More than miles: Fourth annual Water Walk returns to Nashua Sept. 15

Courtesy Photo Participants in the 2017 Thank You Project’s Water Walk walk carry orange buckets down Concord Street in Nashua, to symbolize the plight of many Nigerians who don’t have access to clean drinking water and have to travel 2 miles to get water. This year’s walk, the fourth annual, is Saturday, Sept. 15.

To raise awareness of the importance of access to clean water – particularly in two rural communities in Nigeria – the Thank You Project’s fourth annual Water Walk returns to Nashua Saturday, Sept. 15.

The two-mile walk begins and ends at Greeley Park, with a stop at the Nashua River along the way, where each participant has the option to fill an orange bucket (donated by Home Depot) with water to carry back to the park. Carrying the buckets from the river to the park, serves as a symbolic gesture, illustrating the plight of many Nigerians who don’t have access to clean drinking water and have to walk two miles to get water.

Charles Okorie, who now lives in Nashua, founded the nonprofit Thank You Project in 2014, to provide access to clean drinking water in the Ututu and Achi communities of Nigeria by drilling boreholes. Okorie is from Ututu and his wife is from Achi.

In December, he commissioned the project’s first well. Using the money raised during this year’s walk, he hopes to add a second well in his wife’s community.

“Our goal is to make sure we build the second well and also continue with the scholarships that we’re offering,” Okorie said.

Courtesy photo Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, right, talks with Thank You Project founder and native of Nigeria, Charles Okorie, during last year’s Water Walk.

Aside from installing wells, Okorie hopes to build a community center in his Nigerian community to give thanks to God, as well as to be used for recreational activities. The Thank You Project has also established a college scholarship fund for indigenous students in Nigeria, who are unable to cover the cost of tuition. Two students have received college scholarships, including Obasi Ugochukwu Okeke for mechanical engineering through the Elder Robinson Okore Sunday foundation. The second scholarship, the Dr. Bertram O. Igbogbahaka Memorial Scholarship, was awarded to Kalu Raphael Oti, to study medicine at Abia State University in Uturu. Okorie said Okeke is going into her third year of schooling, while Oti is taking on his fourth year. The cost of tuition is just $2,000.

“We plan on getting another indigenous student to law school this year,” Okorie said.

Some members of Okorie’s community in Nigeria are forced to walk two miles, or more, every day to access water, which is not always sanitary, putting people at a high risk of developing illnesses, or even death due to bacteria or viruses.

That’s why this walk continues into another year, to raise awareness about the conditions members of those communities face and the urgency of this situation. Okorie said ideally, he would prefer to reach 1 million people and have them each donate a dollar. He would then take that money and help save lives and improve the quality of life for those without access to readily available clean water.

He said the water that villagers are drinking comes from the stream and that they do not always boil it before drinking it. This makes it very common for people to come down with some sort of illness from the water they consume.

“That’s how they get infected with all those diseases, diarrhea and every other waterborne disease,” Okorie said.

According to UNICEF, out of a population of more than 170 million, roughly 70 million people in Nigeria lacked access to safe drinking water, while more than 110 million lacked access to improved sanitation in 2013. They also estimate that every year, 124,000 children under the age of 5 die because of diarrhea, which is primarily the result of unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

“We want people to help spread the message and for everybody to understand that we are all in this together,” Okorie said. “This is a testimony to our collective community.”

Registration cost for the fourth annual Water Walk is $25. To register in advance, visit

thankyouproject.org or sign up on the day of the walk, from 8:30-9 a.m., at Greeley Park (walk begins at 9 a.m.). Following the walk, there will be entertainment and games at the park.

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.