Student Inspired to Reach Beyond TU Bubble

by Abby Ferguson

Students often embrace a cause or crisis that tugs at their heartstrings. Many are ones that are overshadowed by more popular issues.

Senior Abby Newcom splits her time between playing tennis and raising awareness about the world’s water crisis.

This was the case for senior tennis player Abby Newcom when a nonprofit organization called “charity: water” was brought to her attention. Ever since she got involved, she has not been able to forget about the water crisis.

“Three years ago I was introduced to charity: water, more significantly the water crisis in the world. Ever since, I’ve felt called to make a difference, even if it is just helping one person have clean water that didn’t before,” Newcom said on her charity: water website.

When she lived in New York, Newcom became aware of the water crisis and she believes she was in the right place at the right time.

“I didn’t really choose the water crisis — it chose me, as cheesy as that sounds,” said Newcom. “I don’t think it was a coincidence that I befriended an intern at charity: water, nor was it a coincidence that their building was one block away from where I worked that summer.”

The organization’s mission statement asserts that “charity: water is a nonprofit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.”
“I found that this issue spoke to me because it hit home that lack of clean water was the root of most of the world’s problems,” said Newcom.

Helping to provide water to those without water has become a passion of Newcom’s and she has taken it upon herself to do what she can for the cause. Her efforts have included collecting donations for her birthday and researching the company’s campaign strategies for her senior seminar class in writing, rhetoric, and communication.

In her research, Newcom found that “they (charity: water) have a very unique marketing strategy that targets younger donors and ones that are in tune with popular culture.”

Newcom also found that the past of charity: water’s founder, Scott Harrison, as a nightclub promoter has a remarkable influence on the organization’s promotional strategies.

“They use the same tactics as if promoting a club — by throwing luxurious parties and partnering with celebrities and alcohol companies and high-fashion designers and retailers. But they also are very interactive and make their message simple: Give water to the world,” said Newcom.

Giving people clean water opens a lot of doors in their communities and that is something charity: water recognizes.

“A clean-water project nearby means more than safe drinking water to women and children in developing nations; it means time, freedom and incentive to change their communities,” Newcom said. “Water is a catalyst for improving education, disease prevention, gender equality and food supply — all extremely important issues.”
Not only can clean water prevent violence, but it can also prevent people having to walk to get their water.

“In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water,” said Newcom. “Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely to make them sick.”

Charity: water has impacted Newcom, and her involvement has made her realize she can be a part of something bigger than herself.

“It has shown me that charity doesn’t have to be about feeling guilty that you have more than others … as far as basic needs go,” said Newcom. “It’s about being able to cherish opportunities that let you make a difference not only in the world but specifically in communities that could be just like yours, and caring about humanity like you would want them to care about it.”

Newcom sees the importance in college students pursuing opportunities to help the world and communities like Transy’s.

“Everyone has their own philanthropy projects or activist issues that they feel called to or speak to them more, and there are lots of really great organizations that foster opportunities for our generation to get behind,” said Newcom. “We know that we are the next wave of activists, and getting behind any issue is important. It gives a sense of purpose that is bigger than yourself and bigger than your own life.”

Though it is important for everyone to get involved in charity work, Newcom believes that it is vital for student-athletes to get involved.

“I think it is important for athletes to be involved in charity work because it can be a good networking opportunity to allow a whole team to get behind a project that makes a difference,” Newcom said. “It’s inspiring, I think, when people and teams can focus on something beyond their sport and even use that to enhance the outcome of the project.”


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