It's hard to believe but almost a billion people on the planet don't have access to clean, safe drinking water. That's one in eight of us, and more than 50 percent of children in the developing world lack access to safe drinking water or sanitary bathrooms.
The good news is, there's something we can do.
An organization called H20 for life is connecting schools across America with schools in other countries that don't have clean bathrooms, sinks, or even running water. Incredibly, that's half of all the schools in the developing world.
"Every student has the right to have water, and sanitation at their school," said Valerie Johnson, a parent volunteer who started H20 for Life with retired teacher Patty Hall four years ago. "Kids should be carrying books instead of water. Water and sanitation is as important as math and reading to a child's education."
This story is part of ABC News' "Be the Change: Save a Life" initiative. Click here to watch the special.
For complete coverage and information on how you can personally make a difference, go to SaveOne.net.
Connecting Schools Across the Globe
While filming in Bangladesh for "Be the Change: Save a Life," I saw the problem firsthand.
Through H20 for Life and Save the Children, I met with students whose school just outside Dhaka had only two toilets for 500 students -- and those are just holes in the ground with no plumbing or running water. The kids hold their noses when they walk into the bathroom, and if they want to flush or wash their hands, they have to pump water outside by hand then carry it inside in a bucket.
A sister school in America, H.B. Woodlawn in Arlington, Va., wanted to raise money for the Bangladeshi school so students there could have running water and sinks to wash their hands.
At 5 p.m. in Dhaka -- 7 a.m. in Arlington -- we connected the two classrooms via Skype. The students realized that even though they were 8,000 miles apart, they shared the same interests -- like badminton and soccer.
They talked about their teachers, what they were studying, and what they like to eat.
And they talked about water.
"There's no water inside the bathroom. It's very dirty…very stinky," the Bangladeshi students told us.
When asked what they wanted the American students to help with, they said, "Towels, soap, and running water…and repairs so that it's not so stinky."
"We recognize that we are very fortunate in that we don't have to worry about where we get water," said 16-year-old Mary Shields. "Now that we've become aware of this struggle for you all we want to help you …so you all can have fun in school and learn, and not worry about water."
Before saying goodbye to their newfound friends, the students promised to write letters and exchange pictures. And just this week in a student assembly run by French teacher Cecilia Allen, H.B. Woodlawn students planned to hold a benefit concert, car washes and a 5K walkathon to raise money for the school in Bangladesh and for World Water Day.
Schools Helping Schools
Every dollar raised by students in America is matched by a nonprofit organization working with the school in that country. Including matching funds, 170 American schools have raised nearly a $1 million for partner schools in the developing world.
Schools raise money in all kinds of creative ways.
"This is a terrible, terrible situation. But it's a fun project to work on and it's fun to make a difference in the world," said Johnson.
Sunrise Park Middle School in White Bear Lake, Minn., threw pies at their teachers after reaching their goal for their partner school in Tanzania. The kids at Quaker Valley School in Sewickly, Pa., held a bucket walk, carrying water for three miles to raise money for a school in Sudan. They also sold strips of duct tape to students, and then duct-taped their teacher to wall. Even Bethlehem Covenant Day Care in Minneapolis, Minn., held a trike-a-thon for a school in Guatemala!
And it's not just about fundraising. Johnson and Hall believe learning about water is a priority too. They have developed a flexible curriculum relating to various subjects and grades, so teachers can connect the project to what their students are learning in class.
"So our Tool Kit contains connections for Language Arts, connections for Science, connections for Math, connections for Social Studies, connections for an Art class, a Music class, a Tech class," said Patty Hall. "French teachers have chosen schools that teach French because they want to have that connection for their students."
Schools in the U.S. can pick their partner school on the website www.h2oforlifeschools.org.
"If a U.S. school wants to take on a partner, they simply go to our website, look under available partners- and they will see a list of names, partners, and prices in countries," said Johnson "Our first year we had one school, the 2nd year we had 16 on board… this year right now we are sitting at about 150," said Johnson. "I am hoping by the end of our school year, we have HUNDREDS more on board."
We can be the change.