The planet’s surface is predominantly made up of water. However, much of this is saline and unfit to drink, leaving a mere .007% of the world’s water to be shared by billions upon billions of humans. It is an unsettling truth, then, that not a small percentage of the population is left needing access to clean drinking water.
Currently there are about 1 billion people who, without any means of procuring safe, potable water, and basic sanitation, are prone to 80% of diseases which kill more people yearly than HIV/AIDS, cancer or wars.
According to the group behind the River to Well Photo Competition, most of these deaths are of children from 0-14 years of age. To put it into perspective, they say, the impact of unsafe water is like “a jumbo jet full of children crashing every four hours” and it is a burden that River to Well wishes to lessen.
The photo competition, which uses its proceeds to build wells for communities without water, was conceived after Ken Chang (who serves as the contest’s project leader) traveled to Nhdambi, South Africa with other members of his church. During his trip, Ken was exposed to the difficulties experienced by the Nhdambi villagers who had no reliable source for potable water.
This led to an epiphany : a centrally-located well would make truly clean water available and accessible to everyone and he was going to bring that well to village of Nhdambi (and hopefully to other villages too).
Thinking of a way to fund the well, Chang, a photography enthusiast, decided to create a photo competition where artists and photographers can compete and show off their talents while still contributing to the needs of the less-fortunate. Calling together a group of talented friends who shared his passions for the arts and for people around the planet, the River to Well Photo Competition was born in 2009.
The competition is overseen by a panel of four judges who are all experienced in the fields of art and photography. Submissions are judged within three divisions namely : Student, Amateur Non-Student, and Professional. The entry photos are assessed according to criteria like the level of engagement; composition; color; sharpness; exposure; creativity; and uniqueness.
Last year’s winners were a black and white composition by Ryan Brown of the United States, featured a railway station concourse (Professional Division); Ferry Keizer’s photo of a man walking through a lilliputian city (Amateur Division); and contemplative piece by Tanner Grubbs (Student Division). The big winner was, of course, the village of Nhdambi whose people were able to receive their promised well of clean water.
For this year’s competition RTW is combining efforts with the non-profit organization, Oceans of Mercy, which has built a lasting presence in South Africa, to make sure that the village of KwaDick, South Africa will emerge victorious with their own well of sanitary drinking water. KwaDick’s villagers depend on a single engine to pump “clean” water from a nearby water. When the engine conks out, women would need to walk to the river and carry the water back to the town in five-gallon buckets. A communal well will certainly bring ease to the lives of the villagers.
On the other hand, top finishing photographers for the 2010 competition, which has a September 1st deadline, will have a chance to be featured in a week-long exhibition (September 28 – October 2) at the Signs of Life gallery in downtown Lawrence, Kansas. Additionally, they will receive prizes like a $250 Sell n’ Send Voucher, a 16oz Nalgene HDPE water bottle, a 2010 River to Well Custom T-Shirt, or a 2010 River to Well Sticker/Decal. All of these prizes were donated by sponsors.
Everyone who devotes time to the competition is a volunteer or sponsor who is passionate about the cause and specializes in project leadership, event planning, design and web development, marketing and outreach, sponsorship, judging and criteria, or finance.
UPrinting has provided sponsored services for 10×17 posters and 4×6 postcards for the River to Well Photography Competition. Russell Wright, who handles finance and treasury says that UPrinting’s customer service is “top-notch”. He also says “the quality of the printing is great as well. Jobs were proofed, completed, and shipped uber-quickly”.
He adds that they are certainly glad that they were contacted to be part of the UPrinting UCommunity Program which made them eligible for the sponsored printed materials because they have “no complaints whatsoever. We’ve recommended UPrinting to two other similar organizations.”
As the judging for 2010 River to Well Competition approaches, the team behind the contest is becoming more and more excited at seeing entries from all over the US, and from countries like Belgium and Italy. It certainly is a sign that they’re able to get across to people from around the world and it seems that they’ll be able to, once more, deliver a source of clean drinking water to a community that direly needs it.
Arthur Piccio is a feature writer and subject matter expert for theUPrinting Blog.