Chris Bailey is a student who spent a week walking with a jerry can of water to university to make a point. What’s it all about?
So what’s all this about a jerry can?
I walked from Fallowfield, the area where most Manchester University students live, to Manchester University and back every day for a week carrying a 25 litre jerry can of water. That’s 1.7 miles each way, so 17 miles over the week.
Why did you do it?
I went to Rwanda last year with Transform. One of the main issues I was confronted with was access to clean to water and the amount of time it took for people to get water, let alone clean water. I wanted to do something to raise awareness among my friends and others around Manchester and to do a bit of fundraising for Tearfund.
Did you do it alone?
I had some friends come along with me most of the time and my grandparents came once. My church were really supportive and gave me an opportunity to do a seminar at the services on God’s heart for the poor. Lots of people from the church walked with me and two people did the Water Challenge that week, living off only 10 litres of water a day.
What was the biggest challenge of the 17 miles?
Probably coming back the first day because I had labs [Chris is studying Science and spends all day in a laboratory] and I just wanted to just jump on the bus and go home. After such a long day having to pick it back up again and walk with it was hard.
Give us an idea of what 25 litres of water is like…
It’s probably about ten bags of potatoes. It’s heavy.
Do you think you managed to raise awareness?
When I turned up to labs with a 25 litre jerry can people asked questions!! I think most of my friends who walked with me were impacted – just realising how heavy it is, and how far people have to go. That gave me great opportunity to talk to my time in Rwanda and the other issues surrounding water and sanitation. It’s not just about having to carry a lot of water but about the diseases linked to it too.
Did your faith play a role in your decision to do it?
Yes, the more I realise how much God gave up for me on the cross and just how much he loves me personally, I realise how much he loves every single person in the world. God’s heart is breaking for those people because it’s a dire situation If God’s heart is for those people that’s where our heart should be as well.
You had the freedom to stop at the end of the week but many people don’t. Could you have carried on?
I don’t quite see how people they do it. I ate so much more stuff that week – so much protein – because of how much exercise I was doing carrying the water. I can afford that food but that’s not always the case for many people in the world and I wonder how they physically cope with it on a limited diet.
How has stepping into someone else’s shoes for five days changed you and how you live in Manchester?
It’s brought my Rwandan experience and my life in Manchester together. Life in Rwanda didn’t stop when I came home last year and it’s still going on day after day. That sounds really obvious but it’s really good to be aware of it.
Can you give us one motivation or encouragement?
Lots of the time it’s easy to look at the world and easy to become almost discouraged when things seem too big and too impossible to ever change. It’s good to know that God is bigger and more powerful than any of those things and that he can and He will use us to change things if we let him.