Elena Davis: Helping the Homeless, One Water Bottle at a Time

November 23 - On The Dot
 
FIRST THOUGHT: Giving Thanks for the Basics

Today, I am thinking about all the things I am grateful for in my life: my family, my friends, my career, my many experiences. But even when we take the time to have an attitude of gratitude, many of us don’t dig deep enough to understand just how lucky we really are.

I don’t struggle with knowing where my next meal will come from, whether I’ll have clothing to wear tomorrow, where I’ll rest my head for the night or whether I’ll get enough water to drink when I’m thirsty. These are the real essentials of survival, yet, in a busy, modern life, we often forget to show our appreciation for such fundamental needs.

Today, take a few minutes to give thanks simply for the basics.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 2/3

When we think about places that lack clean water, we probably think about rural areas overseas. But the fact is many people in the United States don’t have access to clean drinking water. On any given night, there are some 600,000 people who are homeless in this country, and two-thirds of them—including veterans, children and women—don’t have access to clean drinking water.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Elena Davis, Founder of I Am Waters Foundation

Such drab statistics might leave many of us feeling helpless, like there’s nothing that can be done to help America’s homeless find sources of clean drinking water. Thankfully, today’s Woman to Watch, Elena Davis, turned her concern into action, and devised a wonderful way to make sure people struggling with homelessness have access to clean water, as well as some much-needed inspiration.

Elena is no stranger to struggle. She grew up in poverty as one of four children raised by a single mother who brought in less than $3,000 a year. The battle to simply survive was a constant in her family’s life. But Elena dreamed of something better, and by the time she had turned 16, she was given the opportunity of a lifetime. She started a successful modeling career and was eventually able to lift her family out of poverty.

But years after calling the streets her home, Elena still felt connected to that life. One day, while sitting at a stoplight in her car, Elena noticed a homeless woman walking between the cars, she assumed, asking for money. But once the woman reached her car and Elena offered her some money, the woman requested drinking water instead, which Elena was happy to hand over.

That powerful experience stuck with Elena, and she vowed to do something about the lack of clean drinking water for America’s homeless. So, Elena launched the nonprofit I Am Waters Foundation, delivering clean, bottled water to homeless shelters and agencies. Far more than simply a life-sustaining beverage, I Am Waters bottles are emblazoned with words like “peace,” “love,” “faith,” “hope” and “gratitude”—messages Elena hopes helps boost morale for the homeless, and provide a sense of belonging and love.

In that first summer, I Am Waters delivered 80,000 bottles of water to the homeless. About 54 percent of staff at participating shelters reported an attitude shift in their homeless clients, and about the same amount said the water donations freed up a good portion of their funds to address other needs.

I Am Waters now distributes hundreds of thousands of bottles through partnerships and alliances with shelters and churches. And with firsthand knowledge of how powerful photography can be, Elena and her organization also launched an image campaign, providing the homeless community with professional photos as a way to bolster their self-image while also opening an avenue to address their current homeless situation. It is yet another way Elena is not only tackling the problem of clean-water access, but also the self-esteem drought these people often experience.

Elena is living proof that what starts as a simple idea can grow into a movement that positively affects the lives of so many people in need.

QUITE THE QUOTE

As acclaimed politician and philanthropist Nelson Mandela said:

“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”

And with that, we at On The Dot wish you a blessed Thanksgiving. We’ll be back Monday!

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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