Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | May 21, 2018

Walking for water

Walk raises awareness of need for clean water
Jul 10, 2017

By David Hotle, Golden Triangle News Service


WASHINGTON — What does it take to spend six months hiking from one side of the United States to the other? For James Leitner it takes the passion for knowing people in foreign lands, especially Tanzania, have clean water to drink.

On Wednesday, Leitner passed through Washington as part of his trek from Princeton, New Jersey to San Francisco, California. In addition to the heavy backpack Leitner carried with his supplies, he also hauled a small trailer with 10 gallons of water weighing over 80 lbs. The journey was both a fundraiser and to raise awareness of clean water projects in Tanzania. He said the hike was to symbolize the long walks people in Tanzania have to make in order to get drinking water. Leitner left Princeton on May 17 and plans to be completely done sometime in October. Day 50 was spent in Washington before he began heading for Fairfield.

“It has been good,” Leitner said. “My spirits are very high and physically I’m not too injured or anything like that. I’ve always been able to reach a town or campground I have been able to stay in. In Iowa, and soon Nebraska, things are more spread out so I’m kind of planning my days more vigilantly. The heat and humidity is becoming a small concern for me, but I’m just kind of planning my days more thoroughly to plan for the heat that’s coming up.”

While he does have the 10 gallons of water in the cart to fall back on, he said he doesn’t drink that water unless it is absolutely necessary. In his backpack he has two Nalgene water bottles with his drinking supply while he is walking.

Leitner said when he first learned people in other countries didn’t have access to clean drinking water, the knowledge created a clear path for him that he has traveled ever since.

He attended college at the University of Delaware where he began working with the Philadelphia-Serengeti Alliance that does work in Tanzania.

As part of his college studies — he now has a degree in environmental science and engineering — Leitner traveled to Tanzania. He said the travel assured him that raising awareness of the need for clean water is what he wants to be doing with his life.

“When I was a sophomore in college, I met with this lady who was from Tanzania who wanted to get her own nonprofit started to help her local community,” Leitner said. “I was able to do some fundraising for her at the university and help her gain nonprofit status. We eventually raised enough money to begin three well projects in Tanzania.”

Leitner described Tanzania as “beautiful” and said the people in the country are wonderful. He said that while many have very little, they are always trying to find ways to help and give of themselves.

A few of the days he was in Tanzania, Leitner went with people to see where they gathered water. He said some people gathered water from dried-up river beds and others from puddles of rain water.

After college he moved to West Virginia, where the opportunities to do fundraisers for the effort dwindled.

This led to his journey.

Leitner said his trip can be followed on the website

He hopes with the money raised by the trip he can travel to Tanzania for an extended time to show donors where their money is going and what a difference contributions can make.

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