Alumni hike Appalachian Trail for water awareness

WILMORE, KY–In April 2010, Justin ’04 and Jessica McKelvey ’05 Meeker of Lexington, Ky., will set out on a nearly six month, 2,178 mile journey along the Appalachian Trail. However, this roughly 5-million step journey has nothing to do with personal accomplishments or trophies. For the Meekers, the trip will be used to raise awareness and funding to provide safe, clean water sources for the nearly 1-billion people without it worldwide.

Justin and Jessica Meeker
Justin and Jessica Meeker

Last year, Justin and Jessica discovered that 1 in every 8 people do not have access to safe, uncontaminated water which often results in disease and death - especially in children. According to the World Health Organization, water-borne illnesses are responsible for more than 3.5 million deaths each year, which is more than any single act of violence, including wars.

Unfortunately, not having access to this natural resource also has large social and economic impacts. According to Justin, communities without access to clean water also face a lack of education and employment due to the time spent fetching water each day. The couple’s campaign, titled, “WalkToWater,” was inspired by the fact that an average person in a developing country must walk 3 to 5 miles a day to simply gather a few gallons of water.

"I remember watching a PSA by an organization called 'charity: water' that depicts people in New York walking to Central Park with yellow jerry cans fetching water out of a pond for their families. One of the final scenes showed a mother pouring a glass of disgusting, dirty water for her child. I think that's when the reality and severity of the problem finally hit us. We couldn’t imagine never being able to work or go to school simply because we had to spend the entire day walking to fetch water. I hope the 5 million steps we take will be steps that children in another country will never have to take again to fetch water," Jessica said.

In the time leading up to their April departure, the couple will be selling their home in Lexington, Kentucky and many of their possessions in preparation for their journey. "It's not just all about the fund raising for us; we want to have a deeper understanding of what these people face as reality each day," Justin said. "We hope that spending 6 months without the luxury of using the 150 gallons of water that the average American uses each day will help us develop a more realistic view of what much of the world faces."

The couple has set a fund raising goal of $10,000, which would help provide clean water sources for two entire communities. All donations will go directly to water projects and will be handled by charity: water, an organization that helps provide clean, sustainable water sources to developing countries. The Meekers are encouraging everyone to consider making a donation of just $20, which they say will help provide clean water for one individual for 20 years.

To read more about the couple’s journey, or to make a donation to this project, visit  You will also be able to follow their blog as they post updates leading up to and during their journey.

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