Next week, residents from all over the city will unite against a common enemy: the global water crisis.
On Aug. 5, South Carolina-based engineering nonprofit Water Mission will host Chattanooga's first Walk for Water to raise awareness and funds for families without access to clean water.
Statistics show that each day, women and children in developing countries walk an average of 6 kilometers, or 3.7 miles, to find water to meet their families' needs. The Walk for Water will simulate these individuals' journey by encouraging participants to walk a mile — or 3 — in their shoes.
Supporters will walk 3.1 miles at the Tennessee RiverPark with empty buckets in hand. At the halfway point, they will fill their buckets with water from the Tennessee River to experience what many must do just to get a drink every day.
"When you scoop that water out and then you look at it and it's nasty, it's just kind of clicks," said event organizer Carrie Wyatt, who participated in the 11th annual Walk for Water in Charleston, S.C. "It clicked for me that 'wow, I didn't have to walk for any water to brush my teeth this morning.'"
Wyatt, who has been volunteering with Water Mission since January, planned the walk to share what she's learned with those in Tennessee. The Knoxville resident hopes to have 1,000 people from Chattanooga community come out to advocate for these daily walkers, as well as the 842,000 killed by diarrhea yearly when the water brought home is contaminated.
Wyatt also hopes to bring several local church denominations together for the day of service. So far, the youth group at New Covenant Fellowship Church has already offered to serve as volunteers during the event, and 100 kids from Middle Valley Baptist Church's summer program, Camp All Star, already raised $2,000 for the mission by collecting change over the month of June.
Proceeds from the walks, which have already been held in 25 major cities nationwide, are used to fund Water Mission's safe water treatment projects, like the 780 solar panels the engineering organization sent to Tanzania last month to keep installed water systems operational. The funds from the Chattanooga's walk will go specifically to relief efforts in Uganda, where refugees escaping violence in South Sudan are faced with a new danger: insufficient clean water.
Wyatt invites anyone who wants to get involved to take part in the walk, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. and end with food, live music and event-related games, like a water balloon toss. Register or donate at ChattanoogaWalk.info.