Jars of Clay completes 1,000 Wells Project
By CAITLIN R. KING
The Associated Press
Friday, December 10, 2010; 6:38 AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than 700,000 people in Africa are drinking clean water today thanks to multi-platinum Christian band Jars of Clay.
The group recently met their goal of providing clean water to 1,000 African communities through the organization they founded, Blood:Water Mission, and its 1,000 Wells Project.
They're celebrating the milestone with a benefit concert at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on May 10.
"When we started out, it was kind of a lofty goal," lead singer Dan Haseltine said in a recent interview.
Over five years, they ended up raising nearly $7 million for water and sanitation projects as well as hygiene training, and they made multiple trips to Africa to see the progress firsthand.
What they found is that life with clean, accessible water is much different. Women and children no longer have to walk miles a day to draw water from a dirty source or deal with the stomach aches, skin diseases and diarrhea that comes with it.
Keyboardist Charlie Lowell described one woman who proudly showed off her smooth hands, saying they used to be dry and shriveled, but now she feels like a woman again.
"It is about health, and it is about sanitation and clean water, but just under that there's this human dignity piece," Lowell said.
The band members emphasize that water projects are all led by locals, usually the women, who decide what type of water source their village needs and how to implement it.
To raise money, the band relies largely on creative grass roots efforts.
"It's community driven in the U.S. as much as it's community driven in Africa," Haseltine said.
The band tells people that $1 can provide clean water for an African for a year. Their fans have organized read-a-thons, car washes and prom fashion shows, growing and selling tomatoes and setting up "Lemon:Aid" stands to get donations.
Haseltine even challenged people this Halloween to donate $1 for every Justin Bieber costume they saw.
Efforts like these inspired the song "Small Rebellions," the first track on Jars of Clay's latest album, "The Shelter."
Guitarist Stephen Mason said the album reflects a lot of the journey they've been on with Blood:Water, because it builds upon the idea of community and needing each other.
The band members aren't sure what their next big goal in Africa will be, but there's a feeling they've just scratched the surface.
"We may add a zero to that, make it 10,000 wells or go for another 1,000," said guitarist Stephen Mason. "The challenge with Blood:Water and with Jars is to continue to dream big about what we can do to make the world a better place, and we'll see where that story leads us next."
Tickets for the Well:Done Celebration go on sale Saturday.
Jars of Clay has sold more than 6 million albums, won three Grammys and had 17 No. 1 hits, including their breakout song, "Flood."