FORT MILL, S.C. (CN2 News) – Imagine having to walk miles just to get clean water.
Well in some of the world, like parts of Africa, that’s very much the case. It can however seem like a very distant problem , especially to young people who may not think they can make much of a difference.
One of our Fort Mill middle schools however, finding not just one, but several ways to help its students understand the problem and actually make a significant impact.
CN2’s Laurabree Monday with more on how Fort Mill Middle Schoolers are making an impact across the globe.
“We do a program called, “One Book, One School”. Our book this year was “A Long Walk to Water”. A true story of lost boys of Sudan and how they had to walk to get water in the villages in Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia. So, we heard through Education Equals Hope, which is based out of Fort Mill that they were doing a water filter program. We thought that would be a perfect way for our students to bring book to life and see how we can make a difference” explains Treva Hammond, a literacy specialist with FMMS.
Every Fort Mill Middle School student read the book over the course of one week. Then, fundraising began, these students raised more than $7,000 which will buy more than 140 water filters.
Celeste Bundy, the Executive Director of Education Equals Hope says, “I would say – what our friends in Kenya say, Asante Sana, thank you very much. It is unbelievable to see the power of a student in the states impacting the lives of students around the world. And as I think about the youth of today, they are truly the leaders, the world changers of the future.”
Just days before Bundy walked the halls and spoke with students at Fort Mill Middle, she was in Africa, on a Zoom call from across the globe with these very same students. They introduced the students to try and help them make connections and build understanding.
Hammond says, “I think the book helped but it was still a little abstract. When we had our Zoom meetings with the schools we are helping, and we got to ask and answer questions. They were completely changed because they could see the students have dirt floors, one laptop for whole school and outdoor bathrooms, walk an hour or 30 minutes to school. It made a bit impression on them.”
7th grade student Jay Flanagan realizes, “It’s hard for them, they don’t have water, they have to find water”. Fellow student Hayden Lee says it was surprising to learn how much of the world still struggles but is glad they could make a difference.
The book was followed up by the zoom which was then followed up with a Walkathon called Walk for Water. Another opportunity to raise money, but also give these students more of a sense of the distance and effort it takes to get water in Kitale, Kenya, and not clean water, just water, back to their villages.
Hammond says, “We’re just trying to let them see how this feels for just 30 minutes, imagine doing this for eight hours a day and you will not be able to go to school because that’s pretty much the whole day. We’re just carrying a gallon, but the buckets these things people carry are five gallons – but again just to get a little idea of what it might feel like if you had to go through something like that.”
“It just shows we’re wasting so much water on just turning on faucet for a little bit. It puts everything in perspective, and we were able to talk and be friends even though so far away across oceans. It just shows how great people can be” says Ethan Monday.
Changing lives across oceans, in both directions, because while the money might be going to Africa, the lessons here at home are equally valuable.
Organizer Hammond shares ultimately, it’s about building empathy. “In middle school it’s developmentally natural to be a bit ego centric, but I have learned that if you give middle school students an opportunity to see how they can make a difference and you touch their hearts with it, they are the best supporters. They have huge hearts and want to do good in the world and I think they’ll walk away from this seeing that even though they may not be able to do a lot, they can do something, and that’s the life lesson!”
The water filters the middle school students helped buy should each last around 10 years.
Education Equals Hope works in 5 countries, Kenya is just one of them.
Their mission is to provide for the education of those living in desperate and difficult situations – clean water, just one piece of that effort.
Related story: “Lost Boy of Sudan” speaks with FMMS students