About Us

Our team

Our History
Hands Across the Water was created in 2010 by then 7th grader, now UT Freshman, Michael Van Dorselaer as a way to build awareness and raise money to help address the global water crisis. Michael had learned about the global water crisis through a family friend, Standa Vecera, who was working in Nigeria for Procter & Gamble (P&G). Through his work, Mr. Vecera became very familiar with the plight of children in Africa who suffer needlessly from the devastating effects of water borne illnesses caused by unsafe drinking water. Mr. Vecera told Michael about P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) program, a not-for-profit organization founded by P&G with the goal of distributing the company’s proprietary water purification packets in the developing world. P&G invented the packets using the science learned in the development of laundry detergents.

The cost to provide an entire year of clean water for a single child was only $7.50 and that small cost was something that Michael knew students could afford. So, he established Hands Across the Water with a goal to raise $5,000. Part of the project included classroom instruction about the global water crisis as well as a 6K walkathon. The uniqueness of a 6K is based on the fact that the average distance that children in the developing world walk to collect water is 6K. Unfortunately, the water they collect is so polluted that it kills more people than HIV, AIDS and malaria combined. Walking the same 6K distance while carrying heavy water jugs allowed students to better appreciate the challenges faced by their peers in the developing world.

The first walkathon was a huge success and raised a little over $5,000. Each year the project grew and spread to other schools. As of 2016, Michael’s Hands Across the Water service learning project had spread to 43 schools across the Midwest and raised over $100,000.

Upon entering the University of Tennessee his freshman year, Michael enrolled in the Haslam College of Business. During the summer of 2015, Michael met with Dean Steve Mangum and Dean Lane Morris to pitch the idea of bringing Hands Across the Water to the business school. Both Dean Mangum and Dean Morris were very supportive and encouraged Michael to reach out to distinguished professor, Dr. Ernie Cadotte. Having already established a relationship with MITSOM College in Pune, India, Dr. Cadotte recognized the opportunity for UTK students to partner students in India through his Spring 2016 service learning class.
The new class has taken over. The 2017 Hands Across The Water students are ready to take on a new challenge. We are an ambitious group of 25 volunteers who are looking to bring 1.5 million liters of clean water to people across India! Follow our progress on Instagram and Facebook @handsacrossthewaterutk