We in the desert are probably more cognizant of our water consumption than the rest of the country, but we don’t even come close to really understanding what certain parts of the world go through in search of clean water. Consider these stunning figures: 663 million people around the world lack access to safe water. In Asia and Africa, a woman walks an average of 3.7 miles to retrieve water. A child dies every 90 seconds from a disease caused by contaminated water.
This global crisis is the reason for One Drop Foundation, a charity arm of Cirque du Soleil. For the fifth year, the foundation is staging One Night for One Drop, an evening of performance that includes 61 Cirque performers and guest entertainers—this year’s celebrity cameos include William Shatner, America’s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal and The Tenors.
It’s a star-studded event that has one mission in mind: to raise money so people around the world can have better access to clean water. The foundation focuses on the most vulnerable areas, says Jerry Nadal, senior vice president of Cirque’s resident shows division and a board member of the One Drop Foundation. “The entire African continent is one,” he says. “There [are] huge swaths of South America, regardless of the rainforest, and big parts of Asia that have severe water issues. And then, up until this winter, it was right here in the western part of the United States. I can’t say one winter is enough to cure the drought, but there’s a lot more water that’s needed to get everything back to where it needs to be, particularly to support the population growth that’s happened, not just in California, but right here in Vegas.”
While One Night for One Drop may last for just a few hours, production of the show takes nearly a full calendar year to implement. “This year’s One Drop performance is on March 3. We’ll let everybody breathe for a week and then we come back, do a bit of a postmortem and assess if everything went the way we wanted. [Then] we start laying the groundwork for the following year.” Nadal says.
The foundation has an even longer view on how the dollars raised at the event are used to make an impact on people’s lives. It’s a commitment that takes many years to carry out successfully. “Over 70 percent of [water-related projects] fail within one year of being implemented. … Companies and organizations drop in, either drill a well or fix a well, and get out. There’s no sustainable effort put behind it,” Nadal says. “Our goal is to go in with a sustainable program. We do two years’ worth of work … drilling wells, laying in the irrigation piping and cleaning wells. Then we spend the next two to three years educating the local population and training them on how to maintain all of that equipment.”
Once a system is in place to bring clean water into remote villages, women and girls who would walk miles each day to better the village people’s lives are freed of such hardship, Nadal says. “These women [are then able to apply for] microloan programs and start companies. It’s a multipronged approach, not just solving a water and sanitation issue.”
Consider these other figures: $24 million have been raised since One Night for One Drop’s first performance in 2013. The ticket price for the show is $100, which is all it takes to significantly transform someone’s life forever.
One Night for One Drop
March 3, Zumanity Theatre inside New York-New York, 7:30 p.m., $100-$325, onenight.onedrop.org