Social Justice Challenge: Water

Social Justice Challenge 2010This month’s focus for the Social Justice Challenge is Water, a precious, life-giving resource that many of us take for granted. It is only relatively recently that awareness is growing everywhere of water being a finite resource. Many of us just have to turn on the tap for a ready supply of clean water for drinking, washing, even playing – but it is shocking indeed to think that nearly half the people living in the developing world do not have access to clean water; and that, according to UNICEF:

“Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.”

Ryan and Jimmy: and the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together, by Herb Shoveller (Kids Can Press, 2006)Older Brother and Little Bother cite a statistic they believe comes from WaterAid that 3 people die every 10 minutes because of a lack of clean water. In an attempt to turn this remote, hopeless-sounding figure into something they can get their heads round, we are currently reading Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa that Brought Them Together by Herb Shoveller (Kids Can Press, 2006). This is the wonderful and inspiring story of how the determination of one small boy in Canada, Ryan Hreljac, captured people’s imagination so that he was able to raise the $2,000 needed to buy a well for a community in Uganda – and then go on raising money to fund drills for more wells – so that now, the Ryan’s Well Foundation, with the now eighteen-year-old Ryan at its head, is working to bring safe drinking water and increase sanitation and hygiene awareness in 16 countries around the world.

Another engaging book and superb resource for raising young people’s awareness about water is One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods (Kids Can Press, 2007)One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss and illustrated by Rosemary Woods, also published by Kids Can Press, in 2007. You can read my joint review of both these books here.

World's Longest Toilet QueueMarch 22nd is the U.N. designated World Water Day and the theme for 2010 is water quality. To raise awareness of safe water, and also to lobby those attending an international meeting hosted by UNICEF, to be held in Washington in April, several water charities have come together to organise an attempt to break the world record for the “World’s Longest Toilet Queue” between 20th and 22nd March – you can join the line on-line or find an event somewhere in the world near you – or set one up for yourself, using the resources here… Let us know if you do stand in line…

9 Responses to “Social Justice Challenge: Water”

  1. susan Says:


    I was hard press for a book this month. Thanks for posting this. Will look for Ryan and Jimmy.

  2. Mike Says:

    Ryan’s foundation is inspirational. And as a tribute to World Water Day on March 22, we will offer a discount for all visitors at

  3. Martha Calderaro Says:

    Thanks for your post and book reviews. Sounds like Ryan & Jimmy’s story is a great example for kids (and adults!) to see how one effort can grow into so much more.

  4. Aline Says:

    Another interesting book that fits the Water theme, albeit in a more indirect way, is Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming, a photo essay by Jan Reynolds that shows how the Balinese rice cycle is intimately connected to the water cycle, involving a hierarchy of water temples, careful planning of water-sharing schedules to meet everyone’s needs, etc.

  5. Marjorie Says:

    Susan – I hope you enjoy it.

    Mike – thank you!

    Martha – you are so right: I think this is rather a humbling read for adults! And what I didn’t mention here, though will have come through if you followed up the link to the full review, are the personal repercussions in both Ryan’s and Jimmy’s lives of their meeting and friendship…

    Aline, thank you – I remember reading your post about it and thinking then, I must seek it out – I really must!

  6. Erin Says:

    Both of those books sound interesting—my choice was quite heavy and technical with all sorts of facts and figures . . . perhaps I’ll add these to my reading list for something easier to process!

  7. Wendy Says:

    Great post – thanks for the excellent resources. I copped out a bit this month and chose not to read a book…instead I chose an alternate media source and watched the movie Sahara – which in truth, was a stretch for this topic!

  8. Word Lily Says:

    Thanks for this great Social Justice Challenge post!

  9. Marjorie Says:

    Erin, I too have a pile of “heavy” books that I’ll read one day – my husband is reading a lot about water at the moment so he’s being my proxy for the time being! I can certainly recommend these two for immediate assimilation!

    I’m focusing on books for young people for the Social Justice Challenge as I’m doing it with my two boys and writing it up here on PaperTigers…

    And thank you, Wendy and Hannah! Now I need to get round all the other posts in the Round Up… Everyone, they’re here!