The unsung heroes of 2016: our top ten moments

It’s been a challenging year in the UK and abroad. But some amazing things have been happening behind the scenes, and people like you have been busy making the world a better place.

29 Dec 2016

Before diving in to this list of our top ten unsung heroes of the WaterAid year, watch some of our best bits of 2016 in 101 seconds!

1. Toilets took centre stage at Glastonbury

More fabulous WaterAid supporters than ever volunteered at Glastonbury this year, to help spread the word about taps and toilets, and hundreds of festival-goers took a seat on the most entertaining loo in the whole of Worthy Farm

2. Nepal’s untold water story

Over a year on from the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, communities were getting back on their feet and restoring access to clean water. Thanks to funding from HSBC, our first ever VR film explores Nepal’s incredible untold water story

3. A trip to 10 Downing Street

Thousands of you – 78,509 to be precise – told the UK government to keep their promise to help reach everyone everywhere with taps and toilets by 2030. 

WaterAid volunteers hand in the Toilets Save Lives petition to 10 Downing Street.

WaterAid volunteers hand in the Toilets Save Lives petition to 10 Downing Street.

4. The challenge of a lifetime

You took on challenges big and, well… bigger! From crawling through loo seats at Tough Sh!t, our loo-themed obstacle course, to climbing mountains and cycling across countries and even continents! One incredible supporter ran 17,000 kilometres from Vancouver to Buenos Aires.

Funds were raised, fun was had and people around the world saw the benefit with brand new taps and toilets! 

Jamie Ramsay with representatives from WaterAid and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Jamie marked the end of his epic multi-marathon with one final run from Heathrow to Westminster.

5. Cut backs at the office

We went behind the scenes at a British office with a difference – an office with no loos. And just like life for the one third of humanity living without one, the results weren’t pretty.

6. Telling tales of life without water

Noori Tales, a new exhibition from WaterAid and the H&M Foundation, captured the reality of growing up without clean water in the Indus Delta, Pakistan, as photographer Malin Fezehai told us about community, climate change and the power of photography

Four year old Benazir attends class with boys and girls of different ages in Haji Saleh Jatt, Thatta region, Sindh province, Pakistan, 2016. Since gaining a water and toilet block at the school, the head teacher says 'the children are so clean and happy now. That has been a positive change because now there is a cleaner and healthier environment around the school.'

Four-year-old Benazir attends class with boys and girls of different ages in Haji Saleh Jatt, Thatta, Pakistan.

7. All about innovation

Teams from our water industry partners and companies in the UK and Australia battled it out to come up with the most effective life-changing solutions to water, sanitation and hygiene challenges in Cambodia, They also raised funds for projects around the world. In October, Dragon’s Den investor Deborah Meaden crowned the winners

One of the winning teams of Water Innovators 2016 with Deborah Meaden, Dragon's Den investor and entrepreneur.
Deborah Meaden announced Team Apsara joint winners of Water Innovators 2016.

8. Toilet workers of the world unite

We met some of the amazing people around the world, designing, building and maintaining some incredible life-saving loos

9. Taboo-breaking girls told their stories

In Nepal, a country where having your period is a matter of shame and secrecy, some trail-blazing young girls photographed their stories

Two girls collecting grass.
Rabina who took this photo says “I had gone to collect grass and firewood when I got my first period. When I started I got very scared. There was no one to help me. That’s why I try to help younger girls.”

10. When clean water arrived – for the very first time!

And time and time again, places like Vimphere in Malawi got clean water for the very first time, and the joyful scenes that followed were always incredible. Watch this granddad dancing in Madagascar and these kids in Malawi who just can’t. Stop. Jumping.  

2016 has been a challenging year for many, but thanks to your support it’s also been a life-affirming one full of progress and positivity. Please do share this good news story – there aren’t enough of them around right now!