Model Elyse Knowles visits Delhi slums with WaterAid
Australian model Elyse Knowles is used to flying to exotic locations for photoshoots, but this week went traveling abroad for a different reason.
The Melbourne-based TV personality and author of “From Me to You” was in Delhi, India on Thursday and Friday, visiting two urban slums and a government primary school.
She was there with not-for-profit organisation WaterAid to better understand what life is like for people who live without access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.
WaterAid’s country program in India works with each of the communities Knowles visited, helping them each improve their access to these basic services.
Of the two slums she visited, the first one (Jai Hind Camp) had limited access to clean water and toilets, whereas the second one (in Kirti Nagar) had more sustainable systems and improved toilet facilities.
“There was a clear difference there - everyone seemed very positive and happy and colourful. You could read it on their faces and you could see it when you were walking around the alleyways,” Elyse Knowles explains.
“At home, we turn on the tap and there’s clean water that’s clear - we just put in the glass,” Knowles says. “We’re so lucky in Australia and a lot of people don’t even realise it - it’s easy to forget and even I forget it sometimes!”
Knowles is the ambassador of WaterAid’s Water Challenge fundraising event, which invites Australians to make water their only beverage during the month of March. The public can pre-register for the event at www.waterchallenge.org.au
Elyse Knowles, WaterAid Australia Ambassador:
“The first slum I visited was an eye-opener to say the least. You can see some of the kids that are growing up have malnutrition – they’re very skinny – and are at high risk of getting diarrhoea, which can lead to death. That’s such a scary thing. In Australia it’s easy to get rid of that sickness – we can go to the doctor. But the people I met don’t have access to those basic services.
“While I was there, a water truck arrived to deliver the slum with water. When it came in, everyone got so excited. They all had their barrels that they wanted to fill up. For those people, you’ve got to get in there, you’ve got to get your barrel so that you’ve got water for the next couple of days. At home, we turn on the tap and there’s clean water that’s clear - we just put in the glass. So it was really special to see the effects of what clean water can do – when that truck came in, everyone was so happy and it showed me how water can change lives.
“The second slum we visited had regular access to clean running water. There was a clear difference there - everyone seemed very positive and happy and colourful. You could read it on their faces and you could see it when you were walking around the alleyways. The slum is right on a railway line which is so scary - there are massive trains going so damn fast outside their back doorstep.
They’ve got toilets set up now, which they’ve had for a little bit, but WaterAid have come in and re-established and built them properly. Women feel safe going there now but just a year ago, everyone was defecating out in the open on the railway lines in the dark.
“I’ve been supporting WaterAid now for about five years. I first selected WaterAid because everyone there had a connection to the issue; everyone had a vision; everyone shared the same values. We all wanted to help people around the world have this simple element of clean water. Once I met the team, I knew that I wanted to work with them to try to make a difference, which is what we’ve been doing on this trip.
“I’ve now been to Timor-Leste and India with WaterAid and it’s been incredible seeing the villages and slums that don’t have clean water and seeing those that do. I really like that I am able to help spread awareness and show people why they need to donate.
“We’re so lucky in Australia and a lot of people don’t even realise it - it’s easy to forget and even I forget it sometimes! When you travel, I encourage you to get out of those hotels and experience the real culture of where you are and what the local people need. You’ll find that in a lot of places what people need is clean water.”
WaterAid Ambassador Elyse Knowles walks through an urban slum (Jai Hind Camp) in Delhi, India:
WaterAid Ambassador Elyse Knowles takes a selfie with kids in an urban slum in Kirti Nagar, Delhi, India
WaterAid Ambassador Elyse Knowles visits a government primary school in Delhi
Contact: Nicole Ryan, (03) 9001 8232 or
WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone, everywhere has safe water, sanitation and hygiene. The international organisation works in countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific region to transform lives by improving access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 24 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 24 million people with sanitation. For more information, visit: www.wateraid.org/au