( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Asheville, NC Based Environmental Nonprofit Hosts Auction to Raise Funds to Support Local and Global Communities During COVID-19
ENSPIRE Contributor: Rosa Linda Fallon
Western North Carolina, one of the most biodiverse places in the country, is home to many beautiful forests, rivers, streams, and a wide array of plant and animal species. The region’s oldest environmental non-profit MountainTrue works tirelessly to protect our environment by empowering people throughout the region to stay engaged in environmental policy, outreach, and education. As a champion for clean water, MountainTrue is the home of the French broad Riverkeeper, the primary protector and defender of the French Broad River watershed as well as the Watauga Riverkeeper, the primary spokesperson for the Elk and Watauga Rivers. Through their work and advocacy, MountainTrue has demonstrated its commitment to community support and engagement, and they are continuing to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of their efforts to support their community, MountainTrue is holding an auction to raise money for both local and global communities. The funds from the auction will go directly to BeLoved Asheville, Asheville Buncombe Institute for Parity Achievement, and Clean Water For Africa. A nonprofit “deeply rooted in love and justice,” BeLoved Asheville is a grassroots organization focusing on immigrant rights, housing rights, and ending racism. The Asheville Buncombe Institute for Parity Achievement also helps in the fight against racism and racial disparity by working to promote social, economic, and health parity achievement for people of color in Buncombe County.
While MountainTrue strongly focuses on offering local support, they are also expanding their reach on a global scale. French broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson and Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill are involved with helping riverkeepers in Africa. Carson manages the side organization Clean Water For Africa which helps raise money to support the riverkeepers in Kenya, Uganda, and Watauga, Africa. They specifically work with the Lake Victoria Waterkeeper, which is a part of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a worldwide movement uniting more than 230 Waterkeeper organizations around the globe.
Lake Victoria is the main source of the longest branch of the Nile River and is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world supplying drinking water to millions of people. While Lake Victoria is a large freshwater source for the country, unfortunately, the water is unsafe to drink. Back in October 2018, Carson and Hill traveled to the area to assist with water quality testing and drilling a freshwater well. Through this auction, they are continuing to show their support.
“There’s a ton of focus on local impact, but we’re connected with the broader international group of riverkeepers,” Carson said. People in these areas are dealing with things as simple as trying to raise money to buy soap, he said, which is challenging especially during COVID-19.
“Here we’re telling everybody to wash their hands, but it’s even more worrisome there because, in a lot of places where they work, they don’t really have a way to wash their hands,” he said. A portion of the funds raised from the auction will go directly to helping to build at least 20 handwashing stations along Lake Victoria and Lake Kyogo in Uganda, Africa.
Several of the items included were donated by MountainTrue staff members themselves. These include whitewater rafting with the French Broad Riverkeeper, fly fishing on the Watauga River with the Watauga Riverkeeper, flatwater paddling on the Broad River with the Broad Riverkeeper, guided hiking with MountainTrue biologist Josh Kelly, a 5-night stay in a waterfront house in the Florida Keys, and more.
Hill, who donated a guided fly fishing trip on the Watauga River, used to be a professional fisherman before he became a riverkeeper. Hill said the Watauga River is one of the finest trout fisheries in the east and thinks this is a valuable item since people really like the river.
“People are really interested in the river, and it’s great to use it as a vehicle to raise money for a good cause,” he said.
Hill’s wife, Bettie McKemie’Hill donated the 5-night stay at the Cudjoe Key waterfront house, which is owned by her father. For her, the donation is a way for her to give back to the waterkeeper team in Africa. When her husband went to Africa in 2018, it was hard for her to communicate with him because of the lack of cell phone service. She was able to stay in touch with Uganda Lake Victoria Waterkeeper Daniel Musota who accompanied Carson and Hill often during their time over there. McKemie’Hill said Musota was so kind and understanding to her and would make sure she was updated regularly on her husband’s safety, which helped ease her worries.
“I really just fell in love with Daniel for being so kind and thoughtful on that trip, and so we’ve all stayed in touch ever since,” she said.
McKemie’Hill said she thinks it’s amazing to be connected as riverkeepers both globally and locally for this auction, and she hopes this will strengthen ties with the global community of waterkeepers.
“I think what’s really beautiful about this program is that it’s local and it’s global,” she said. “While we think about how hard it is working from home managing our kids, you then think about the hardships of our friends who don’t have soap to wash their hands. And it’s really amazing to connect to the team because all of the problems are very real.”
To view and bid on items for this auction, please click here. The auction ends on May 25.