James Nampushi's hands clung to a small, plastic cup Saturday morning. The water within was cool and clear.

To offer donations

Water Missions International will continue to collect funds through September. To donate, visit www.watermissions.org.

The simple pleasure is often taken for granted by the fortunate, Nampushi said. But millions worldwide go without it every day.

He led thousands on Saturday through Charleston's streets in the 8th annual Walk for Water to help raise awareness and funds for clean water in developing communities.

Nampushi's thoughts carried him back to his native Kenya and the sometimes 10-mile trek the he often took from a Masai village to fetch a small pale of water.

What he could carry was never enough, he said, to wash his body, cook and clean.

Nampushi raised his cup to eye level, swaying it back and forth to swirl the water it contained.

"This water is clear," he said. "Back home it is brown. The kind you smell before you see it."

A scholarship brought Nampushi to South Carolina in 2009 to study parks, recreation and tourism management. He received a master's degree from Clemson University in 2011 and is currently pursuing a PhD at the school.

But personal success isn't enough for Nampushi. It means nothing without giving back to better his village.

"I want to make a difference. Pay it back to transform the lives of those little ones back home. That is my passion, my calling," Nampushi said.

And it all starts with fresh water, he said, one of the most basic of needs.

On Saturday, Nampushi dressed in his native attire and toted a wooden staff as he led thousands from Cannon Park in a walk through downtown Charleston.

The 8th annual Walk for Water event was hosted by Water Missions International. The nonprofit Christian engineering organization helps provide clean water for people in developing countries and disaster areas.

With 3,250 attendees, this year's walk was the largest in the event's history, its coordinators said. As walkers gulped down cups of water throughout the day, the event's organizers urged them to remember the 1.8 billion people who lack access to clean water.

"People want to know what they can do about it and how they can help. This is a way that everyone can learn more and educate their kids so the next generation will be more sensitive to the global water crisis," one organizer, Julie Johnson, said.

Participants carried buckets of water during the four mile walk, alluding to the journey women and children take each day to gather drinking water.

Event organizers aimed to raise $225,000 to benefit developing communities, including Nampushi's Masai village. The group will continue to raise funds through September.

Saturday's walk boasted a number of sponsors, including Pentair, Charleston Water System, Seacoast Church, Aqua Safaris, Mt. Pleasant Waterworks, TMD Architects and Chick-fil-A.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.