Mike Colón, David Jay, and Jim Davis-Hicks are successful wedding photographers and good friends. They share another important bond: They’re helping to bring clean drinking water to families dying of thirst, through a nonprofit organization called Thirst Relief International, founded by Davis-Hicks.
More than 1.8 million people die annually from a lack of clean drinking water. With 90 percent of these deaths occurring in children less than five years old, it means a child dies every 12 seconds from the lack of clean water.
“I started Thirst because I couldn’t close my eyes to this reality,” says Davis-Hicks. “Millions are dying because they lack water, something I use on my lawn by the gallon. Since Mike, DJ, and I share the belief that networking, great relationships, and giving back are keys to a successful business, I felt we could apply these same principles to saving lives.”
An Eye-Opening Journey
Davis-Hicks, Colón, and DJ traveled to Brazil in February, along with Thirst VP and COO Greg Gibbs, to document, with still images and video, the urgent need for clean drinking water in the Amazon region. Families who already had water filters spoke emotionally of the water’s lifesaving effects, especially in their children. Those receiving their long-awaited filters were grateful beyond words; their eyes spoke volumes.
For Colón, the six-day trip was life-altering. “Seeing how little these families get by with has given me a new appreciation for things I took for granted, including clean water,” he says. “I can’t believe almost 6,000 people die every day from waterborne diseases. The solution is so simple. One doctor said that tropical medicine experts told them having three ongoing medical clinics a day in any given village wouldn’t have as much impact on the community’s health as addressing the water source.’”
The Power of Images
Since returning from Brazil, the primary focus for Davis-Hicks, Colón, and DJ is spreading the word, primarily through their images, on their own websites, as well as on the Thirst site (www.thirstrelief.org). “As photographers, we know nothing speaks quite like an image,” says Davis-Hicks. “By providing compelling imagery that speaks of despair and hope, we hope to compel others to look outside of our small world and see how we can change the face of suffering in our world.”
• Davis-Hicks uses his website (www.davisphotographer.com) to direct visitors to the Thirst website and commits a percentage of every package to Thirst. “I’m hoping to create a movement in the photo industry, locally and nationally. Can you imagine a town adopting a village!”
• DJ manned the video cam during the trip and is now spreading the word on his website (www.davidjay.com), on Open Source Photo Forum (www.opensourcephoto.net), and on www.showitfast.com, and personally supports Thirst. “It doesn’t take much to make a big difference! Just keeping up with what’s happening is a great first step!”
• Colón posts a link on his website (www.mikecolon.com) directing visitors to the Thirst website. He, too, supports Thirst. “I’m hopeful the photo industry will take ownership of this project and become personally and financially involved.”
Making It Happen
Helping others is its own reward. But business advantages do often follow.
Explains Davis-Hicks, “Local photographers feel good sending me referrals because I’m doing more than just trying to get new business. I’ve given them a vision of how to use their businesses to save lives. It gives purpose to all the hours and sacrifice of doing a job well, which is more important than referrals and money. Clients are also affected by our work. They feel good spending money on wedding photos knowing that a percentage goes to saving lives. Recently, a client stretched her budget like crazy to use our services because of this connection.”
It’s so easy to be part of the solution. “It costs roughly $50 to manufacture, transport, and install a filter that will last a lifetime. If 10 people visit www.thirstrelief.org and donate $5 a month, together they will save a family.”
“Photographers are some of the most blessed people on earth,” says Davis-Hicks. “We get paid well, enjoy what we do, and eat good food all in a day’s work. Imagine what a difference we could make if we embrace this global problem as an industry and seek to wipe it out. If we all give a little, we can make a big difference.”