72 hours is all it took. A mere three days rocked the world of Seth Maxwell.
The 2006 Franklin Central graduate was a first-year student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles in March 2007. Pursuing an acting career, something he had done since he was 7, was on his mind — not founding a not-for-profit that brings clean, safe water to people suffering from thirst.
And as Maxwell tells high school groups he speaks to, “I didn’t wake one day and say, ‘I think I’ll start a charity today.’” But in a storyline that might not even seem believable for the movies, Seth Maxwell is now the founder, president and CEO of The Thirst Project, based out of LA.
In 2007 a friend convinced Maxwell to see her photos from Uganda because there was a bigger story. Maxwell watched in growing horror as photo after photo showed Ugandan women and children collecting their daily water from dark brown water sources. Women and girls daily walked hours to any place they could find water. No matter how it smelled, what animals had defecated in it or how dark the water color, the girls and women collected the nasty brew in clay jars or large plastic cans. Water is survival.
But polluted water is also death — especially for children. Shaken, Maxwell did online research and discovered that Uganda is not alone. There is a global water crisis. Every 15 seconds a child dies of water-related illness.
“The next day my pastor talked about the global water crisis during his sermon. ‘We can reduce child mortality by 99 percent overnight,’” Maxwell recalls him saying, “if we solve the water crisis.”
Gathering seven college friends the next day and pooling their combined resources, they came up with $70. They bought 1,000 bottles of water and headed to Hollywood Boulevard. They offered the bottles free to people in order to ask if they knew about the world water crisis. At the end of five hours, 1,000 people had gained awareness. Most also gave money to Maxwell and his friends. $70 became $1,700 — enough to rehabilitate a broken well.
“I thought I had done my part and could go back to my life, focusing on myself,” said Maxwell to a group of Indianapolis high school students Monday.
Maxwell also received two phone calls from people he had met in Hollywood the day before. Would he come speak to their school about his organization’s work? What organization? thought Seth. But he agreed to talk to Esperanza High School in Orange County and college students at Berkeley. By the end of the month, $9,000 had been donated. “I guess we’re onto something,” he thought.
The Thirst Project officially launched in 2008 to raise awareness of and bring solutions to the clean water crisis. They offer a strong educational program to empower and mobilize students under the theme:
Together…We CAN do something. Give Water. Give Life.
Because of his vision, strong leadership and ability to get results from his generation, The Thirst Project board is peopled with high-level entertainment industry professionals. Actor Drake Bell is an official spokesperson. Bell sent out a challenge Oct. 26 to his 120,00 Facebook followers to join his Five4Four Campaign: donate five dollars a month for four months for a new well in Africa.
Thus far, The Thirst Project has completed projects that provide water for 8,000 people and have helped up to 30,000 more through partnerships with other nonprofits. All funds raised through student outreaches go directly into well projects. Operating expenses are funded through other board initiatives.
Maxwell told a high school science class on Monday, “Right now you have everything you need to do something to save lives. You don’t have to, but, if you could save lives for $20, would you?”
Seth will be in the Indy area through Nov. 7. There is still time for a few more school or church visits.
For more information, call Seth Maxwell at (317) 691-5806 or visit their Web site at www.thirstproject.org
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