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Tennis Week interviews Johan Kriek on GWF, tennis, Sanibel Walk for Water
March 22, 2007

TENNIS WEEK 

Kriek Works For Water Relief

By Richard Pagliaro
03/22/2007

Sustaining the flow of life is as simple as turning a tap for many residents of the western world. But imagine facing a four-mile trek to the nearest water source every time your family needed to drink. Then consider completing that thirsty journey  trying to carry a container of water home on your head or, worse,  finding that the liquid that fuels life is too contaminated to drink.


That's precisely the plight an average African woman must confront: nearly 5 million people in rural areas of South Africa do not have access to an adequate, clean water supply, according to PBS' Frontline.

Two-time Australian Open champion Johan Kriek, a native of Pangola, South Africa, has seen the dry desolation the water shortage wreaks on the lives of Africans and now he's trying to pump liquid life into the area.

"I grew up in Zulu land and have seen how the water shortage affects a lot of poor people there," said Kriek, who claimed consecutive Australian Open championships in 1981-82. "Less than one percent of the world's fresh water supply is drinkable by humans and it's getting worse. I met with some high-end officials in South Africa and just decided, 'I live in a very wealthy enclave in Naples, Florida and I've been very fortunate in my life so what can I do to help?' What if I could raise money through tennis and other activities to help the situation in Africa?"

The 48-year-old Kriek and Minnie Hildebrand, a South African-based expert in the water and sanitation sector for the past two decades, founded the Global Water Foundation to help fund initiatives and projects to provide safe, healthy drinking water and adequate sanitation in areas where it is not available.

Kriek, who partnered former Wimbledon finalist Kevin Curren to win their second consecutive Wimbledon 45 and over gentlemen's doubles championship last July, opted to pump pedal power into fundraising efforts to address the water crisis. He got on his new bike and trained for the ride of his life.

After only about six months of bicycle training, Kriek led a team of friends and GWF colleagues in joining more than 30,000 cyclists from around the world in riding the recent Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour - a demanding one day, 65 mile race staged along the shores of the Cape Peninsula in the Cape Town area of South Africa on March 11. Through the help of friends, supporters and visitors to the Global Water Foundation website, Kriek and company raised money that will help fund new water pumps.

The GWF recently completed a solar-powered water pump project in Uganda last fall that is now delivering clean water to 5,000 in a school district northeast of the capitol.  

"I rode the race to try to bring awareness to what is the next great cause," Kriek said. "The pledges we received from supporters, the amount of help we can provide to those children in need is beyond measure. With the solar-powered pump, the well is completely self-sufficient. It's amazing that a relatively small amount of money can make such a huge difference in the lives of 5,000 kids."

World Water Day is today (March 22) and Kriek said Americans can take simple steps to help address the water crisis.

"There's so much we can all do here in this country to help," Kriek said. "Just start out with little things like don't take 20 minute showers, when you brush your teeth don't let the tap water run. We're so fortunate in this country and we waste so much water. It's incredible how far even $20 can go to help"

John McEnroe and Monica Seles are ambassadors for Kriek's Global Water Foundation.

Nicole Vaidisova has been named an ambassador for PlayPumps International, a nonprofit organization aiming to bring clean water to millions of African children and families. PlayPump water systems apply a simple idea that could yield profound results.

A PlayPump water system is a child's merry-go-round attached to a water pump and storage tank. As children play on the merry-go-round it spins pumping uncontaminated drinking water from deep below the ground into a secure and clean 2,500-liter water tank. A simple tap provides easy access for women and children drawing water. PlayPump is aiming to install 4,000 PlayPump systems in 10 Sub-Saharan African countries by the year 2010 to combat the water crisis. According to the organization:

  • More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water.
  • Water-related diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, taking the lives of 6,000 people a day.
  • Every 15 seconds a child dies from a preventable, water-related disease.
  • 40 billion hours are lost annually to hauling water, a chore primarily undertaken by women and girls.

Kriek, who still teaches tennis in the Naples area, is bring fund-raising efforts to Florida. On April 14, the Global Water Foundation is hosting a "Walk for Water" fundraiser on Sanibel Island to raise money for future projects. The walk is four miles, which is the average distance an African woman must walk to reach a water source. 

Walking on water is a miraculous act; Kriek believes walking for water is another practical step toward a solution for the water crisis.

"It doesn't take a heck of a lot of money to really make a difference to the water crisis in Africa," Kriek said. "For about $20 we can provide the average person in Africa clean water for an entire year. Think about that for a second: $20, that's the cost of a french fry at the U.S. Open and you can help someone's life. If you don't have clean water, no one survives. With clean water, you give people life and that's the most important thing you can give."

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