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University of Maryland students raise more than $3,700 for clean water access in Rwanda

About 200 University of Maryland community members pledged nearly $4,000 to only drink water from Nov. 7 to Nov. 16 to raise funds and awareness for clean water access in Rwanda.

University of Maryland Cru decided to hold a "Love Week" modeled after a campaign at George Mason University, Cru staff member Jenny Penley said. Love Week is a 10-day campaign for a particular cause in a chosen country. Because Cru had previously partnered with Living Water International ­— which launched an initiative in Rwanda in 2007 — the organization decided to focus on the lack of clean water in the country, Penley said.

Cru led a coalition in raising a total of $3724.46 for Love Rwanda during the campaign, Penley said on Sunday, with 201 individuals and 10 teams participating. In addition to raising money for Living Water International, one of the main goals of the Love Rwanda campaign was to unify the campus, Cru intern Brandon Edwards said.

"Everybody on the face of the planet is looking for something to join … I think every human being knows at their core that it’s actually better to give than to receive," he said.

Cru also worked with UMD Students Ending Slavery, the business school, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Christ in Culture and the Black Student Union, among other organizations, in attempts to reach a wider audience, Penley said.

"With so many social issues, it’s hard to bank on human decency and thinking like, ’Oh, there are people in Rwanda without clean water,’" said Students Ending Slavery co-president Emily Long, a senior government and politics major. "[Students] need to feel like them not having clean water somehow affects [their] life."

Eric Schrock, a Cru member and senior business management major, regularly wore his Love Rwanda shirt to class — as well as temporary tattoos supporting the cause — during the campaign. He also supported the cause through his involvement with other organizations; as a member of the Smith School’s Dean’s Student Advisory Council, Schrock decided to open this opportunity to the entire business school.

"I’m on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council, so I saw the potential there to kind of advertise throughout the whole business school," Schrock said.

To help raise support, Edwards said he contacted the executive boards of any organization he knew of as an undergraduate, either through email or in person, and also advertised at Stamp Student Union. For organizations that wanted to get involved, Cru set up a website so groups could have their own teams and track how much the team was contributing.

In addition to advertising, some students also walked around the mall carrying water coolers to symbolize how far Rwandans have to walk to get water. More than 20 percent of the population lacks access to clean water, according to WaterAid, a charity organization that aims to provide access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

"It was a good conversation starter because people were wondering why eight kids were walking around with water coolers," senior English major Ellie Lewis said.

Although there’s nothing inherently Christian about the cause, Edwards said the campaign followed Christian teachings.

"When you see someone in need you’re supposed to give," he said. "It’s not an option, it’s an obligation."

Emily Yung, a senior supply chain management and international business major, is the president of InterVarsity, which had some members participate in raising money for Love Week.

Yung said she is more concerned with changing American mindsets than raising a specific amount of money.

"As Americans we spend so much on drinks day to day and we don’t really think twice about spending that money," she said. "But it does really all add up."


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