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Student Launches PSU Chapter of ‘charity: water’

Kelly Newburg is not your average Penn State student.

A junior-public relations major, Newburg is involved with THON Communications Committee, Tom’s Campus Club, Public Relations Student Society of America, Happy Valley Communications and sponsors a child through World Vision. As if she isn’t involved enough, Newburg will introduce a new club to the Penn State, University Park campus this semester called “charity: water.

Newburg’s inspiration stems from a trip she took to the Dominican Republic in June 2009. While most kids from her high school went to Ocean City, Md for senior week, Newburg visited the Rose of Sharon Orphanage in the Dominican Republic with her parish, Calvary Baptist Church of State College, Pa.

After her trip, she started researching non-profit organizations she could get involved with and came across charity: water in December 2009. Since her discovery, she has become so passionate about the cause that she is starting a charity: water campus club.

What exactly is charity: water?
“Charity: water is a non-profit organization. Their goal is to bring clean drinking water to the 1 billion people in the world that don’t have access to it. It was started in 2006 by Scott Harrison. So, they mainly do fundraising and different things so that they can provide water wells to communities and schools in developing countries.”

Who is being helped by charity: water?
“They are focusing on, I think around 17 countries right now and will continue to expand throughout the coming years – a lot of communities in Africa, mainly. I know they are doing some work in Haiti, also. I believe each water well helps a community of 250 people. They have also done water systems in hospitals and some in schools in the past. So, it’s mainly people in smaller communities in developing countries.”

How did it get started?
“[Scott Harrison] realized he wasn’t happy with the life he was living anymore and he was very caught up in materialistic things. So he started volunteering for Mercy Ships, another non-profit organization, and its doctors take their vacation time and they go over to developing countries and perform surgeries and different things – all free of charge. So while he was there, he saw a lot of the different struggles that they had and the reasons they were getting sick and a lot of the causes were water-related diseases.

“After two years he came back to New York City, and one of his friends bought him a $16 drink and he was disgusted by it. He knew what $16 could do in a developing country. So, he gave up his birthday and invited all these people and asked instead of brining presents, to bring a $20 donation to build water wells and I think 700 people ended up coming and with that money they went and built water wells, I believe, in Uganda.”

How did you start getting involved with it?
“One of their main fundraisers it’s something they call mycharity: water. And it’s where people can go on a website and create their own webpage and [other] people can go on and directly donate to my campaign. So, for my 20th birthday instead of asking for presents and stuff, I just asked people for donations. I just sent out emails and maybe a little flyer saying what organizations I was involved in. I think I ended up raising $2,700. Even if people didn’t donate, at least charity: water and the water crisis is on their radar.”

What has been your biggest motivation in kick-starting this club?
“Probably just my passion for charity:water. I think it’s such a great cause and not even just charity: water, itself, but the whole water crisis in general. . If you think about how often you use water in a day or like sitting here I can go right over there [to the water fountain] and fill up my water bottle or something – which is a charity: water water bottle, by the way. Even just as college students at Penn State, we can make a big difference. The fact that things we can do could change their lifestyle completely and change their well being – their quality of life, I just think it’s awesome and exciting.”

To what extent do you think charity: water can impact the world?
“I think it can make a huge difference. They have raised millions of dollars and helped over 1 million people now, which in comparison to 1 billion people seems small but when you think about it, it’s actually so great that they can do that and they are still only five years old. It’s not huge yet, but it’s definitely gaining recognition.”

If you could say one thing to the world about this movement what would it be?
“$20 can give one person clean water for 20 years, which is unbelievable, if you think about it. Something that is so little here can go so far somewhere else.”

What are your hopes for charity: water at Penn State?
“I hope that its something that people get involved with. But I really hope if anything I hope that it starts conversation and awareness. Spreading the message of not just charity: water but the water crisis around the world. I think it would be great every semester to raise $5,000 and get a water well with a plaque that would say ‘charity: water, Penn State’ in the community.”

How does a donor know where their money is going?
“If you start a campaign, 12-18 months later they will send you GPS [location] that will show you exactly where the water well went with your money.”

How does it feel to start something like this as a student?
“I’m just really hoping to see it grow over the coming years. I think it’s just great that its something that isn’t just for me or isn’t just about Penn State – it’s so much bigger than that. I think in the long run it could do really big things.”

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