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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Working for World Water Relief, One Stroke At A Time

Jillian Rice with the donation jar “H20 for Haiti” that resides at Coffee Please in Madeira

By Moira Grainger

There’s a saying that if you want to get a job done, ask a busy person to do it.

One such busy person is local high school swimmer Jillian Rice, whose personal mission to help others mirrors the famous Chinese proverb that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Currently a senior at Indian Hill High School, Jillian is an accomplished club and high school swimmer who has competed on behalf of Cincinnati Aquatics Club, the Indian Hill Club and Indian Hill Schools. A strong swimmer since the age of four, Jillian’s success in the water follows in the footsteps of her oldest brother Mack Rice, Indian Hill Class of 2012, University of Pittsburgh, class of 2016, and middle brother Drew Rice.

The first step of Jillian’s journey began four years ago when she became involved with World Water Relief through neighbors and Indian Hill residents Pam and Les Irvine. Even then, says Jillian, “I was finishing up eighth grade year and knew that I had to do a senior project and had community service requirements to meet, so I wanted to be consistent in my mission and purpose.  Then, one day I was doing a swim practice at the University of Cincinnati and saw a huge disparity: we have so much water here, and other countries struggle to get enough just to survive.”

And so the journey began.

Starting right then, Jillian’s first fundraiser was selling flower bouquets at 8th grade choir band and orchestra end-of-year concerts.  Every fundraising event thereafter, each “step” was $1 by $1, doing things like selling popsicles, bottled water, or brownies at school and community events. Jillian even held a fundraiser to help generate support with a dunking booth at the annual Boosters Bash.  For three years, Jillian and her friends, along with support from mom Holly Rice, took these small financial steps towards a much larger goal.  Jillian even sold water along parade routes at Madeira and Indian Hill Independence Day Parades.  Even today, there is a donation jug on the counter at Coffee Please in Madeira with the slogan “H2O for Haiti,”  small but ever-present evidence of community support.

Over the next three years, $7,000 was raised from eighth grade through middle of Jillian’s junior year.  While there was some help from friends and family, this effort (think of how many bottles of water and brownies that translates to) was basically a one woman show.  That $7,000 allowed for the purchase of the first water pump at Batey-9 in the Dominican Republic.

A typical water station in a Dominican Republic funded by Jillian Rice’s efforts with World Water Relief.
For the desperately poor residents of rural villages in the Dominican Republic, there was no public water supply, and most of the available water is tainted and unfit to drink or wash in.  The community well could supply a water source, but there were no resources to purify or decontaminate it.  With Jillian’s fundraising dollars, World Water Relief was able to provide an electrical source and a tank that could be used to constantly filter and pump fresh water for the school.

Water purification canisters at a water station in the Dominican Republic funded by Jillian Rice’s efforts.
Explains Jillian, “The reason that schools were chosen as the central location was because children will learn how to properly take care of themselves and keep the water clean so that they can grow up to become future leaders of the community.”

While those of us with running water in our homes may find this hard to fathom, for these Dominican Republic villagers living in Batey-2, the average walk from their village to the school is 1-2 miles and water must be carried by hand from the water station.

As soon as Jillian learned that the school had raised the matching funds to complete the project, her donation of $7,000 was credited to their web site. This was on October 29, 2018 and marked her first milestone.

But Jillian was not done.

Once the $7,000 milestone was reached, Jillian contacted Swim Across America this past year to create yet another fundraiser.  With Jillian’s help, over the course of all the events, Swim Across America raised $60,000 for Hollings Cancer Center through the efforts of approximately 150-200 swimmers.  While completing the Swim Across America challenge, Jillian also created a GoFundMe account to run parallel to her Swim Across America fundraiser and was able to raise an additional $1,600 towards the $4,500 renovation and upgrade of a second water pump at Batey-2.
As of this past fall, Jillian is still working to raise the remaining $2,900 needed to meet her goal of a second water pump.

Jillian Rice competing at “Swim Across America”

And Jillian’s journey of those 1,000 steps is still not done!

Jillian’s current goal is to create yet another community based fundraiser that will allow her to fulfill her dream of funding the second pump. She has enlisted members of the Middle School and High School Spanish Clubs to become pen pals with students at Batey-2 to further forge the relationship as a sister-school program.  Jillian is also volunteering in middle school Spanish classes to practice her own Spanish skills and support students in their classroom learning. Mentoring.

Back at home, Jillian has her sights set on prospective colleges such as Michigan State, Iowa and Boston College and Wisconsin of Green Bay and knows well the value and importance of consistent hard work.  Her favorite events are distance freestyle and butterfly, as well as team relays, especially the third leg of the relay!

To sum up this very impressive achievement, Jillian just wants readers to know that “it’s something I did for others and how necessary water is for life.”

To help support her efforts, interested readers can contribute through Jillian’s GOFundMe page.

For anyone wishing to learn more about World Water Relief or Jillian’s fundraising efforts, please visit

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