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i am waters founder elena davis I Am Waters founder Elena Davis in front of a bottled water donation destined for New York and victims of Hurricane Sandy. (Photo courtesy I Am Waters Foundation)

A Critical Need After Sandy: Water

I Am Waters Foundation sends clean drinking water from Houston to New York

By Millie Hernandez | null null , null

The impact Superstorm Sandy had on northeastern states was tragic and devastating. Many people were left without power, homes, and drinking water. Water is essential for the well being of a person, but clean drinking water could not easily be found by victims after the storm.

Elena Davis decided she wanted to change that. Davis is the founder of the I Am Waters Foundation. The foundation is based in Houston, Texas, and is dedicated to providing water to the homeless. It also helps get water to those that need it most after natural disasters.

Even though Davis and I Am Waters are more than 1,6000 miles away from the area affected by Sandy, this did not stop her from sending help where it was needed most.

Kid Reporter Millie Hernandez spoke with Davis recently about I Am Waters and how the foundation helped the Sandy recovery effort. Here is an edited transcript of their interview.

About how much water did I Am Waters donate to victims of Hurricane Sandy?

It was two truckloads so it was about 76,000 bottles of water. It was 76,016 bottles of water to be exact.

What motivated you to help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy?

We deliver water to people and you can say they're homeless, but it doesn't matter. People are just people. So whether if you're a person who doesn't have a regular place to live or if you're a person who has a place to live but it has been destroyed, a human being is a human being and a body is a body. I understand very well how hard it is on somebody that doesn't have access to water. I know that it can really mean the difference between life and death. We did it because we happened to have our water available and we know how crucial it is to people that have lost their homes and the children, moms, and dads that were displaced. We also understood that they must have been devastated. The words on the bottle like "love, dream, hope, and peace" are reminders to pray and remember that there will be a better day and not to lose hope. Being a water organization it's just a natural thing for us to reach out like that.

About how many volunteers helped you out on your mission to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy?

In Staten Island, I called Wagner College and they offered up their football team. Then Far Rockaway, which was the second location we delivered to, we delivered through Catholic Charities to a little church. We got the volunteers there and they were great. There were lots of moms and some college kids.

Why do you think these volunteers have come together to help I Am Waters?

They are all people helping people. What is good in all people is the ability of them to pull together and have compassion and empathy. While I'm grateful that I Am Waters had the help and volunteers, I really think that these were people that were showing up for their neighbors, community, and each other. They were there doing the right thing for the right reason. They're just good people helping their fellow New Yorkers out in a bad situation.

Are there any other disasters or events that I Am Waters has helped people cooperate with?

Before Hurricane Sandy, New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Isaac and we delivered to four cities. They had made an emergency request for more water so we sent more water down there. We assisted two times: New Orleans for Hurricane Isaac and then New York for Hurricane Sandy.

About how much time do you dedicate to I Am Waters?

I am a mother and I do about three of the organization's jobs. Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who has a flexible schedule so he can help me because we have three children. It's gotten a little bit more normal. I sometimes have to work on the weekends, but at this point I work with my children. It's a lot of time.

What inspired you to start the I Am Waters Foundation?

I was inspired by two things. One is the homeless that I serve. It gives an environment that I was raised around. We weren't homeless, but I was a little girl and we grew up very poor and living a very transient life, meaning we moved a lot. So that was with me from a very young age. Then one day, many, many years later when I was grown up, I went to pick up my kids from school. A woman stopped me on an intersection and asked me for water. In that moment, that is where this all developed and came to be. That was when I realized that water for homeless people was very difficult to get.
What specific impact do you wish I Am Waters will have on people?

There are nearly four million [homeless] people in the United States, and that number is growing. Forty-three percent of homeless are families. There are 1.65 million homeless children in the United States and the average age is 6 years old. One out of four are veterans. My hope is that people don't lose hope. My hope is for the water and the words on the bottle, for each and every person who receives a bottle that it reminds them that somebody on the outside, a person knows that they're there and that they matter. Whoever that person is, the message is that everybody has value. I think the most important thing for me would be that everybody that is homeless or feels discouraged knows that there is somebody out there that loves them and hopes that they find their path back to a better life and to living like everybody deserves to live.

You can share your Hurricane Sandy experiences and find more coverage of the storm and its aftermath on the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Blog.

Find out how kids across the country are helping the Hurricane Sandy relief effort — and catch up with the Kid Reporters' on-the-ground reporting during the storm — in the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Special Report.


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