Students fundraise for water insecurity through Instagram Venmo challenge

Gracyn Freiling

Avery McCall hit record on her iPhone, slowly picked up a raw egg and smashed it on her head for all of her followers to see. This video was one of many Instagram stories posted to raise money for a student organization called Texas Water.

“Earlier in the semester, I had posted things and hadn’t really gotten any return on it,” chemical engineering sophomore McCall said. “I was surprised that people were like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m all in.’ I think the difference was … it was really surprising, really fun and really goofy.”

Texas Water, the UT chapter of Global Brigades, focuses on educating their members on water literacy, advocacy and fundraising. According to their website, Global Brigades is the largest student movement for clean water and global health.

This year, Texas Water has been raising money for a telebrigade in Honduras through profit shares, raffles and Venmo challenges.

Walter Naranjo, a founding member and marketing sophomore, did many of the same dares as McCall, such as posting embarrassing childhood photos or taking a bite of a banana with the peel still on, and is currently working towards his biggest dare yet. For $60, he will get a mullet.

He said he hopes he can reach this goal and show off his new hairstyle on social media to raise awareness for Texas Water.

Management sophomore Anna Ranabijuli grew up taking trips to India to visit her family and saw firsthand the impact water insecurity has on a community.

“The quality of water in a city or a town is really essential to having people be healthy and living good lives,” Ranabijuli said.

When Ranabijuli discovered there were no organizations at UT dedicated to fighting water insecurity, she decided to start a chapter of Global Brigades at UT. She connected with chemical engineering sophomore Arya Saksena, neuroscience sophomore Rylie Lillibridge and Naranjo to form “Texas Water” last August.

“We always had a big passion for conservation, particularly when it came to water just because we (all) came from very underserved communities,” Naranjo said. “I came from Colombia, and they came from India. So, water conservation has always (had) a big impact in our lives.”

So far, the team has raised over $700, which will go towards their telebrigade, a virtual fundraising mission with the goal of making clean water more available in Honduras.

Ranabijuli said as the semester wraps up, she is proud looking back on the growth of her team members and her own passion for the cause.

“I’ve learned a lot more about water and how water issues affect areas of the world very differently,” Ranabijuli said. “Before, I’d only been exposed to what we see here in Texas and what I’ve seen with my family in India, but now I know a lot more about water issues in South America as well as Europe, Australia and all over the world.”