A Fun Way to Improve the World

It looks just like a colorful piece of playground equipment. It spins around just like a merry-go-round.

But it's a PlayPump, and it serves a much bigger purpose than making kids laugh: It provides much-needed clean drinking water to people in South Africa.

Today is World Water Day, and this year the spotlight is on "Coping with Water Scarcity." Poking around a little showed me just how sobering this issue really is. For instance, more than a billion people have no access to clean drinking water. As a result, more than 80 percent -- in other words, almost all -- of the world's sickness is related to unsafe water.

Enter PlayPumps International, a creative organization that is making it easier for people in South Africa to get clean water.

The concept goes like this: A PlayPump is a sort of merry-go-round that's connected to an underground water pump. As kids twirl around on the merry-go-round, their spinning draws underground water up to an above ground storage tank. People can then access the water by turning on a faucet.

Meanwhile, the site is also home to a billboard that communicates health and safety messages about clean water, HIV/AIDS, and other public service issues.

The overall impact that one PlayPump can have is incredible -- people have access to clean water, preventing disease and improving their health. Women, who often walk miles to carry clean water to their homes, can work or take care of their families; girls faced with the same chore can go to school. And let's not forget that kids get a chance to act like kids.

To kick off World Water Day, the organization, along with Save the Children USA, just launched their "100 Pumps in 100 Days" campaign to provide clean water to 100 schools and communities in South Africa. They've posted an Action Kit on their website for those who want to get involved.

After learning about the campaign, I decided to donate a small sum. It might be a drop in the proverbial bucket. But in this case, it's a drop for a very good cause.

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