Jerry cans for a just cause

Walking+for+water%3A+SLU+junior+Hannah+Vestal+has+carried+a+jerry+can+with+her+since+September+5th.+So+far%2C+Billiken+for+Water+has+raised+over+%244%2C000.+Courtesy+of+Hannah+Vestal
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Jerry cans for a just cause

Walking for water: SLU junior Hannah Vestal has carried a jerry can with her since September 5th. So far, Billiken for Water has raised over $4,000. Courtesy of Hannah Vestal

Walking for water: SLU junior Hannah Vestal has carried a jerry can with her since September 5th. So far, Billiken for Water has raised over $4,000. Courtesy of Hannah Vestal

Walking for water: SLU junior Hannah Vestal has carried a jerry can with her since September 5th. So far, Billiken for Water has raised over $4,000. Courtesy of Hannah Vestal

Walking for water: SLU junior Hannah Vestal has carried a jerry can with her since September 5th. So far, Billiken for Water has raised over $4,000. Courtesy of Hannah Vestal

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While all college students know the struggle of carrying heavy books across campus, SLU junior Hannah Vestal has added to the usual load; since Sept. 5, she has brought a jerry can – the term for her bright yellow water jug – everywhere she has gone. It has been, she said, an experience that has put things in perspective.

Jerry can: The yellow container has become a symbol of Vestal’s campaign to raise money for clean water systems. Courtesy of Hannah Vestal

Jerry can: The yellow container has become a symbol of Vestal’s campaign to raise money for clean water systems. Courtesy of Hannah Vestal

“I went to go fill it up that [first] morning, and I was immediately humbled by the fact that it was so heavy,” Vestal said. “And I couldn’t believe that people had to do that every day. So after one day of doing it, I [thought] ‘I need to continue this because I want other people to be aware of this.’”

And people have been aware; Vestal said that she has raised over $4,000 for Billiken for Clean Water, the campaign that is the root of her bringing the jerrycan everywhere she goes.

“I started Billiken for Clean Water on Sept. 5 because my friend … [had] started her own nonprofit called Water for Panama, and I was really proud of her,” Vestal said. “So I was thinking of how I could help her, and so [I decided to] carry around a jerry can … to spread awareness about the water crisis because a lot of people have to carry these to get clean water.”

Vestal’s original goal was to raise $1,000 for Water for Panama, but, impressed by the heft of the jerry can – and the fact that, on average, people must walk four miles to get clean water – she decided to take the campaign further and raise $7500: the entire cost of a new water system to provide clean water.

This system, a windmill aqueduct, will be installed by Solea, a company in St. Louis’ own Central West End neighborhood that has taken over the work of Water for Panama.

 

Vestal has been joined by other students too – jerry cans were brought to the recent March for Life in Washington, D.C. – but she hopes that other people will continue to join her.

“I challenge people to carry jerry cans; I have five extra now. I’ve applied for a grant to get 100 jerry cans, so, if that happens, then everyone can have one, and that would be great,” Vestal said.

Vestal’s challenge stems from her observation that many people take water – specifically their access to it – for granted.

“I think that we don’t really think about [how we use water],” she said. “The fact that people do, and that they have to walk four miles to get [it], is ridiculous. I think that the first step is awareness. When people are aware, then hopefully they can do something about it.”

To increase this awareness, Vestal is also working on creating a Chartered Student Organization to tackle the water crisis. The goal of the CSO would be improving the quality of, and access to, water for people around the globe who suffer from poor sanitation and drought. Vestal also said that an Atlas Week event is in the works, and she mentioned the approach of World Water Day on March 22.

But for now, as Vestal’s CSO pitch awaits approval by the Student Government Association, she will continue to carry the jerry can.

“It goes with me everywhere,” she said. “We’ve been through a lot together.”