Interview with Chris Long
Development and Innovation NFL athlete Chris Long’s organization Waterboys is providing clean water to over 150,000 Tanzanians with the goal of hitting one million in the near future.
NFL Super Bowl champion Chris Long has made a name for himself on the football field, but now he’s using his star power to unite players and fans in bringing clean water to vulnerable communities through the Waterboys initiative.
Mediaplanet: What inspired you to launch the Waterboys initiative?
Chris Long: I kind of fell into it by accident. I travelled to Tanzania in 2013 to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with a teammate of mine, James Hall. I came away with a better appreciation of what we have here, and what a lot of people in the third world don’t have — clean water.
As I evaluated how I wanted to change the world efficiently and quickly, clean water came to mind. There is a void in pro sports where there isn’t really a comprehensive program that involves a network of athletes for this kind of charitable work.
MP: How does access to clean water affect communities in the short and long term?
CL: In the short term, you’re saving lives — one in five kids under the age of five dies because of waterborne illnesses. That’s an emergency.
Long-term, we are improving communities by reducing the burden on women and girls to take time away from their communities, families, and school because they often have to fetch dirty water from long distances.
You also improve the agriculture of the community and their economic output — water has one of the highest returns on investment of any cause.
MP: How did you gain buy-in from other NFL players to participate in the Waterboys initiative?
CL: We found that every player has his own interests and causes, so one of our most successful methods is to get guys over to Tanzania to see the program for themselves. They do things like Conquering Kili which brings players over for a climb, which they love, but what lasts forever is the experience of visiting a school or visiting a community with a well. Those players come back to America and spread the word, which helps us.
MP: How can members of the public get involved in clean water access programs?
CL: The easiest way is to visit Waterboys.org to make a donation. Clean water is an awesome cause because it’s efficient, it’s measurable, and you know how far your donation is going.
Even if it’s not Waterboys that you decide to support, there are plenty of ways you can get involved with educating yourself on the clean water crisis and the other organizations doing this work.
MP: How do you see Waterboys evolving?
CL: When we started out, we thought that over a long period of time, we might reach a goal of 32 wells funded for the 32 NFL teams.
As we’re approaching 40 wells, it’s evident that our goal should be even bigger.
I see us moving towards a people-served model, where our goal is to serve one million people with clean water. When all of our current wells are installed, over 150,000 people will have the gift of clean water.
In the NBA, Malcolm Brogdon is heading up his own initiative under the Waterboys umbrella. Getting other influencers involved, looking into conservation, and doing more domestically while expanding across the globe are all things we are interested in doing in the future.
To get involved or find out more, please visit www.waterboys.org.