Professors, students and groups like AIESEC, KUSF, ITS and University Ministry are coming together to publicize and contribute to UNICEF’s 2009 Tap Project, which is calling for USF students to sign up and volunteer with the organization.
According to a press release from UNICEF, the Tap Project is a nationwide grassroots initiative currently in its third year. The goal of this program is to get restaurants to encourage patrons to donate $1 or more for tap water, which is normally free, during World Water Week, which lasts from Mar. 22-28. These donations will fund UNICEF programs to provide people in developing nations with access to clean drinking water, a resource that is taken for granted in the United States but the lack of which causes severe problems for third-world countries.
“Every day there are millions affected,” said Dillon Ramos, senior business administration major at USF and San Francisco regional coordinator for the Tap Project.
Over 4,200 children die each day from waterborne and sanitation-related illnesses, such as malaria and diarrheal diseases. Also, Ramos said, “It even goes as far as affecting education in countries, when a child must skip out on school every day to spend half their day fetching water in hazardous areas.”
With the Tap Project, UNICEF attempts to reduce the number of deaths due to water-related diseases to zero. One dollar donated at a restaurant, said Ramos, can supply a single child with enough safe drinking to last for 40 days. And if enough people and restaurants get involved with the program, these small donations can add up, dollar upon dollar, to make a significant impact on the lives of impoverished children.
To aid this effort, Ramos said, student volunteers have three duties: to recruit restaurants to the project, support them once they sign on, and promote the Tap Project among friends and have them eat at the restaurants involved with the cause.
Members of AIESEC will be joining forces with UNICEF, said Ivana Rosas, USF junior and president of the local chapter of AIESEC.
“We decided to collaborate with the Tap Project because it helps raise awareness about water issues and how people, anywhere in the U.S. and basically in the global North, should learn to appreciate our clean water systems,” said Rosas. “As AIESEC members we like to not only discuss such global issues, but if we get the opportunity to act in a positive manner then we won’t hesitate to do so. That’s a very important part of being a leader, and that’s one of AIESEC’s goals—to develop leadership skills and one’s potential.”
Aside from leadership skills, Ramos said there are several other reasons for students like himself to participate in this program. For one thing, it isn’t time-consuming or hard to do.
“This project is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity,” said Ramos. “You already go to restaurants, you already drink water. The duty of a volunteer is simple.”
Rosas agreed. “It’s easy. You can spread the word and make it a campus-wide thing.” Besides, she said, “You go out to eat and flirt with the servers anyway, and this’d be a good conversation starter.”
Through work with UNICEF, otherwise uninvolved students have the opportunity step out of their bubble of inaction and work towards social change.
“They can actively make a difference somewhere all the way across the world,” said Rosas.
The Tap Project supplies the tools of this change: “Students are given the most current information on the world water crisis, and become knowledgeable about the global situation,” said Ramos.
As for Ramos himself, he says he is one student who has found his experience at UNICEF to be definitely worth the effort.
“I got involved with UNICEF doing what every broke college student does, searching for a job,” he said. “I thought at the time that I could at least be volunteering a little while I searched for a real job to pay the bills, but I’m still here today and don’t regret a thing.”
To volunteer for the Tap Project, students must register at www.tapproject.org. Ramos encourages volunteers to attend the Tap Project’s training session if at all possible. This event takes place at San Francisco State University on Feb. 21, and more information on the location and time of the training will be mailed to volunteers after registration.