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The Stars Come Out to Help End The Global Water Crisis

The Stars Come Out to Help End The Global Water Crisis

thirst gala
Getty Images for Thirst Project

The Thirst Gala is an annual star-studded event aimed at raising awareness of the global water crisis. 

Photo above: Thirst Project founder Seth Maxwell (left) and Swaziland Director for Thirst Project Sibusiso Shiba

Started by seven teenagers with about $70 a decade ago, Thirst Project has now helped nearly 300,000 people in the world gain access to safe, clean water. Currently, there are about 660 million people living on this planet without access to safe, clean water. And Seth Maxwell, 29-year-old founder of Thirst Project, and proud member of the LGBT community, says raising awareness is key. “I think one of the astonishing things for me, when we first started, was that I considered myself a pretty educated person. I was just kind of blown away by the fact that I didn't know about this,” says Maxwell.

The problem is lot more complex than simply thirst, explains Maxwell. The lack of safe, clean water affects multiple areas of a community. “Kids will walk for many miles from their homes every day to collect water from rivers, streams, ponds, because that's the only water people have access to.” Once a community has a safe sustainable water source, these kids (usually females) can now spend their time getting an education.

Diarrhea caused by water-borne diseases is one of the top five causes of child mortality worldwide. Safe, clean drinking water would virtually eliminate this problem. Clean water has especially powerful impact on those living with HIV and AIDS. “We made a commitment five years ago, to do what nobody's ever done before, and give the entire country of Swaziland safe, clean drinking water,” says Maxwell. “Swaziland is unfortunately best known for actually having the single highest density of HIV/AIDS population of any country in the world. These people's immune systems are already so compromised that basic, easily preventable diseases will kill them much faster. The ability to make a positive impact on two issues at once was actually part of what made us choose Swaziland.”

Thirst Project focuses largely on speaking at schools and encouraging young people to take action. The first two schools that Thirst Project spoke to about ten years ago ended up raising over $12,000 from student-organized fundraisers. Maxwell recalls, “Our immediate thought was, if this was what two schools could do, what if about ten schools? What if we had a hundred schools doing this, or a thousand schools?”

The progress made in the last ten years gives Maxwell hope that a true end to this global crisis is possible in the near future. “It’s definitely been exciting to the impact that's been made on the issue so far. We've seen the number basically cut in half in the last 8 or 9 years, which is amazing. We believe wholeheartedly we'll see the end of this issue, not just in our lifetime, like in the next two decades,” says Maxwell. “We'll be the generation, yours and mine, to push the water crisis into the history books.”


Actor Michael Welch and his wife, set designer Samantha Maggio, arrive at the Thirst Gala.


Singer and YouTube personality, Trevor Moran strikes a pose while entering the Gala.


Thirst Project founder Seth Maxwell onstage at the Gala.


OK Go performs onstage at the 2017 Thirst Gala.


Actress Charisma Carpenter and actor Drake Bell backstage at the Thirst Gala.


Thirst Project Honorees Kristen De Guzman, Michael Miller and Erica Wang accepting their awards. 


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