Ryan Groves wants to end the world’s water crisis in his lifetime by building one well at a time.
Groves is the president and co-founder of Wishing Well: Water for the World, an international nonprofit organization that raises money to build wells in developing countries. He spoke to a group of students and community members at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea on Thursday. The organization, which Groves started with his brother Brendan Groves LAW ’10, began six years ago when the speaker was attending Oklahoma Christian University, and seeks to “empower communities to transform their world,” according to its website.
“We built Wishing Well on the idea that creativity can change the world,” Groves said.
During the tea, Groves explained the need for new methods of aiding developing countries, adding that Wishing Well aims to give people “a hand-up, not a hand-out.” His organization provides people with both wells and the resources to sustain a locally owned water drilling company capable of maintaining the well.
Groves said he chose to help solve the water crisis after realizing the severity of the problem and the simplicity of its solution.
“It takes less than a dollar to give someone clean water for an entire year,” Groves said.
With the funds received, Wishing Well matches 100 percent of the money with clean water projects in developing countries. The organization has developed 65 projects in nine countries. Due to these efforts, 35,000 people now have lifetime access to clean water, which Groves said was partially due to the efforts of college students.
The tea was the kickoff event to Water Weekend, an event organized by Yale’s Wishing Well chapter in order to raise awareness of the water crisis.
The charity weekend also includes a Just Add Water improv. concert on Friday, all proceeds of which will go to Wishing Well. There will also be a Saturday screening of “One Drop,” a documentary filmed by Groves and his classmates during a trip to Rwanda in 2008.
During the filming, Groves befriended a 15-year-old boy named Jean Bosco, who would walk eight hours a day to get water for his family. In the week he spent with Bosco, Groves said he witnessed the effects of installing a clean water well in Bosco’s village, when the villagers’ water became much clearer and easier to obtain.
“Watching his life go from total depravity to hope in a week has changed everything,” he said.
This desire to alleviate water crises has also spread to Yale.
Lara Fourman ’13 and Meredith Potter ’13 started the Yale’s Wishing Well chapter earlier this semester. Potter, who interned with the Department of Defense this summer, was inspired to act when she learned of the government’s tracking of the drought in the horn of Africa, she said. Potter added that she was upset when she learned that a terrorist organization in the region is exploiting the lack of water by using it as a recruiting tool.
“This just really struck a chord in my heart. I just cannot understand how you could do this with water, and how you could treat other people so poorly with water as your weapon,” Potter said.
Potter said she contacted Groves, whom she had met in high school, about the situation, and he mentioned his desire for Wishing Well chapters on college campuses. Potter discussed her experiences with Fourman, her suitemate, and together the two started a Dwight Hall group for the Yale chapter of Wishing Well.
The on-campus chapter aims to raise money for new wells, which cost about $5,000 each. Fourman said that another goal of the group is to educate the Yale and New Haven community about issues regarding clean water and water availability.
One in six people lack clean water worldwide, Groves said.