USM Student Collects Bottled Water for Jackson Residents


As the Jackson water crisis continues, residents still struggle to access safe water sources. Seeing this, student Bethal Miles stepped up to help. Miles has collected over 200 cases of water to distribute to Jacksonians, and he’s just getting started. 

The water system in Jackson, Mississippi, has been plagued with problems for years. The situation reached crisis levels in late August when excessive rain and flooding from the Pearl River caused pumps at Jackson’s primary treatment plant to fail. As of the writing of this article, water pressure has returned, but there is still a boil-water notice.  

After learning about the water crisis on the news, USM junior Miles felt compelled to act. “I woke up one day seeing the story…and just thought, ‘What can I do to help?’”, he recounted. Miles has struggled with similar issues in his own life. “I come from poverty,” he recalled. “A lot of times, I just needed one person to pat me on the back and tell me it was going to be okay.”  

It all began with a post on TikTok, where Miles has over 449,300 followers. In the original video, he states his plan to go to Jackson with cases of water and calls on his followers for help. “I really wanna get out there and help the people,” he states. “There is no way the blackest city in America doesn’t have water.” 

The project runs on donations, which are accepted through his Instagram: @bethal_miles. He accepts cases of water or money to buy water and cover transportation costs. The exact plans are still in development, but Miles plans to travel to Jackson to distribute the water. He will accept donations until Wednesday, Sept. 14. That weekend, Miles intends to move the water cases out of his house and set up a distribution center by Saturday, Sept. 17. He also posts regular updates on social media for transparency.  

The water drive started small on a whim but has become a runaway success. “I started getting donations, and then they just gradually got bigger and bigger and bigger,” Miles said. His initial goal was 100 cases of 40-pack water. Since the first video, he has received 220 cases and is still getting more.  

Miles does much of the work himself but has received much support. He credits his line brothers at Omega Psi Phi fraternity and other members of USM’s Greek life. But mostly, he is grateful for all those who donated. “A lot of this stuff is possible because of the donations,” he said. “The story is incredible. Like, you wouldn’t believe it if you’d seen it.” 

Miles calls the project “a blessing in so many ways.” He wants the water drive to be the first of many volunteer projects. “Now that I’ve done a little bit and contributed a little part, I just want to keep growing,” he said. “I want to see what I can do.” He is in contact with several charities and has big ambitions for the future. “Just help people, that’s really my message. Just help people.”