Mike Freeman wears many hats in Major League Baseball. As a utility infielder most recently for the Cleveland Indians, he morphs into any role needed for the team.
Freeman also dons the hat worn by advocates for a global issue: the heavy burden carried by women without access to clean, safe water. In March, he and his family took to the streets to participate in a virtual walk for women and girls affected by the global water crisis.
Hosted by Water Mission, a nonprofit Christian engineering ministry, Walk for Water is an annual event where participants walk in solidarity with the 2.2 billion people around the world who do not have access to clean, safe water. Amid COVID-19 and a need for social distancing, the 2020 Walk for Water took place virtually as families chose to walk in their own neighborhoods. During Freeman’s walk with his wife, Caroline, and their 2-year-old daughter, they talked about the hardships of women and girls in developing countries.
Caroline shared that Mike was “carrying a bucket full of water, which represents the water buckets that a lot of people in the world have to [carry] every day.” She referred especially to the women and girls who shoulder the burden of collecting water in most households — water that is often far from home and contaminated. “This is a good workout,” Mike admitted in the video, while Caroline reminded viewers that Mike is a grown man and professional athlete, not a young woman or child.
Lack of access to safe water impacts women from birth to education to livelihood. The lack of safe water or sanitation practices during births leads to infections, which cause 26 percent of infant deaths, 11 percent of maternal deaths, and 1 million total deaths each year. In 8 out of 10 households with limited drinking water, women and girls bear the responsibility of walking for water. Because they must walk miles every day to a viable water source, their access to education and jobs is limited. In Africa, women spend 200 million hours per day walking for water. When local safe water solutions reduce the time it takes to collect water, school attendance among girls increases by 12 percent.
Just as a woman bears the weight of unsafe water, she also holds the keys to the solution.
Women and girls have the greatest firsthand knowledge about their communities’ specific water needs, which is why the inclusion of female voices is paramount to Water Mission when planning water projects. Using a holistic approach built on local resources and relationships, Water Mission provides sustainable safe water systems, sanitation solutions, and hygiene education to communities around the world. Local Safe Water Committees established by Water Mission are comprised of both men and women from the community who can speak specifically about all water-related needs. Ending the global water crisis once and for all lies in the hands of women and their advocates.
As families in the United States like the Freemans go to bat for women and girls in developing nations, so can you. You can raise awareness about the water crisis and support ministries like Water Mission. You can raise your sons and daughters to love sports, love their neighbors and love God. You can join the team to fight the global water crisis.