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Holi celebration benefits African well construction

May  31, 2016

Clouds of brightly colored dust, Bollywood music, laughter and the smell of fresh food fill the air.

Watch a timelapse video of the 2016 Holi Festival of Color.

Inspired by the annual Hindu festival in South Asia that promotes the sharing of love and living a colorful life, Holi Festival is a hit event that the Augustana community looks forward to each year.

But it’s more than a party — it’s a celebration of international giving.

Last year, Augustana’s Muslim Student Association and International Club, among other organizations, began working closely with Water to Thrive, a nonprofit dedicated to “spreading awareness of the global water crisis while raising funds needed to construct water wells” in rural Africa.

With funds obtained from several campus events, including Holi, the college sponsored a well in the Onkoshe region of western Ethiopia, which now provides clean water to 628 people each day.

Adiba Hasan

When she learned about the organization, Muslim Student Association leader Adiba Hasan ’18 thought, “Since Holi is not only about breaking the caste system but making everybody equal, this would be a great way of helping a nonprofit.”

Keri Bass, community service coordinator at Augustana, considers the missions of Holi and Water to Thrive to “go really well together, and speak to the interfaith mission of the college.

“Many of our international students are coming from multiple faith backgrounds, and they’re working with a Christian organization, Water to Thrive,” she said.

This year, Augustana students hope to expand their efforts to sponsor the building of wells in other regions. Bass pointed out that access to clean well water not only will prevent disease but also will ensure women in these African communities have time to spend with their families and children can attend school instead of walking miles to collect water.

“(Holi is) a celebration of life,” Bass said. “And what better way to celebrate life than to give people healthy water?”

Donations from this year’s Holi Festival will contribute to the building of another well and provide fresh water to rural areas through Water to Thrive. Hasan is hopeful that the efforts of the Muslim Student Association, Augie International Club, Phi Ro sorority and campus participation in the Holi Festival will foster a charitable community that comes together to help those in need. Gus’s Garage Sale, a furniture recycling event for Augustana students each fall, also donates its proceeds to Water to Thrive, in collaboration with the environmental nonprofit, Global Effect.

As she looks to the future, Hasan envisions a world in which all people have access to clean, safe water. “I think water is a right for everybody. It shouldn’t be hard (to obtain).”

— Rachel Reiter '18