By Claire Pearson
“This project has given me dignity”
Those words and the scene will stay with me forever. It was 2013, I was working for WaterAid, visiting one of the projects in rural Northern Ghana and those words were being told to me by a lady in her 80’s. The project that the lady was referring to was her first toilet recently built outside her house, through a project supported by WaterAid.
Imagine, reaching 80 years old and having to suffer the indignity of going to the loo in the outside in the open, imagine your grandparent or parents having to do that. With the right investment, policy and will, it’s something that can change.
For those of you living in countries with clean water, I bet during the first five minutes after you got out of bed this morning you did something involving water; brushed your teeth, went to the loo, made a coffee, had a shower. It’s just so easy. Unfortunately, not everyone has this basic human right, but that’s why WaterAid, our social impact partner exists to ensure clean water and sanitation for all.
Every year, UN World Water Day is 22 March. It celebrates water and raises awareness of the global water crisis;
with 1 in 10 people without clean water to drink and 1.7 billion people in poor countries living without sanitation.
These people living in poor communities where the environment turns into an open sewer, and it’s vital that toilets are built to support an effective ecosystem and human health.
I guess you could say I’m a Woman in Water:
- I’ve worked in water for 12 years. Before I joined Belu I worked at WaterAid who we give all profits to, helping to reach communities worldwide with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.
- The past six years I’ve been at Belu, helping UK Hospitality and workplaces with sustainable water service, investing all our net profits into supporting Global Goal 6; clean water and sanitation for all.
- Water, I drink loads of the stuff. Mild panic sets in if I don’t have my refillable on me (named BOB for Belu Ocean Bottle, sad but true)
- I love a regular dip in any water I can find that’s swimmable, mostly frequenting good old Brockwell Lido in South London all year round.
So, water is very important to me, its life, it’s my livelihood and those dips keep me sane too. But I’m lucky enough to have been born in a country where we view it as our right, every person has clean water to drink, and we even get to swim in clean water. I never take that for granted.
Water has created lots of great memories for me too. One of the things I enjoyed the most at WaterAid was getting to work with people from different cultures and countries through a programme I managed with six countries. What a privilege.
Like Bello, WaterAid Programme Manager, the ‘main man’ in Ghana when we worked together on the HSBC Water Programme. Bello was a gentle giant with a big smile and a big heart, jeez we had some laughs. He sadly passed away from cancer a few years ago. I always regret not meeting him for a coffee last time he was in London because I had too much work to do. Lesson learnt, always show up and don’t let work get in the way.
Or meeting the formidable Kalavati Devi in Kanpur India, challenging the norm through being a female toilet mason, helping communities in slums like Rakhi Mandi build their own toilets when water arrived. Good people, helping people to help themselves.
Purpose, People, Planet, Profit
Now I have the honour of working at Belu, where every day I get to work with a brilliant team and wake up for purpose and profit. But it’s not profit for ‘fat cat’ shareholders. It’s profit that exists for people like the lady in Northern Ghana, profit for people who need it the most.
I love working with some of the best in the Hospitality Industry because at Belu we find the best people in the industry to partner with or they hear that we’re doing things differently and get in touch. Great people in a great industry who want to make something good happen with their water service by joining the Belu Collective. How refreshing…
How you can help: check out the many ways to get involved WaterAid from volunteering at festivals including Glastonbury and Smoked and Uncut to drinking water only challenges and walking for water. And of course, encourage your favourite restaurant or office to work with Belu.