According to the www.thewaterproject.com website, one billion people worldwide suffer needlessly without access to safe drinking water. The Water Project is trying to change that by building wells in remote villages and this week, Canfield High School students are doing their share.
CHS guidance counselor Dr. Rebecca Heikkenin is helping the water project along with members of the Canfield Education Association, which is the union representing the teaching staff in the district. The CEA members are working along with students in hopes of raising the $4,000 needed to build one well and change one village forever.
"If we can bring a well to an impoverished community in Africa or India, we'll change it," Heikkenin said. "It will free up time needed to walk four miles for a daily ration of water. That is time that can be better spent growing crops and getting an education."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Freshman Maleck Saleh gets a wristband from freshmen Natalie Schoenfeld and Taylor Catri-Eakes during lunch at Canfield High School on Friday. The wristband was given after students pledged to cut out bottled beverages, drink more water and donate the cost of the beverages to people around the world who don't have close access to clean drinking water.
She said the idea falls under an ongoing CHS program called "Bare Necessities." The program engages the students to help provide the basics in life such as food, clothing and shelter. CHS students collect prom dresses as the clothing part and in August they will hold a fundraiser to help cover utility bills for the poor, which falls under shelter. The students have also helped raise food for Operation Blessing, but the new water endeavor will reach out even further.
The two-week water well program actually began on Monday, April 16. CHS students and staff were asked to sign a pledge and wear a bracelet, promising to forgo any bottled beverage they would normally purchase, bring water from home and donate the money saved to the project. Throughout the school, teachers and students were filling up water bottles at lunch and bringing in their donations to the cause.
Even the main entrance water fountain was dressed for the occasion as junior art student Jennifer Morris painted a backdrop that resembled a remote well.
The water pledge continues this week and the climax to the program will take place this Saturday, April 28 with the "Water Walk" at Cardinal Stadium.
"A person in a third-world country has to walk an average of four miles a day to obtain water for their family," Heikkenin said. "The task falls mostly on young girls who have to skip school so their family will have water to drink and cook with. And in many cases, that water is not suitable to drink and many get sick and die from it."
She said the walk on Saturday represents that sad fact. Adults and teens participating will carry a gallon of water the full distance of four miles. Middle school students who want to participate can go half that distance and elementary school students can go a lap or two.
"Participants will be asked to get sponsors to support them in their efforts and the funds raised will go towards building a local well to supply clean water for a community in Africa or India," Heikkenin said.
She said this is a first for the CEA to join with students and the community in helping with a good cause. Some of the CEA members are even challenging their own students and classes. CHS physical education teacher Mike Strohecker said he plans to make it a challenge with rewards.
"The student who brings in the most donations will get a $25 gift certificate," he said. "The class, of my five classes, that bring in the most will get a pizza party.
CEA event co-chair Paula Roberts said the program doesn't stop outside the classroom. She said a lot of the teachers have incorporated the water issue into their classroom studies during the two weeks.
Once Saturday's event (which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is over, the staff and students will know if they have met the $4,000 needed to build a well. The funds will be forwarded to The Water Project, and the well will be built somewhere in Africa or in India, and a community will improve its residents' lives.
Heikkenin said it is all about focusing on a resource that is taken for granted in America.
"While we cannot share our source of water directly, we can help build a well and make water accessible for those in need," she said.