Do we really understand the scope of the clean water and sanitation issues facing billions of people around the globe? How do we introduce these ideas to our children and implore them to become citizens of the world and advocates for its health and its people? The United Nations has partnered with Thomas & Friends™ to introduce issues of clean water and sanitation to our children. Read on for more about the program and how we can use a familiar face and voice to engage with our young children about deep and complex international issues.
Thanks to Mattel for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own. You know I’m an advocate for helping our children learn about the environmental and social justice issues of our world, and I think using familiar characters is a great way to speak to children in a language that will resonate with them.
How often do you think about the possibility of not having clean water? At least in the United States and most developed countries, we take for granted the presence of plentiful potable water at our fingertips. The future of our clean water supplies, however, faces far greater risk than we might realize. Climate change and poor water management pose particular threats to the future of our water supplies, and billions of people around the world already live without clean water or proper sanitation services, as defined by the World Health Organization.
Even today, according to the United Nations, 3 in 10 people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 6 in 10 people lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities. 1.8 billion people around the globe rely on a source for drinking water that is fecally contaminated. 4.5 billion people do not have access to safely managed sanitation services (i.e. a toilet connected to a sewer or pit or septic tank that treats human waste). By 2050, the United Nations predicts that 25% of people will live in countries with chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water. What does modern day life become without access to clean water? How can we help the billions of people around the world without access to clean, fresh water bring this to their communities?
The United Nations Strives to Lead The Path to Prosperity
The United Nations has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals to transform our world and make it a better place for every person who lives here. The goals are ambitious, broad, and call for action from every country in the world: rich, poor and middle-income alike. The goals address a range of social needs from education and gender equality to clean water and environmental protection. Given the nature and extent of the actions required to achieve these goals, we need everyone on board the train to work together to lift up our world and all of the inhabitants. This call to action includes our children.
Helping our children begin to think about global issues like access to clean water and proper sanitation is no easy feat. Where do we even start? How do we implore our children to prioritize and be grateful for something they never knew was a luxury, something they’ve surely taken for granted? We will most successfully raise conscious and mindful citizens of the world if we introduce them early to the need to respect our environment and the basic social needs of everyone around the globe. We don’t need to scare them with doom and gloom forecasts, but we can start to discuss conditions in other parts of the world, the poverty experienced by so many in our country and around the globe, and steps we can take to help others rise up to a more prosperous standard of living.
Teaching the Next Generation of Global Citizens About Clean Water and Sanitation
Not long ago, I shared two dozen books we’ve been reading to our boys about various issues related to water. Picture books are a great way to start conversations with our children and introduce them to realities of others we can’t experience at home. Honestly, I’ve been amazed by the number of unsolicited comments about clean water and water conservation my boys have made in the last few weeks since we checked out all those water books from the library. Books really can change one’s awareness and perspective!
Additionally, organizations like the United Nations recognize how important is it to start talking to our children about the global issues that plague our world. The United Nations partnered with Thomas & Friends™, a cast of characters surely familiar to our children, to cast these issues through a lens our children can understand and that will feel relevant to them. As part of their All Aboard for Global Goals program, Thomas & Friends™ and the the United Nations chose 6 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to focus on for children.
With respect to Clean Water and Sanitation, Sustainable Development Goal #6 of the 17, the United Nations and Thomas & Friends™ created a short 2 and 1/2 minute video narrated by Thomas the Train all about the global importance of clean water. The video highlights why water matters so much and a few small steps children can take at home to progress toward clean water and proper sanitation for all.
As you might expect, the goals are simple and won’t be the smoking gun to solve all the of the world’s water crisis. By introducing children to these issues and incorporating such discussions into our family culture, however, we begin to instill in our children values of water conservation and being a global citizen. As parents, we can share this Thomas & Friends™ video with our little ones. Then we can have discussions about the video using the conversation starters provided in the All Aboard for Global Goals materials.
Additionally, the All Aboard for Global Goals resources include two experiments parents can try with their children to reflect on the cleanliness of water. Though targeted for different age groups, both experiments help children see more tangibly the effect of dirt and contaminants in our water and how filters can help turn dirty water into clean water.
As parents, we have so much to teach our children about life and the world that it can feel overwhelming. Hopefully, we can take advantage of programs like All Aboard for Global Goals to introduce our children to the vast issues facing all of us as citizens of the world. The world seems to be getting smaller as we all become more interconnected, and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations will help us ensure that our future together is a more prosperous and healthy one together. Be sure to check out the All Aboard for Global Goals resources and let me know if you find them helpful!
How are you helping your little ones gain awareness of and become invested, in an age-appropriate way, in the larger issues that face our world? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!