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Jessica Biel, Mt. Kilimanjaro and clean water

Jessica Biel, attending the pre-ascent event at Voyeur.
Jessica Biel, attending the pre-ascent event at Voyeur.

December 2004. A tsunami in Aceh, Indian Ocean.

October 2005. A massive earthquake in Kashmir, Pakistan.

May 2008. Cyclone Nargis in Ayeyawaddy, Myanmar.

May 2008. Earthquake in Sichaun province, China.

Mother nature strikes and leaves devastation in her wake. Thousands upon thousands die. We wring our hands. We pray. Collections are taken. But it’s too big. It’s too much. Tragedy on a scale we can barely contemplate. And then it’s over, for us anyway. The story moves off the front page. Besides, it all happened in lands so far away. Relief agencies already moved in. We forget because we can; because we think the crisis must be over. No one’s talking about it anymore.

And therein lies the problem. The crisis is never over. Though it is no longer news, it occurs every day. So Grammy-nominated artist Kenna asked his friend Jessica Biel and about a dozen others to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with him this January so they could shout for all to hear that a natural disaster is happening every day all over the world.

Water. Dirty water.

Water borne illness is the leading cause of death in the world, taking 3.575 millions lives each year. Every fifteen seconds, a child dies from a preventable, water related illness.

Don’t wring your hands.

Last week, Kenna and friends, with the support of PUR water filtration systems, Windows 7, Bing and Intel, threw a party at Voyeur in West Hollywood to raise awareness for the clean water global crisis and to kick off their climb, beginning January 7th, 2010. Jessica Biel was there, as was Justin Timberlake. Zach Braff (he’s the “voice of water” for the PUR ad campaign) showed up, in addition to actors Isabel Lucas and James Van Der Beek. But before DJ Samantha Ronson really turned up the music, a conversation with Dr. Greg Allgood was the ticket. Allgood is the director of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program (CSDW) for Procter & Gamble, a man who travels the world handing out PUR Water “sachets” to millions of people, teaching them how to turn filthy water into clean, drinkable water in as little as 30 minutes. This man is determined to save as many children as he can and he’ll climb Mt. Kilimanjaro if it’ll make you pay attention. You should.

Kenna spoke at Voyeur and thanked the partners, sponsors and climbers who are making the Kilimanjaro expedition a reality. Mostly though, he talked about water and how a conversation with his father, a man who lost his childhood friends again and again growing up in Ethiopia, inspired him to take action. Kenna created Summit on the Summit and there’s reason to believe that asking others to make the Kilimanjaro ascent with him wasn’t as hard as it sounds. There are “no-brainers” in the world of social responsibility, philanthropy, global aid. Summit on the Summit is drawing attention to possibly the biggest “no-brainer” of them all. The water can be cleaned. The children can be saved. And you can climb with them from the comfort of your own living room.

Summit on the Summit has created one of the coolest websites in recent memory. There, thanks to Hewlett Packard, it’s possible to meet the climbers and watch them, starting January 7th, as they tweet, share photos and blog about their climb while they’re on the mountain. Before then, browse the site and find ways to donate, learn about the climbers, get the facts and tell others.

Need some last minute gifts for the holidays? Water bottles are so yesterday, so non-PC. Instead, pick up a PUR water pitcher or faucet filtration system, and PUR will donate to the CSDW, providing a day’s worth of clean water for an entire family in the developing world.

Aceh, Kashmir, Ayeyawaddy, Sichaun Province. In the wake of these disasters, the availability of clean water became the greatest challenge. Apart from these catastrophes, it is the greatest challenge still. It’s not on the front page but talk about it anyway. Appreciate the fact that, despite the drought here in Southern California, we can still turn on our faucets and get water any time we desire. There is little chance that our children will ever suffer from a water borne illness.

Lucky us.

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