PLAINFIELD, NJ - The Coffee Box in Plainfield hosted a talk with James Leitner, who grew up in Scotch Plains, and is the Founder of MissionCleanWater, an organization working to provide clean water and sanitation to remote communities.
Leitner said, "this all really began in high school." He continued, saying in 2010, "a brand new experimental class started for my junior year called Global Perspectives." The class provided insight into the problems people in other countries face. He said he and his classmates were instructed to research food, energy and water, and why they are global issues. He learned that, "one billion people in the world didn't have access to clean drinking water." This striking fact stuck with him.
Leitner started to work with the Charity Water organization, which has clean water efforts in various countries. He learned that clean water changes everything, and that other secondary benefits for communities come with it.
While he was in college, Leitner came up with the idea to start his own non-profit with a focus on clean water. He teamed up with the right people, conducted fundraisers, and was able to travel to Tanzania to see how the project he had contributed to was working and progressing. The water project was in the center of town, and near the school, which was more incentive for children to attend classes.
He continued fundraising, and was able to fund three more projects in that country.
Prior to starting his walk across North America, he decided to do a marathon a month, carrying five gallons of water, or about 45 pounds, to raise more money to make a bigger impact.
"I thought this was the perfect symbolic way to represent what people go through to get clean water."
Leitner's first marathon was in New Jersey in 2016. He trained by keeping the water above his head for up to three hours a day. He finished all twelve marathons.
A month later, on May 17, 2017, Leitner started his 3,250 mile walk from Princeton, NJ to San Francisco, CA, pulling ten gallons of water in a cart. In this video he talks about the first few days of his cross-country trek, and the importance of establishing a routine.
Leitner also talked about his stop in Flint, Michigan, a city that experienced its own water crisis, to volunteer some of his time.
As the talk wrapped up, the crowd at The Coffee Box learned that Leitner teamed up with UPS for its Wishes Delivered initiative. The company is sponsoring a clean water project in his name at a school in Kenya. UPS will be sending Leitner to the country to be a part of the project.
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