A group of cyclists from California stopped in Boonville on Tuesday as the ride the length of the Katy Trail, raising awareness about people who lack access to clean water in rural and developing parts of Africa.
Sky and Grant Adams have focused on helping people in rural and remote parts of Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia access clean water. In an area without a borehole, women and children spend an average of three hours a day gathering water. They carry 60 gallons of water at a time, from distant water sources, and it’s often not clean, Sky Adams said.
Their group, Bridging the Gap by Giving, works with larger not-for-profits to improve water quality in developing areas, including WorldVision, Lifewater International and TivaWater. They dig boreholes, give the residents water filters and help them develop healthy practices.
The group of cyclists stopped in Sedalia on Wednesday, Boonville on Thursday, and hoped to make it to Jefferson City on Friday.
Sky and Grant Adams are getting in shape for their bike ride across Tennessee. They’ll wear shirts that say “EVERY 1 NEEDS CLEAN WATER.”
The rides help raise awareness one person at a time and helps the group bring in donations, Sky Adams said. So far, they’ve used about $1.3 million in donations to provide clean water to 33,000 people in Africa, she said.
About 785 million people worldwide lack easy access to a reliable, clean water source, and 2 billion people rely on a water source contaminated with feces, according to the World Health Organization.
They’ve done rides like this before, but this is their first on the Katy Trail. The avid cyclists have crossed the country twice and ridden the length of each coast. People along the way will ask them what the shirts mean, and they’ll explain their mission, Sky Adams said.
Sky was inspired into activism while hiking to the base camp at Mt. Everest. She spent a lot of time reflecting as she crossed the long, rope bridges between gaps in the mountains. She heard from God that she should bridge the gap between the U.S. and countries that don’t have as much material wealth, she said.
Sky Adams had been sponsoring a child through WorldVision, so she reached out to them and asked what the biggest needs in developing areas were, and they said it was clean water. The organization connected her with local people already working to improve health in rural parts of Africa.
Establishing a clean water system is more than digging a borehole or giving away a water filter. Sky Adams asks the groups to develop healthy practices, including building latrines and keeping water jugs clean, she said. They also ask villages to form a wash committee to make sure those practices continue, and to put money into a fund for when the borehole needs to be fixed, she said.
At first, many local people weren’t receptive to the directions of outsiders, but as the missionaries built more relationships and showed more people what a clean water system could do for their community, more people welcomed them. When the girls start carrying school books instead of water jugs every morning, it’s clear the system has made a positive impact, she said.
The Adams spend more time with each village than some other groups that dig a borehole and leave, she said. One project can take a year, start to finish, and they’ll come back later on to check on each village and see how they’re doing.
“People would think, ‘Why would you take that time to check in?’” said their friend and riding crew member, Larry Leatherman, who also does ministry through sports, and has partnered with Adams in Uganda. “It really encourages the village when we say we’re going to come and visit, and just showing interest in the community.”
People who are interested in their journey or in learning more about the group can follow along on their Facebook page, “Bridging the Gap by Giving,” Adams said.