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My journey to help solve the global water and sanitation crisis

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By Tony Petrucci

Can you imagine a world where everyone has access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation? It’s not an impossible vision. Last year’s World Toilet Day was on November 19. It may sound funny, but clean water is no joke. And neither is the fact that 2.1 billion people currently don’t have access to safe, reliable water. Even more – 4.5 billion – don’t have access to improved sanitation.

I’d like to tell you about my work with Water For People (WFP), a global non-profit organization, and why I’m so passionate about trying to help solve the global water and sanitation crisis.

My introduction to the organization’s water, sanitation and hygiene program began with a presentation I attended during the 2004 Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference in Chicago. Steve Werner was the Executive Director of WFP at the time. He had one slide in his presentation that had the face of a child disappearing every 15 seconds to represent the number of children that are dying because of the global water and sanitation crisis, specifically from waterborne diseases.

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I believe everyone should have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. It is a basic human right. For all of us that are more fortunate and have the means to help, we have a moral obligation to help our global brothers and sisters.

For that reason, I have helped with fundraising efforts and awareness-building campaigns to support Water For People Canada’s program work in nine countries. The work, which impacts more than four million people, involves delivering safe water, improved sanitation, and hygiene education services, in cooperation with community members, governments and other like-minded Non-Governmental Organizations.

I am also on my second tour of duty on the Water For People Canada Board and currently serve as President. Our goal is to substantially increase our annual revenues to impact as many people as possible. We want to reach every school, clinic and family in the countries and communities where we work, and at a scale where we can reach “Everyone Forever”.

My most memorable volunteering experience came during a visit to Bolivia in 2008 to see the water and sanitation work in person. I will never forget the appreciation from families for WFP’s assistance. Community leaders were so proud to secure the necessary funding and technical support to give their children the opportunity for a healthy and bright future.

That experience inspired me to continue to work hard here in Canada to raise awareness of the global water and sanitation crisis, and still inspires me today. This cause means so much to me, because it reflects the industry I work in.

Last year, volunteers from Stantec stepped up to the challenge in 20 offices, and raised more than $15,000 through employee giving and local fundraising efforts in each office. Every dollar raised to support WFP’s water and sanitation work results in a 5-to-1 economic impact for those communities.

Special thanks to Julie Kauffman at WFP for her efforts in helping us launch our employee giving campaign. I’d also like to pass along my deepest appreciation to Stantec volunteers, WFP volunteers, and WFP – Canada volunteers, as well as to our industry partners that supported our fundraising and awareness-building activities.

Please help celebrate World Toilet Day 2019 by helping Water For People, Water For People – Canada, or other like-minded NGOs in their efforts to make sure safe drinking water and adequate sanitation reach Everyone Forever.

Tony Petrucci is with Stantec and is President, Water For People Canada. This commentary appears in ES&E Magazine’s April 2019 issue.

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