I remember where I was on July 22 two years ago, when reports of a massacre in Norway started to break. Sitting at my desk, I couldn’t believe the news alerts. A single gunman calmly landed on Utøya island off the Norwegian coast and began shooting his way through a camp of teenagers, 69 of whom were killed. This after he killed eight people with a car bomb in in Oslo, where I had been just eight weeks prior.
The remainder of the day was spent with the VOSS Water and Voss Foundation teams, around the TV in our office, as we frantically tried to find out whether our friends, family, and colleagues were safe.
That night, driving out of the city, I was shaking so hard that I had to pull over. I knew this horror would forever change Norway, a nation I have come to know and love.
What I never imagined at that moment was that something positive could come out of this, and the impact it would have on Voss Foundation, where I am Executive Director. It’s a nonprofit organization, founded by VOSS of Norway ASA, dedicated to providing access to clean water to communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and raising awareness of ongoing needs in the region.
One of the young people killed that day in Utøya was 19-year-old Lene Maria Bergum. To honor her memory, her family chose to build a water project in Sub-Saharan Africa with Voss Foundation. As they told us, “Her friends have described her as the world’s nicest person and that she cared about everyone and everything.”
They couldn’t have picked a better way to memorialize her. More than 300 million people in Africa lack access to safe water. Every year, women and children spend 40 billion hours walking to the nearest water source, which is often unprotected and frequently causes disease. Diarrhea kills one child every 20 seconds. As you can see, our clean water projects are life-changing for their communities, especially for the women and children.
The Bergums proceeded to raise funds for the project in their community of Namsos, Norway. Their efforts have been so successful that they have gone on to fund five of our clean water projects in Africa through Lene Maria for Rent Vann (or Lene Maria for Clean Water, in English). This February, they visited their first completed project in Kenya, and have committed to raising money to fund even more.
As the two-year anniversary of the tragedy approached, we at Voss Foundation were looking for a way to recognize the Bergums for their selflessness. We learned about a platform called Thunderclap, which presented a perfect opportunity to generate awareness about their initiatives and the on-going water crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa in a grassroots strategy similar to that which the Bergums employ.
Thunderclap empowers individuals to come together on social media to express themselves collectively. It’s not about attracting donations. It’s about creating a moment of global awareness. We registered #CleanWater for Africa on their site and gave people a deadline before which they had to register their endorsement—like signing a petition—on Facebook, Twitter and/or Tumblr. On the set date, if enough people have signed up to show their support of the Bergum family’s incredible work with Voss Foundation, Thunderclap will blast the social media channels at once with our message, generating a “thunderclap” of impact. It will be such a powerful way to echo what the Bergums have done in Lene Maria’s memory with the voices of their supporters in applauding them.
As the new mother of a baby girl, I cannot imagine what the Bergums went through on that terrible day in 2011. I am in awe of their ability to think beyond that pain and take action that has saved thousands of lives with clean water to ensure that their daughter did not die in vain.
Please join me in lending our online voices to cheer the Bergum family’s Lene Maria campaign with a thunderclap by noon on August 30, 2013. Here’s how:
1. Go to http://bit.ly/Water4Africa
2. Click "Support with Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr"
3. Click "Add My Support" to be counted