WATCH | This footballer is leading a global team to solve the sanitation crisis
Benjamin Adrion’s goals are unlike that of any other footballer. The German midfielder was born to the manager of a soccer team and began playing professionally as a teenager.
But today, you’re more likely to find Adrion on a dusty field in South Africa than on the turf of international stadiums. That’s because his current target is improving sanitation facilities across the globe.
An estimated two billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water. The absence of this basic resource affects both the health and social development of communities.
Women and girls miss out on school to fetch water from rivers, while children die needlessly from disease. By working with developing communities, Adrion is providing sanitation to those whose lives depend on it.
He is the initiator of Viva con Agua, which translates to ‘live with water’ in Spanish. The organisation started in 2005 out of St. Pauli, the football club that Adrion played for at the time.
The team planned fundraising parties and concerts for their supporters, and used the proceeds to provide water dispensers to kindergartens in Cuba.
Inspired by the fans who were united by their desire to create change, Adrion considered how other interests could stir people into backing crucial causes.
A year later, Viva con Agua was officially founded. “It was easy for us to use music, sports and art,” he says. “That was our DNA from the beginning.”
The association has since grown into a global network of over 15 000 volunteers. Adrion and his team host concerts, festivals, art exhibitions, and sports matches that mobilise people to invest in water projects.
“Viva con Agua is creating synergies among people and organisations to inspire a joyful change for clean water, sanitation, and hygiene,” Adrion says.
They’ve partnered with humanitarian organisation Welthungerhilfe, worked on innovations such as the CloudFisher that harvests water from fog, and funded solar-powered water disinfection systems.
In total, they’ve reached more than three million people from Rwanda to the Amazon. One of Adrion’s most recent projects is with Viva con Agua South Africa.
He’s working with locals in Bulungula, a village in the Eastern Cape, to provide sanitation and toilet facilities to over 50 schools, improve hygiene, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.
Building toilets in one of the poorest provinces in South Africa is a far cry from the life of most footballers.
But Adrion is anything but average. He’s been awarded the BAUM Environmental Award as well as the German Federal Cross of Merit – one of the highest honours bestowed in the country.
Harnessing the power of a team with a shared goal, Adrion is providing life-saving water and dignity to communities worldwide.
Footage and photos by Viva con Agua, Die Wupperwerft, Arne Schramm, Paul Ripke, Räuber & Banditen Film, Timon Koch, Henrik Wiards, and Merlin Seifert were used in the creation of this film.