By: Patty Hall, Executive Director of H20 for Life
H2O for Life, a United States based nonprofit, provides service-learning opportunities for schools, service clubs, and church groups to partner with schools around the world that are in need of WASH in Schools projects (water, sanitation, and hygiene education). Schools select a global school partner from a list generated by our non-governmental implementing organizations and begin studying the issues surrounding the clean water crisis. With the help of our NGO’s, we are able to share photos and a WASH project summary to our U.S. school partners. Students are able to experience a global connection through photos, and we also provide the opportunity for students to communicate through pen-pal letters.
H2O for Life provides curricular resources and ideas for teachers to raise awareness about the global clean water crisis, and also provides a variety of engaging fund-raising activities. Students not only research and study the issues prevalent in developing countries around the world; but also study issues we are facing in the United States. Conservation and good stewardship of the earth’s resources are very important issues addressed through our school connections. Perhaps the most exciting part of our project is the creativity we see from every individual school. With more than 160 schools participating with us this year, all are providing unique learning experiences.
Once U.S. students have investigated issues surrounding water, they ramp into action to raise funds to help provide a WASH in Schools project for their partner school. Our NGOs have generously agreed to find donors to fund half the project costs while H2O for Life Schools provide the rest of the funds. Project costs include “sweat equity” provided by the local community, and ALL projects are planned with in-put from the local community. Use of appropriate technology, sustainability, and local “ownership” are priority goals.
Teacher Celina McGee, from River Road Middle School in North Carolina, has the following to say:
“In our rapidly changing world, it is more important than ever for students to become globally aware and socially responsible citizens. Our students have increased their compassion for others and recognize THEY can, and have, made a difference. We are so very proud of them.”
Her students raised $2,450 for Sipili School in Kenya. Another U.S. School, Skyview Middle School in Colorado, also raised funds for Sipili, contributing another $2,400; while Wisconsin Middle Schools filled in the gap with a contribution of $2,100. Schools working together can raise a significant amount of funds!
Students plan and implement a variety of fund-raising events to raise money. The Principia in St. Louis, Missouri held a talent show complete with singing, dancing, and comedy. They single handedly raised $6,950! Teacher Bob Yeates summed up their project with the following comment:
“We love that the day our water project is operational, we start saving babies’ lives, we keep young girls in school, and personal hygiene will become a reality. This project is a ‘real-time’ project. It is living in the ‘now’.”
A consortium of schools in Wisconsin banded together and raised more than $11,000 for water. Some schools held “Drop in the Bucket” days, where students brought in coins. Many students walked miles carrying water to experience what their partner school students must do daily. It was a learning experience for all, and their efforts will make a big difference in the lives of students at recipient schools.
The First Presbyterian Church’s Junior and Senior Youth groups in Newton, Kansas, also raised $6,950 for Ndururi School in Kenya. Following a PowerPoint presentation given by the youth, the group sent home an empty water bottle with each member of the congregation. The label on the bottle explained their project and challenged each person to drop a nickel in the bottle each time they used water – washing hands, flushing the toilet, washing clothes, etc. This continued for six weeks! A lot of money was raised, but they also raised the awareness about the amount of water being used. The bottles were returned on “World Toilet Day,” November 19, which was celebrated with a festive meal and games. The games all focused on water and sanitation. For example:
· Throwing a roll of toilet paper through a toilet seat hanging from the ceiling.
· Guessing the distance to the nearest bathroom, as measured by the number of squares of toilet paper needed.
· Decorating a toilet seat.
The room was decorated with toilet paper streamers and centerpiece stacks of toilet paper that held facts about sanitation. A local plumber donated a new Kohler water efficient toilet that was used as an auction item. It was a very successful event.
The students continued to host a church dinner every month that had a theme – with proceeds supporting their WASH project. Students were engaged with the project, and worked hard to raise all the funds needed for Ndururi School. Youth Advisor, Michelle Coffman, relayed:
“The experience was a good one, not just for the youth, but for a sleepy congregation who needed to perk up and support a cause!”
The mission of H2O for Life is two-fold and both missions are extremely important. Educating the youth in the United States about the water crisis, and providing them with the opportunity to take action and make a difference is something we know will change their lives! We also know that by helping to provide WASH in Schools projects around the world, we are helping to provide opportunities for students in developing countries to have access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene education that will change their lives as well. Water = Peace, and we hope this generation of children will make that happen! H2O for Life is proud to partner with reliable NGOs and all of our schools, groups, and individual donors in their efforts to provide safe drinking water, sanitation, and hand-washing facilities at schools. We hope to continue our joint efforts to allow ALL children access to a clean drink of water!
For more information, visit: http://www.h2oforlifeschools.org/.