- Almost one billion people do not have access to clean, safe water.
- More people in the world have cell phones than have access to a toilet.
- Every 20 seconds a child dies from a waterborne disease.
- Unsafe water kills more people annually than all forms of violence, including war.
After experiencing first-hand what it's like to live without clean, running water, Nyjah Huston and his mother Kelle Huston wanted to do something about the world water crisis. So in 2008, they formed a non-profit called Let It Flow, received 501(c)(3) status from the US government and began selling reusable water bottles at their local farmer's market.
"We raised enough money to build our first well in Ethiopia," says Kelle Huston. "That one well has changed the life of the village. They now have more time for education, growing food and even selling surplus food at their market, which generates income. Water is definitely the first step in solving extreme poverty and building sustainable communities. It's a positive snowball effect. That's why our tagline is 'Life grows where water flows.'"
You've heard stories about Nyjah Huston's childhood and rise to fame as a pro skater, his father and their trials and tribulations, but you likely don't know that his family once lived on a tiny atoll in the Fiji Islands with no fresh water. They had to boat to the main island once a week to collect it and Kelle Huston would ration the family's water for the entire week.
"In 2006 we moved to Puerto Rico and lived on a 26-acre farm high up in the hills," Kelle Huston explains. "We had a water system and modern plumbing, but weekly storms would fill our pipes with debris and clog the water lines, causing us to lose water for up to seven days until Mother Nature built up enough pressure in the lines to push the debris through so we could access clean water again. During these times, our children would carry five-gallon buckets of water 200 feet uphill from a holding tank at the bottom of the property to the house.
"We did this to fill the toilets, the washing machine and do the dishes for a family of seven people," Kelle Huston continues. "We're talking a lot of water, and anyone who's carried water knows how heavy it is. The children would complain and I'd remind them that some people have to do this every day for miles. And these people were not getting clean water from a holding tank -- they were getting filthy water from a stream that might kill them. Some days Nyjah's back was so sore from carrying water that he couldn't skate. I became obsessed with the water crisis and wanted to do anything I could to help."
The mission of Let It Flow is simple: Build clean-water wells, fix as many wells that are currently inoperable as possible and build sanitation stations for people in desperate need of clean water.
"Sanitation and clean-water go hand and hand," says Kelle Huston. "Studies have shown that if you only provide water and not sanitation, the people still get sick from contact with fecal matter. The main problem in these areas isn't absence of water but access to water. In most places, the water is right below the surface, but the people lack the tools or technology to reach it. All they need is a well."
Let It Flow recently completed building their first sanitation station in Ethiopia, which has two toilet stalls, two shower stalls and a hand-washing station.
"The people are so thankful and say it has been life-changing," says Kelle Huston.
With support from Tony Hawk, Rob Dyrdek, Jef Holm of The Bachelorette and Top Chef's Dave Martin, as well as People Water, a recent Let It Flow fundraiser in Laguna Beach, California raised enough money for two well projects. The next fundraiser will be at the Berrics on May 4 and Let It Flow is also planning a well repair trip to Haiti in the near future.
Additionally, Doug Pitt, (brother of actor Brad Pitt -- both partners in Maji-Tech, the largest water drilling rig company in East Africa), was thrilled to learn that Nyjah Huston was involved with a water charity and as a result, the minister of Tanzania has asked Huston to be the first skateboarder to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and raise awareness for the water crisis there and around the world.
In the meantime, Let It Flow has launched a campaign to raise $18,000 from November 30 till January 5 in honor of Huston's 18th birthday. You can donate at here. In exchange for donations, depending on the amount, you will receive autographed posters, hats, T-shirts, Element boards or a private skate sessions with Nyjah Huston at the newly remodeled Berrics in Los Angeles. For any person or company that donates $5,000 (the average cost to build a well) or more, Let It Flow will build a well dedicated in their name.
$20 provides water for one person and $100 provides water for a whole family. If Let It Flow could get 1,000 people to donate $20, they could build four wells and provide water for about 2000 people, so any amount you contribute will make a huge difference.
"I want people to know the human-side of Nyjah beyond the skateboard," says Kelle Huston. His upbringing has given him a unique perspective on life, and I think he has a lot to share. Clean, safe water is something that most Americans take for granted and I know that we wouldn't be so passionate about it had we not experienced it ourselves."