RSO seeks to raise awareness about worldwide water availability


Members of WaterAid at UIUC run a bake sale on the Quad on Thursday afternoon. The RSO aims to improve clean water access worldwide through fundraising initiatives and eventual overseas volunteering.

By Abrar Al-Heeti

There are more than 780 million people in the world lacking clean water, and the availability is expected to decrease as the population continues to increase, according to UN Water facts and figures, 

WaterAid is a worldwide organization that works to improve access to safe water and promote hygiene in third-world countries. A chapter of the institution became a Registered Student Organization last spring semester called WaterAid at UIUC.

The RSO recently had its first event, a bake sale, on the Quad on Thursday. As the organization is in its beginning stages, members are still in the planning process for larger fundraising events.

WaterAid members hope to raise funding for the building of sanitary water pumps. Many current water sources in poorer countries are polluted lakes and rivers.

Fizzah Hasan, president of WaterAid and junior in Business, was inspired to establish the chapter with Apoorva Vuthunuri, senior adviser and junior in LAS, after reflecting on their shared personal experiences with consumption of impure water. 

“I was born in Pakistan, Apoorva in India, so we’ve seen the problem first-hand,” Hasan said. “Tap water is really bad over there. Hygiene education is not a big thing.”

Vuthunuri said the University campus was a good place to establish the chapter because of the available resources that could be used to help others abroad.

“We looked at multiple volunteer organizations, and we decided that what WaterAid needed the most was money to help other countries, and at the University, we have that opportunity to fundraise and we have that opportunity to get money from different sources,” she said.

As a first step in helping to establish clean water sources overseas, the organization seeks to make a difference with a local angle.

Mahreen Bux, vice president of the WaterAid at UIUC and senior in AHS, said one of the objectives of WaterAid is to help people realize that by cutting back on their daily routines, they could make a difference to those without clean water access. 

“One of the events that we’re trying to participate in is World Water Day, and that’s kind of to try to get our members to be more aware of how much water they use every day and cut back,” Bux said. “Say, cutting your shower by five minutes — things like that.” 

The promotion of hygiene is also an important part of WaterAid’s mission, according to Bux. 

Vuthunuri said WaterAid has volunteers go to the countries they help and provide hygiene education to the locals about topics like sanitation, garbage disposal and how to get rid of waste the proper way.

“There are many diseases that are easily preventable, just by washing your hands,” she said. “People aren’t aware of it.”

Hasan added people also lack accessibility to hygienic practices, therefore furthering the issue.  

Bux said the chapter is looking to collaborate with other RSOs in larger fundraising events.

One such organization that WaterAid is looking to work with is the Quench Foundation, which is also founded upon the mission of providing clean water and hygiene education in poorer countries.

“Many of the members who joined WaterAid wanted to go abroad to volunteer for this cause, so we might talk to those organizations who send students abroad to help over spring break or summer break,” Vuthunuri said.

WaterAid at the University is currently recruiting members and can be reached at [email protected] The organization also has a Facebook page, where interested students can apply to be an executive board member. 

Abrar can be reached at [email protected]