Going the distance for clean water

2 min read
Trekkers in the Gobi desert.
Image: WaterAid/Kirstin Akan-Brown

In October 2016, 100 HSBC employees from around the world braved sub-zero temperatures and trekked 100km across the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, for WaterAid. Kirstin Akan-Brown went with them, and tells their story.

Crossing mountains, climbing ice gorges and battling severe weather conditions might not sound like your average walk in the park, but these challenges were no match for this troupe of brave HSBC employees. Coming from 22 countries, they trekked across the world’s second largest desert to help transform lives in some of the world’s poorest communities with clean water and toilets.

It certainly was challenging but the group took everything in their stride and successfully completed the trek, raising more than US$300,000 for WaterAid’s work in India.

Over the next year WaterAid India aims to provide 1,000 slums and communities with clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and help 500,000 households gain access to decent toilets.

“The Gobi trek was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Paul Schiernecker, Investigations Manager at HSBC. “There’s something very enlightening and humbling about trekking in a desert.”

“One of the key reasons for doing this was the amazing work done by WaterAid. The trip gave us a small insight into how difficult it can be to access clean water.”

Across the countries where WaterAid works, people have to walk an average of 30 minutes to collect water and return home. In some cases it can be a lot longer.

HSBC employees before their Gobi trek adventure in Mongolia.
HSBC employees before their Gobi trek adventure in Mongolia.
Image: WaterAid/Kirstin Akan-Brown

'I don't like missing school'

Thanks to the amazing support of HSBC and the intrepid Gobi trekkers, we’ll be able to help people like Pradeep from Narai Ka Pura in Madhya Pradesh, India.

In his village there’s only one water pump, and it's always surrounded by dirty water, whatever the weather, making it difficult to use.

“The water we collect is not clean and I have often been sick with tummy ache and diarrhoea after drinking it,” said Pradeep.

“Being sick affects my studies – I don’t like missing school.”

Pradeep (10) by unsafe hand pump in Narai Ka Pura village in Madhya Pradesh India. August 2015Pradeep uses an unsafe water pump in Narai Ka Pura, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Pradeep uses an unsafe water pump in Narai Ka Pura, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Image: WaterAid/James McCauley

But a lack of access to clean water isn’t in the only problem in Narai Ka Pura – 90% of the community also have no choice but to go to the toilet outside.

“We go to the toilet in nearby fields. I usually go with a friend, not on my own,” says Pradeep.

“Everyone in the village goes to the same place to go to the toilet. At school, I have to take time out of class to go – and it takes about 10 or 15 minutes to walk there and back.”

Read more about how the HSBC Water Programme is transforming lives with clean water >