing with young people,” Dusebout said. “We wanted to be a very inclusive organization, and allow others to come alongside us and help us … That’s kind of the theme of H4O.”
Five years after its founding, the nonprofit organization has grown to include more than 500 participants and 15 corporate sponsors dedicated to solving the world’s water crisis, one water filter at a time. Their website states that “[H4O’s] current goal is to help more than two million people in 500 villages around the world by 2015.” Already, they have brought aid to families in need in 10 countries around the world and are constantly expanding their organization to fund their projects and install water filters in impoverished villages, ensuring its inhabitants a safe, clean supply of water.
H4O’s latest accomplishment is a Vision Trip to Honduras, where 20 youth leaders from H4O chapters in five different cities are working to assess the water situation in villages and install delicate water filters, providing sustainable access to clean water for the residents. In addition, the youth are provided with a unique and life-changing opportunity to connect with underprivileged families and experience the true extent of the water crisis in person. Dusebout described the Vision Quests as a chance to help members to “really see what H4O’s about and what we’re doing,” as well as providing team building for the participating teens. Another Vision Trip has already set out for Haiti, and future Trips will send youth to Indonesia as well as back to Honduras and Haiti.
H4O is also increasing its efforts to get area high school students involved in their program; although hundreds of teenagers already help with fundraising, participating in Walk 4 Water events, and embarking on Vision Trips, H4O is planning to reach out to a wider range of teens by starting H4O clubs at the schools. This will allow H4O youth to raise awareness among their peers and become more involved in H4O events and fundraisers. —Savannah Stelzer