The 28-year-old CEO of Thirst Project tells us how we can help end the global water crisis
When Seth Maxwell, then 19, casually met up with a friend for coffee in 2008, he didn’t expect to leave with a completely altered worldview — but that’s exactly what happened. As she spoke to him about the global water crisis, which had left 1.1 billion people without access to safe drinking water and remains the number one killer of children worldwide, Maxwell knew immediately that he wanted to take action.
As a college student with limited resources, Maxwell didn’t initially plan on becoming the CEO of the world’s largest youth water organization — he just wanted to make a difference in any way he could. So, he and his friends formed what he calls a “club,” and they set out to inform as many people as possible about the crisis.
After successfully gathering more donations than they expected, the club members expected to go back to life as usual. No one was more surprised than Maxwell when people began referring to his cause as an “organization,” requesting that he and his colleagues visit schools to educate students about the water crisis and how they could help.
Luckily, he said “yes,” and school visits have become an invaluable tool for raising money and awareness about the global water crisis. Maxwell notes that, because he and his team are young themselves, they can effectively connect with students.
Maxwell also points out that, because it’s not a political issue, the global water crisis is an ideal way to bring young people of all backgrounds together for an amazing cause.
“Everyone inherently understands the basic need for water and that water is a human right, so I think that’s been really effective,” he says. During school visits, he and his colleagues provide students with all the information and tools they need to host their own fundraisers.
Over the past seven years, Thirst Project has raised over $8 million and funded projects to provide over 280,000 people with safe, clean water.
But, their work isn’t finished — Maxwell aims to provide the entire nation of Swaziland with clean water by 2022, and Thirst is on track to achieve this goal.
The organization has garnered the support of celebrities including Kristen Stewart, Ansel Elgort, Eden Sassoon, Andrea Russett, and Conor Franta.
In fact, one of the new wells that was opened during Maxwell’s trip to Swaziland was donated by Elgort.
Maxwell recently returned from a trip to Swaziland, where he saw the results of Thirst’s hard work in action — the organization celebrated the opening of five wells, all of which had been funded by the Thirst Project. He was accompanied by two students who became very involved with Thirst after the organization visited their schools — and those students also had the amazing opportunity to get an up-close look at what daily life is like for the people they’re devoted to helping.
One moment in particular really resonated with Maxwell:
Maxwell emphasizes that, not only is the global water crisis solvable, but millennials are uniquely positioned to be the driving force. He points out that this is a highly educated generation, but many millennials are unemployed or underemployed — so they can donate time if monetary resources are tight. Furthermore, we’re more globally connected than previous generations.
A child dies every 21 seconds from a water-related disease, and Maxwell’s message to millennials is that time is of the essence — especially because these deaths are preventable.
So, how can we help? Thirst has made it super easy, so there’s no excuse for us to not get involved —
Maxwell says the quickest way to get in touch with the organization about volunteer opportunities is by texting the word “Thirst” to the number 97779. A member of the Thirst team will respond and provide all the necessary information, whether you’re interested in volunteering, donating, or both.
Plenty of us are tight on cash, but here’s something that definitely made me think — a contribution of $25 can provide one person a supply of clean water for life. Surely it’s worth skipping one happy hour or a small shopping splurge to change the life of someone who has been deprived of a basic human right.
If we all pitch in and contribute in any way we can, every person in Swaziland will have access to clean water by 2022 — and that’s an amazing thing to be a part of.
To learn more about Thirst Project and how to get involved, visit their website.