Couple walks 15-mile stretch of Saipan to advocate for clean water
Would you walk a mile to raise awareness on clean water? How about 15 miles?
This is exactly what couple pastor Mat and Victoria Murphy did just this January, where, to raise awareness on the global need for clean water, made a video showing them walk a 15-mile stretch of Saipan for six hours, from Pakpak Beach in San Antonio to Banzai Cliff in Marpi, carrying 5 gallons of water.
Saipan Tribune had the privilege to sit down with them, and learn more about their advocacy.
“Our idea to carry the water jug across the island was pretty simple: we knew it would be a difficult task in the heat of the day, which would remind us and others… that while we are enjoying our beautiful paradise island, there are others struggling.”
“… Sometimes the struggle is as close to home as another beach on island that is often littered with beach debris.”
These clean water advocates are from Indiana, and have been on island since the fall of 2019. Pastor Mat teaches Bible and Physical Education at Saipan Community School, while Victoria teaches literature at the Northern Marianas College. They have a YouTube channel, PastorMattieIce, where the video of their “walk” is posted.
The two also have “Water,” a running dog who stays in Indiana with their friends and family. Naming the dog “Water” was intended as a joke, in reference to everyone wanting clean running water at home. However, soon after, the pastor realized that clean water is not a joking matter, which brought their passion to helping others have clean water.
For the couple, clean water is essential for sustainability.
“Clean drinking water helps sustain physical health. Clean ocean water helps sustain environmental health. Thousands of humans die every day from water-borne diseases. Thousands of sea animals die annually from plastic-related injuries,” stressed pastor Mat.
“The internet is filled with stories and statistics of humans pointlessly dying from bacteria in their water and sea creatures pointlessly dying from plastic in theirs. We can do our part by working to provide clean water for people to drink and animals to live.”
‘Together, we can change the world’
As far as what they have observed concerning the need for clean water programs, according to pastor Mat, there is a lack of awareness and an even larger lack of applicability.
“Our tagline for our movement, Running Water Events, is to make a difference with what you have, where you are. Many times, people think either it is someone else’s problem or that the problem is too large for us to fix. However, a little each day goes a long way.”
They work on helping raise money for national organizations to dig wells in available communities in developing countries around the world.
“In many of these regions, clean water access is miles away, if it is available at all… A well in India, that would service an entire community for years, costs only $1,500. That may seem like a large amount of money, but if a group of people from an office, church, or school joined together, they could drastically improve the standard of life for an entire village for many years into the future.”
In the CNMI, for an easier access to clean drinking water everywhere on island, the couple would want to see more hydration filtration stations in markets where residents can easily fill up reusable bottles and containers, instead of always purchasing disposable water bottles, which normally eventually end up as trash.
“Some markets on island already have a place for residents to come fill up their water jugs for a reasonable cost. Having this available in more markets would help more people across the island. Or at least, there are water bottles on island that are safer to the environment.”
He also noted how some villages and living complexes have placed purification units to provide clean drinking water into people’s homes.
Aside from highlighting the need for projects on island that could increase access to clean drinking water, the couple also advocates the ‘reduce reuse recycle” of single-use items, and even the simple practice of picking up five pieces of trash on the beach, to help keep the ocean waters, and waterways, clean.
The pastor also noted Joeten’s Plastic-Free Tuesdays, as well as Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance’s environmental education campaigns and partnerships with schools.
“Individually, we cannot change the world’s water crisis. But together, together we can change the world,” he added.
Make a difference
The couple also reaches out to legislators and government officials, in appreciation of, as well as to call for more projects that could benefit all on island.
Pastor Mat believes that Saipan has done a great job with continual improvement, providing trash cans with lids at the beaches, and recycling containers on several strategic spots around the island that help keep the community, including the water ways, clean.
“Legislators and governmental officials of the CNMI can continue to take actions toward providing clean water ways and getting purified water into villages to reduce hazardous single use water containers entering the waterways and the homes of our sea animals.”
“On a different note, the CNMI could investigate using the clean ocean to provide more sustainable and cost-efficient energy through hydroelectricity. But, it would probably make more sense to continue increasing the use of solar energy, which is much more efficient and available than hydro-electricity.”
For the community, the couple offers their biggest encouragement.
“Make a difference how you can in all areas of your life. If you can give people clean water to drink, do it. If you can pick up at the beach, do it. If you can give a listening ear to a troubled friend in need, do it,” shared Victoria.
“We all can make a difference with what we have,” pastor Mat added. “We can make a difference on our island by taking the initiative to use reusable bags and water bottles. We can make a difference worldwide by financially contributing to a water well project in areas such as India and the Philippines, where clean water is either many miles away or not accessible at all.”