South Charlotte

Student digs deep for Kenyans to have clean water

Most of us are thankful for our health, family and friends. Randi Smith reminds us to be thankful for something Americans take for granted: clean water.

A few years ago, Smith participated in World Vision's 30-hour famine through her youth group at Philadelphia United Methodist Church in Fort Mill.

"We went without food for 30 hours and learned what that is like, while raising money for the hungry. I also learned about the food and water problems in the world and was shocked," said Smith, a freshman at Fort Mill High School.

Last summer, Smith attended BigStuf, a youth ministry rally in Florida. She heard about several charitable organizations and missions, but H2O4K (Water for Kenya) stood out.

"Again, I heard about the problems people have when they can't get clean water. There was just something about it this time," she said. "I couldn't get it off my mind the rest of the trip. The number of people dying is sickening, and I wanted to do something. I think God was telling me do something."

"Randi came back with a fire under her," said her mom, Cindi Smith.

Randi contacted Blake Bouldin, the local H2O4K representative with The 410 Bridge organization. Bouldin encouraged Smith to use her enthusiasm to make a difference.

"I talked with my pastor and he was really supportive. So I spent every free minute I had working on a PowerPoint presentation," Smith said. "It costs $3,500 to build one well to provide clean water in Kenya. I hoped that I could raise enough money for one well in about six months."

Last month, Smith spoke at three services at Philadelphia United Methodist Church. She told them how 35,000 kids worldwide die every day - more than 12 million a year - due to the lack of clean water.

In Kenya, 4,000 kids die each day, almost 1.5 million a year. Water-related diseases are the single largest killer of infants in developing countries. Only 61 percent of Kenya's population has access to an improved drinking water source. Smith discussed how it is unacceptable to lose so many people due to lack of water.

She raised $5,400 that day, enough for one well and the beginning of a second.

"I was on the verge of tears when I realized how much money I raised. God saved so many lives that day. It is one of the best feelings I have ever experienced," Smith said.

"At first I wondered what a teenage girl in Fort Mill could really do for a problem halfway across the world," said Smith. "Now I am ready to do more."