by Chris Canniff
In August 2011, Kimmi Vo, CSOM ’14, traveled to Spain with a group of fellow Boston College students to participate in World Youth Day in Madrid and the preceding Magis program hosted in Loyola by the Society of Jesus. Magis is a weeklong spiritual experience designed to prepare Jesuit-educated students for the impending World Youth Day by immersing them in various excursions. Each was different but united by a common use of the Ignatian Examen as a daily means of reflecting on the relations between one’s own unique experiences and spiritual development.
Kimmi’s Magis experience was a seven-day pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Ignatius from his birthplace in Loyola to Javier, the birthplace of his dear friend St. Francis Xavier. The mountainous terrain of northern Spain was challenging for hiking novices, but the climate was cool beneath the heavy canopy of Iberian pines which blocked out the blazing sunlight and locked in the moisture of the rains. However, by the third and fourth days the landscape began to change dramatically as the pilgrims approached the city of Pamplona, the site of Ignatius’ nearly fatal wounding in 1521. In this arid and desert-like region, many of the tired and weakened pilgrims were now truly feeling the pains of their long journey, suffering from blisters, sprained ligaments, colds, and heat rash.
The public water fountains in each city, town, and village where the pilgrims stopped to fill their bottles had potable water; however, on the sixth day as the mercury rose to a steaming 39°C (102°F), the group, which was typically jovial and prone to randomly breaking into joyful song, marched silently along the barren paths of the desert plains. It was a silence fruitful for reflection and prayer, but they were distracted from this by their longing to slake their thirst. For the first time, the towns they passed through had no water to offer the wearied travelers.
Through her thirst, Kimmi was reminded of a non-profit she had been following on Twitter. Charity: water was founded in 2006 by Scott Harrison, a service volunteer who traced the many issues in developing countries back to a lack of clean drinking water. It is the mission of charity: water to help the one billion people worldwide who have limited access to clean water by drilling freshwater wells and developing rainwater catchments and sand filters.
Having completed her pilgrimage and having enjoyed the many excitements and graces of World Youth Day, Kimmi returned to the United States later that month with a mission in her heart. Back on the Heights only two weeks after touching down in Boston, Kimmi rallied some of her classmates to start exploring how the BC community could get involved to help charity: water.
Kimmi and her friends formulated a program to raise awareness, involve students, and raise funds for charity: water. During the 2011-2012 academic year, Kimmi, then a sophomore, organized a BC chapter of the organization, known as bcharity: water, and they raised $12,416. Now a senior, Kimmi has again taken up the task of raising money and awareness this school year. bcharity: water co-president Matt Quinn, CSOM '14, vice president Michael Moritz, A&S '14, and director of education and advertisement Ashley Flinn, A&S '15, are part of the core team along with roughly twenty other dedicated and hardworking students. Moreover, there are ten underclassmen in bcharity: water's new mentorship program, which will show younger students "what it's like to work hand in hand with a renowned non-profit, hold events on campus, and work on an executive team all the while fighting the global water crisis!"
The harsh realities faced by the billion people suffering from water scarcity can be alleviated. Aiming to raise $20,000 to support the drilling of wells in Orissa, India, the bcharity: water campaign pledges to send 100% of donations directly toward this effort. The drilling of such wells not only saves people from having to make a several hour journey in pursuit of water, but it also has the potential to save many lives. The 4,000 daily infant deaths and 1.5 million annual child deaths caused by consumption of dirty water can be avoided.
They will kick off the year's fundraising campaign this Thursday, September 26 at 4:15pm in O’Neill Plaza. Entitled BC Aquacade, the campaign allows people to come up with a pledge or challenege to be fulfilled when a certain monetary goal has been achieved. Jesuits, administrators, and student leaders are already getting involved.
From her own struggle a few years ago, Kimmi has started a crusade to help people who suffer daily from the pain she experienced for only a short while. In her suffering, she learned the virtue of true compassion and is now bringing Christian charity to those most in need.
Also, check them out on social media:
Twitter and Instagram: @bcharitywater