Called to serve: Neverthirst provides clean water across the world
Published 4:18 pm Thursday, August 13, 2015
By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer
NORTH SHELBY—Mark Whitehead vividly remembers the moment he felt called to start Neverthirst, a nonprofit Christian mission to bring clean water to those in need across the world. It was April 2008 and he doing mission work in a village in South Sudan with Forrest Walden and Spencer Sutton.
“We asked (the villagers) where they usually get their water from,” Whitehead recounted.
The villagers led Whitehead, Walden and Sutton down a dirt path to a body of filthy water.
“It’s one of those images that you’ll never forget, that’s stapled in your mind,” Whitehead said. “We were just silent. It was abundantly clear, when you see that kind of need, it’s on you if you want to respond or not.”
Neverthirst was founded in response to that experience.
“The three of us just felt God was up to something,” Whitehead recalled. “We were feeling called to do something more.”
From its unassuming headquarters located just off of U.S. 280 in North Shelby, Neverthirst coordinates projects across India, Cambodia, Nepal, Sudan and South Sudan, bringing sustainable sources of clean water to thousands of people each year.
It’s easy to take access to clean water for granted in America, but nearly 800 million people across the world do not have this luxury.
“We felt called to go to the hard places,” Whitehead said of the countries and villages in which Neverthirst operates.
In these villages, women and children often walk miles every day to retrieve water from contaminated sources, Whitehead explained.
“Most children don’t get to go to school because their job is to get water. When that water crisis is solved for a family, it really does change so many dynamics of their lives,” Whitehead said. “It’s not the cure-all, but clean water is a very tangible start.”
Neverthirst works with each village to find the right solution to deliver a consistent source of clean water. For example, with a long rainy season and a groundwater supply laden with poisonous arsenic, villages in Cambodia often opt for a rainwater catchment tank rather than a groundwater hand pump.
Building a sustainable source of clean water—be it a hand pump, a rainwater tank or a bio-sand filter—is just part of the work. Neverthirst educates the villagers about their new source of water and how to use it, maintain it and fix it.
“Partners are constantly going back,” Whitehead explained. “It’s just that continual education.”
The village also must buy into and own the project, Whitehead explained. Before a clean water source is built, each family contributes to a village fund to maintain and fix the water source.
Since Neverthirst began in 2008, the organization has grown and so has its impact across the world. This year alone, the organization is working to compete 2,305 water projects, bringing clean water to 59,400 people.
“We had no clue that it would grow to this point,” Whitehead said. “If we just get out of the way, it’s amazing what God can do.”
The Birmingham area community has been quick to support the organization as well, Whitehead said, noting the organization’s largest fundraising event WOD for Water.
Hosted by IronTribe Fitness, the event ties together fundraising and fitness. This year’s seventh edition of the event in Birmingham raised $374,000 for Neverthirst.
“All that goes to projects,” Whitehead said of funds raised from WOD for Water. “(Working out) is something people love doing, and they can be a part of that and change people’s lives at the same time. It’s really cool.”
For more information about Neverthirst, visit Neverthirstwater.org.