In celebration of International World Water Day, on March 24, Keiyo Soy Ministries hosted its “3rd Annual Walk for Water, Walk for Life - 5K Walk/Run-A-Thon” – on Martin Luther King Drive (near the Art Museum), in Philadelphia. Throngs of people turned out to support this annual fundraiser, including youth groups, churches, high schools, universities, professional associations, sororities and fraternities, and local corporate representatives.
In 1993, International World Water Day was an international celebration created by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) to bring attention to the importance of freshwater in drought-stricken areas of the world and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
In America, we take clean water for granted; we have easy access to clean water to drink, clean water to bathe, clean water to wash clothes, clean water to flush sewage, and clean water to wash our eating utensils. Sadly, because water is so scarce in rural parts of the world, like Kenya, millions of children and families drink, bathe, and wash their eating/cooking utensils in the same water where animals bathe and drink. According to UNICEF (now the United Nations Children's Fund, formerly the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund), 1.4 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and unsanitary conditions.
"When you save children, you are saving a nation,” says Dr. Elijah Korich, Keiyo Soy Ministries founder and organizer of the event. Dr. Korich is a marriage and family therapist. He earned his Doctorate of Ministry from the famed Westminster Theological Seminary, he’s a permanent resident of the U.S., and a native born Kenyan.
Eleven years ago while visiting his homeland of Kenya, Korich was overwhelmed by the widespread death, diseases and unsanitary living conditions resulting from unclean water and drought.
“Cows and kids were dying,” he recalled. “You could literally smell death in the air. What I saw radically changed my life. I could never live with myself. God was really giving me a mission, He was showing me something I could never forget.”
Korich shared that, in Kenya, parents frequently move to be closer to where clean water is located, this frequent migration often disrupts the children’s education. Korich said that, “Building water reservoirs, rain water harvesting and water storage facilities are critically important.”
Establishing sanitary environments for people and animals are high priorities for millions of Kenyans.
During an exclusive 2011 Tribune interview, Elkanah Odembo, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya to the United States, stated that, “Eighty percent of the (Kenyan) population live in rural areas. Families, especially women, walk long distances to fetch clean water, often carrying as much as 20 liters (5.3 gallons of water) about 4 kilometers (or 2.5 miles).”
The inability to access clean water is a huge issue for millions of Kenyans, as a result, “Basic hygiene is impacted, (the people) are not washing things that need to be washed. A lot of chronic diseases (in Kenya) are due to the lack of clean water. This particular year is a bad year, because rain has arrived late,” explained Odembo.
Alexander Matheou, the East Africa Regional Representative of the International Federation of Red Cross, shared that, "…the meteorological association in Kenya had predicted that several counties in the Rift Valley, Eastern, North Eastern and Coast provinces will face drought because of low rainfall…Early action is critical as the situation continues to unfold. There is no excuse for waiting for cyclical natural disasters such as drought to reach critical stages before launching a response. Early interventions are a responsible and cost-effective way of mitigating the impact of the severest stages of a drought cycle.”
Odembo believes that Keiyo Soy Ministries raises great public awareness about the drought issues plaguing Kenya. Perhaps more importantly, Keiyo Soy Ministries provides financial support for the intervention and cost-effective efforts needed to bring clean water to children and families in Kenya.
One of the Walk for Water, Walk for Life - 5K Walk/Run-A-Thon volunteers was Whitney Pailin, a 25-year-old Child Therapist for Inter-Community Action, Inc. Pailin learned about the drought issues plaguing Kenya while attending a young adult Bible study at Germantown Christian Assembly Church, 610 East Mt. Pleasant Ave., where Korich is a member. During this Bible study, Korich conducted a presentation about his mission’s work addressing Kenya’s drought issue.
“The water crisis in Kenya is a huge issue that nobody really knows about,” said Pailin. “People are dying because of a lack of water. (Kenyans) spend hours looking for water and often its dirty and it can kill them.”
Pailin earned her Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling degree from LaSalle University and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Villanova University; many students from Villanova have volunteered to support Keiyo Soy Ministries.
Pailin’s heartfelt plea is, “To raise as much money as possible. I hope we get the word out,” to as many people possible to support Keiyo Soy Ministries fundraising efforts to build water reservoirs, rain water harvesting and water storage facilities in Kenya.
According to the Keiyo Soy Ministries website, almost 20 percent of the world's population do not have access to safe drinking water. As a result, millions of children die annually. Over the past 12 years, the Philadelphia area faith-based community has donated $200,000 to the Kenyan water project. Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church has been a leading light, committing thousands of dollars a year towards Keiyo Soy Ministries’ water project. It costs $20,000 to purchase one water tank to provide fresh water to villages and families residing in rural areas of Kenya.
David Grant, 28, a financial advisor for Premier Financial Group in Philadelphia, is one of the volunteer coordinators for Keiyo Soy Ministries. He and Korich attend the same church.
“(Korich) telling his story, about how he grew up in Kenya - and upon his return, he saw so much death, and it convicted him to do something about it. That alone kind of touched me,” shared Grant.