Sir Trevor McDonald voices WaterAid’s first animated advert in new approach for the charity

Posted by
Anna France Williams
10 February 2021

WaterAid has created a thought-provoking animated advert, The Girl Who Built A Rocket, as it explores new ways to engage the public in the global water crisis and the importance of the charity’s mission.

The launch of the film, which features the voice of broadcasting legend Sir Trevor McDonald, links with the real world timing of three Mars missions going into orbit. The touching film tells the story of Fara, a little girl from Madagascar, who dreams of being an astronaut. She attempts to fly from her home on the Great Red Island to the Red Planet in a homemade rocket in order to collect water for her family, after hearing a news report saying water has been found there.

The Girl Who Built A Rocket is the first time the international charity has used an animation as a TV advert. To increase consideration for the charity, the advert does not have a donation ask but instead directs viewers to the WaterAid website and other online assets, to find out more about the importance of the charity’s work.

The animation also provided the opportunity to create innovative storytelling at a time when travel has been restricted due to the pandemic.

Johnty Gray, Mass Engagement Director, WaterAid, said:

“Our new animation, The Girl Who Built A Rocket, is part of WaterAid’s journey of change in our advertising as we seek different ways to engage people in the global water crisis and represent the communities in which we work. Fara has big dreams for her future, just like children the world over; yet for some, those ambitions may never be achieved because of the lack of basic necessities like clean water.

“Unusually there will be no financial ask at all as we want to encourage as many people as possible to visit our website to get the full picture of what we do and why – something we can’t do in a 90 second ad. We believe this will increase consideration for our work, leading to more sustained support.”

 The film features a specially composed soundtrack of David Bowie’s iconic Life on Mars - which is 50-years-old this year – and includes voiceover by award-winning journalist and newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald.

Sir Trevor McDonald said:

“I have reported on some extraordinary feats of human endeavour over my long career as a journalist and newsreader; and yet something as apparently simple as ensuring everyone everywhere has access to clean water, still evades us.  

“I was astounded when I learned that a staggering 785 million people worldwide do not have clean water close to home. It’s something we all take for granted in this country – and is even more important in the middle of a pandemic.  So, I am honoured to add my voice to this charming animation and support WaterAid in its mission to make clean water, sanitation and good hygiene a part of normal life, wherever you are.” 

WaterAid teamed up with animator Neeraja Raj from Nexus Studios and worked with Creative Agency Don’t Panic on the concept.

 To ensure the authenticity in the portrayal of Madagascar, WaterAid worked closely with one of its Voices from the Field Communications Specialists, Ernest Randriarimalala. Ernest was an integral member of the ad development team and advised on all aspects of the film, from Madagascar’s landscape to details of the characters’ appearances.

Ernest Randriarimalala said:

“It was amazing to work on this new WaterAid film concept. The characters in the animation are inspired by people I’ve met through my work and I advised on the uniqueness of Madagascar’s landscape and homes. We hope the storytelling captures the imagination of the public.”

Fara’s experience of walking to collect water highlights the situation facing millions of children around the world; children like eight-year-old, Tantely, from Madagascar. Tantely used to spend hours each day collecting water, which often made her miss school. WaterAid worked with the community to install taps in Tantely’s village and toilet blocks at her primary school, so she can now stay healthy and attend lessons. She dreams of becoming a doctor one day just as Fara dreams of becoming an astronaut. 

One in ten people globally have no clean water close to home; in Madagascar, almost half the population lacks access to this basic human right. Having clean water close to home can help reduce the spread of disease and enable people to go to school or earn a living. It also helps communities better endure natural disasters.

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For more information, please contact:

Susan Springate, Senior Media Officer, [email protected]  or Anna France-Williams, Senior Media Officer, [email protected].

Or call our after-hours press line on +44 (0)7887 521 552 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

A full list of production credits for the film can be found here.

Sir Trevor Macdonald

Sir Trevor McDonald OBE was born and educated in Trinidad where his career in the media began.  He joined ITN in 1973 and went on to anchor every ITN News programme. He has conducted some of the most important interviews of his time; including the first British television interview with Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison and the only British television interview with Saddam Hussein. He has presented a number of documentaries for ITV1; including Secret Caribbean, Secret Mediterranean, The Mighty Mississippi and, more recently, Trevor McDonald's Indian Train Adventure. Sir Trevor has recently published his autobiography: 'An Improbable Life'. He was awarded the OBE in 1992 and a Knighthood in 1999.


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 26.4 million people with clean water and 26.3 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAid or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at

  • 785 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.[1]
  • 2 billion people in the world – almost one in four – do not have a decent toilet of their own.[2]
  • Around 310,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's almost 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.[3]
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.[4]
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.[5]

[1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines

[3] Prüss-Ustün et al. (2014) and The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2018)

[4] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage