Empowering Young Leaders to Solve Water Challenges
Water challenges are part of everyday life for many communities around the world, with millions of people adversely affected by severe weather conditions, poor sanitation, and insufficient water supplies. In a bid to mobilize action, Xylem and Cityzens Giving, Manchester City’s global community program, are empowering young leaders to tackle global water issues through the Water Heroes Academy – an initiative that leans into the power of football to supplyessential education on water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Launched in 2021, the Water Heroes Academy now supports ten youth-led football and water projects in ten different cities around the world.
Each year, football fans are invited to vote for their favourite project, with the top-voted project winning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Etihad Stadium, home of the Manchester City Football Club. Earlier today, the Water Heroes from Cape Coast, Ghana, were confirmed as the fan favourites of the 2022 Water Heroes Academy program. For their project, they used football as an educational tool to help young people in their community understand the importance of water, sanitation, and hygiene.
To celebrate the success of this year’s campaign, which received more than 12,500 fan votes, Randolf Waters, Senior Director, Global Partnerships & Branding at Xylem caught up with Ashutosh and Varsha, two young leaders from last year’s top-voted project in Mumbai to learn more about their experience and how they hope to inspire more young people to get involved in tackling water challenges in their community.
“We really wanted to use our project not only to overcome challenges in our community, but to also spread awareness of these issues around the world and educate people on our own experiences and difficulties in accessing clean water.”
Randolf: Let’s start with the basics, what was your project and where did the idea come from?
Ashutosh: For our Water Heroes Academy project, we identified critical water challenges in our community, like the need to travel long distances to access safe water. We made a video which showed the reality of these challenges, and the possible solutions. For example, in our community, many children aren’t able to access clean water in school which means they fall ill and can no longer attend class. A water tower was installed in the Rana Pratap school which gave 1,800 children access to clean water – a small but impactful change which led to an increase in school attendance.
Varsha: We really wanted to use our project not only to overcome challenges in our community, but to also spread awareness of these issues around the world and educate people on our own experiences and difficulties in accessing clean water. After six months of hard work developing our project, we were lucky enough to win the competition and visit the Etihad Stadium. For me, the experience was truly like dream come true, and I’m so grateful that I had this opportunity. Of course, as a football fan, getting the chance to watch a live football match was also an experience that I am incredibly grateful for!
Randolf: Such an awesome project, and I know it took a lot of work. What inspires you and motivates you to deliver for your community?
Varsha: The opportunity to better the lives of people in my community through awareness and education inspired me to get involved. There are many people in my community who have no knowledge of sanitation and the impact of poor hygiene practices on public health. In becoming a Young Leader, I can drive change and really improve daily life for people in my community. I’m incredibly proud to contribute to the ongoing development of my community and make a positive difference.
Ashutosh: I was inspired by the Magic Bus programme, which was introduced to our community when I was 18 years old. They held educational sessions and activity-based learning with the local children on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) practices and sanitation. This led to a positive change in behaviour which inspired me to get involved in more water projects in my community. The opportunity to educate young people and influence future generations is really empowering and something I hope to continue well into the future.
Randolf: You two certainly deserved the special trip to Manchester earlier this year! What did that experience mean to you?
Ashutosh: The trip to Manchester was a dream come true for me! The experiences I had and the things I learned are invaluable. The Club showed their sustainable recycling practices, and how they utilise every single drop of water and use waste food to generate compost. We also learned the environmental importance of the techniques they use, and how we can take those learnings and apply them in our own communities.
Varsha: I have always wanted to visit Manchester City, and when my team won the Water Heroes Academy challenge, I was ecstatic! Everyone was so kind and welcoming, and the place was so clean. It was obvious that everyone had a good awareness of water, sanitation, and the environment. The overall experience meant a lot to me and is something that will stick with me forever.
Randolf: We tried to create a very unique football, water, and leadership development experience for you two. Any key learnings to take back home?
Varsha: I learned the most from the WASH and Football sessions with the amazing City coaches. For example, they showed us how to incorporate football into educational sessions to engage more young people. Encouraging meaningful changes through fun really is the best way spread awareness of critical water challenges. We also had a great interactive session with Xylem, where they showed how to use their water testing kit, and we learned more about Xylem’s work in solving water challenges around the world which was impressive.
Ashutosh: I learned that it’s okay to make mistakes, as that’s how we make progress. Sessions were fully focused on the students, and we were empowered to explore and test our knowledge to drive the best outcomes. We also learned about leadership skills, team management and time management, and got the opportunity to interact with other young leaders from other countries. Sharing ideas and collaborating with others is so important when it comes to tackling critical challenges. Randolf: Let’s start with the basics, what was your project and where did the idea come from?
“Encouraging meaningful changes through fun really is the best way spread awareness of critical water challenges.”
Randolf: And looking to the future, what’s next for you two now that you’re back in Mumbai?
Varsha: When I arrived back to my community after our visit to Manchester, everyone was excited and eager to learn more about my experiences, especially my parents. They were immensely proud of what I had achieved and were thrilled that I was able to use my experiences to make positive changes in my community.
Ashutosh: Going forward, I want to use my skills to be a good mentor, get involved with causes that I care about and support the ongoing development of my local community. I will also regularly attend community meetings and encourage others to get involved too. It’s so important that we volunteer our time and share our knowledge and skills with each other so we can inspire younger members of our community to get involved and take action.
For more information on the Water Heroes Academy, visit: