By Brett Hawkins
Though many would argue that the United States has enough dire crises of its own, other nations are still far worse off; Japan especially is showing its resilience in the midst of natural and nuclear disasters this week. Among the lesser publicized global issues, several countries today are facing a lack of clean drinking water. According to UNICEF, nearly 900 million people in the world lack access to safe drinking water (almost half of that number represented by children). Even more jarring, 4,100 children die every day of water-related diseases. Cal State University Long Beach’s (CSULB) International Studies Student Association (ISSA) has joined with UNICEF to support its Tap Project during World Water Week, March 20 to March 26.
UNICEF’s Tap Project was created in 2007 in New York with the concept that restaurants ask their patrons to donate one dollar or more for the tap water they commonly enjoy for free. All funds collected from the project help UNICEF provide clean and accessible water to millions of children around the world. A donation of one dollar grants a child access to safe drinking water for 40 days.
This year, the Tap Project is geared toward helping children in Togo, the Central African Republic, and Vietnam. Also, this will be the Tap Project’s first year for West-coast participation. Kafe Neo in Long Beach and It’s a Grind’s Carson Street and Spring Street locations are local restaurants working in tandem with the Tap Project.
“After studying international development and working in regions of the world that do not have clean drinking water, I want to do my part to help people gain access to this basic need,” said Andres Miguel Espana, the UNICEF Tap Project city coordinator for Los Angeles. “I cannot think of a better way to help than to join the UNICEF Tap Project.”
CSULB’s ISSA has made several contributions to international philanthropic organizations such as Invisible Children, the United States Campaign for Burma, and the Le Petit Train School in Haiti, since its formation in 2008 by Maggie Woods and Krystal Windsor Burnett.
“We started very small– a group of 15 people sitting in a circle talking about the world,” said Cookie Partansky, the South West Asian and North African ambassador for ISSA. “Today, I firmly believe that not only has ISSA grown as an organization, but also [our] members’ inspiration has grown.”
ISSA’s involvement with UNICEF began when club secretary Tanya Aubin visited the New York office of the United Nations. Aubin returned from her visit and spread the word of UNICEF’s causes to the rest of the club, which readily joined in with its support.
“ISSA already had a few ideas of what we wanted to accomplish during this spring,” said Kimberly Conchada, a member of the ISSA. “And in January, [Aubin] was the one to approach our president about attending a UNICEF workshop for restaurant recruitment in Los Angeles. [Aubin, Deanna Lam, and Partansky] attended the workshop and were compelled to do more.”
In support of global water issue awareness, ISSA will screen the documentary Blue Gold: World Water Wars Friday, March 18 at 6pm at the University Student Union (USU) Beach Auditorium. A 30- to 45-minute discussion facilitated by John Torres, ISSA’s Latin American ambassador, will follow the film. Admission and food will be offered free of charge, and the organization will be accepting donations for the continued funding of ISSA-hosted philanthropic events.
“I was searching last semester for outlets to be able to show a film without being required to buy the rights to the film,” Partansky said. “[Aubin] had suggested this film for this semester to fall in line with our UNICEF Tap Project theme this semester.”
Blue Gold: World Water Wars features the message that the world is wasting its fleeting supply of fresh water at an alarming rate as the population increases and technology improves. The high and ever-growing demand for water will eventually lead to desertification of the planet. It also explains the corporate hand in developing countries’ privatization of water for profit and the corrupt governments of some countries’ use of water as a ploy for political and economic advantage. The film covers its central themes through displaying passive resistance to outright riots in the struggle of many for the necessity of water.
For non-CSULB students interested in attending the screening, parking is available at Lot 4, located next to the main turnaround near W. Campus Drive and Beach Drive.
With World Water Week commencing the day after the screening, citizens are encouraged to dine at Kafe Neo (2800 E. 4th St.) or at the two participating It’s a Grind locations to donate at least one dollar for tap water.
In earlier weeks, Aubin, Conchada, Lam, and Partansky have collaborated to create tapLB, a sub-organization independent from ISSA that will host a benefit concert called TAP at the Park on Saturday, March 26 from noon to 5pm at Bixby Park, 130 Cherry Ave.
The musical artists selected to perform at the event include Kristi Jo, No Hablo, From Cities to Oceans, Alyssandra Nighswonger, and LN and AND. “All of the artists are either Long Beach natives or living in Long Beach,” Conchada said. “They all have different vibes and genres and have been so gracious in agreeing to perform at TAP.”
In addition to the musical performances coming to TAP at the Park, several features of the event will be a raffle, water-related games suitable for all ages, and two Los Angeles-based freelance artists, Kristine Arismendy and Crystal Orozco, participating in a live painting session.
The main center of contribution for TAP at the Park will be in its aptly named “Tappy Hour” booth. “Tappy Hour is just a simple way to contribute to our Fair Day-type event,” Conchada said. “We will be handing out crisp, cold water for those looking to quench their thirst under the sun.” The booth will also be available at CSULB on Wednesday, March 23, and Thursday, March 24.
“Being raised in Long Beach among so much diversity has helped me acknowledge and appreciate the endless cultures that make up this giant world,” Conchada said. “Learning that there are so many people in the world without something so essential like water makes me feel so privileged to have come from a city that has given me so much. I only hope my awesome city will see the world the way I see it.”