SEATTLE — Former Rams and Patriots defensive end Chris Long won his first Super Bowl ring at Super Bowl LI, an event that will be etched into NFL history forever. The victory was juxtaposed with another significant, more personal event that received less publicity: when fans raised funds through Long’s organization, Waterboys, to provide clean water in Tanzania.
During Long’s second trip to Tanzania in 2015, he witnessed villagers drinking brown water from boreholes that contained animal excrements. After learning that villagers regularly drank this water, Long embarked on an initiative called Waterboys, an organization which unites players and fans to bring sustainable water wells to East African communities in need.
Long was first inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge and the subsequent awareness raised about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and has since rallied the NFL’s 32 teams to fundraise and build 32 deep borehole wells. He believes there are limitless opportunities for providing clean water in Tanzania if an organization like the NFL supports this endeavor.
He has teamed up with Anquan Boldin from the Detroit Lions, his brother Kyle Long from the Chicago Bears and many other NFL players. Nate Boyer, an inactive NFL player who also served as a Green Beret, raised more than $100,000 to support Waterboys. Some of Long’s first partners were Doug Pitt, Goodwill ambassador to Tanzania, and WorldServe International, a Missouri-based nonprofit which drills and installs clean water wells in sub-Saharan Africa.
The CIA World Factbook states that Tanzania has the largest population in East Africa. The population of the country’s youth is growing rapidly. However, they are born into a country where 92 percent lack access to rural sanitation. More than 4,000 children die every year from diarrhea due to poor sanitation, and 23 million Tanzanians drink water from unsafe sources.
Phillip Yang, a former director and teacher for an adult college in Tanzania, was forced to drink charred, local water with a murky texture after his water filter broke while traveling through a remote village in Tanzania. Even after receiving the typhoid vaccination in the U.S., he experienced symptoms of typhoid fever. He explains, “drinking local water is procedural for many of these villagers.”
Yet, the lack of clean water in Tanzania is an economic and educational issue as well. WorldServe International explains that women and children walk miles to collect clean water, forgoing educational opportunities. This makes it a gender equality issue as well. A nearby water well eliminates the need for a girl to help her mother collect water; instead, she is free to learn subjects like math and science in school.
Reports indicate that groundwater sources make up 12 percent of Tanzania’s water supply. Surface water, which includes lakes, rivers, dams and springs, make up 88 percent. Researchers state that some areas have dried up due to climate change. Experts state that some rivers are at potential risk due to mining, farming and livestock keeping. Japhet Kashaigili from the Sokoine University of Agriculture states that groundwater in Tanzania is a key resource to improve water supply coverage.
By October 2016, Waterboys had constructed 14 wells, impacting 40,000 people. The “Super Bowl” well is scheduled to be built in Ranch Village, Tanzania. Currently, the nearest water source is eight miles from the village’s 3,000 people.
Although the 32-year-old Long announced that he would be signing with another team, Waterboys is an endeavor that reaches the entire organization and country. The Borgen Project applauds all efforts made by Long and his associates to create water wells in Tanzania and uplift its most vulnerable communities.
– Andy Jung