By Devlin Smith
On March 23, African Well Fund Board Member Elizabeth Beech attended the track and field day at Phoenix Country Day School. There she received a donation to AWF collected by fifth graders in Jane Creamer's history class totaling more than $11,000.
The students began the fundraiser in connection with two of their study units—Africa and water conservation. They held "Walk for a Well" and collected pledges and donations. The walk-a-thon lasted one hour and participants strove to walk 14 laps or approximately 3.5 miles, the average distance many must walk to get clean water.
In addition to the walk, Keith Johnson, a performer specializing in West African drumming, performed. The day ended with a pizza party.
Parents and students from all grades attended the donation presentation. "The kids were super-enthusiastic," Beech said. "They were so full of energy and questions. I think this experience will affect many of them for the rest of their lives. You could just see it in their eyes, something clicked."
It wasn't just the students who were impacted by this fundraiser, a lasting impression was made on Beech as well. "I was inspired," she said. "The simplest way I can put it is that it was a physical expression of the phrase, 'Oh, can't you see what love has done?'"
Jane Creamer answered a few questions about "Walk for a Well," sharing how a handful of 10 year olds could accomplish something so impressive.
How did you learn about the African Well Fund?
Honestly, just from search engines on the Internet. I wanted to learn more about the water crisis in Africa so I Googled ferociously. The more I learned about the lack of clean water, the more I felt compelled to get the students involved. When I presented the lesson to them, before I even told of the idea to raise money for a well, a number of them said, "We should so something."
How did you get the idea to tie your study of Africa and water conservation in with raising money to build wells?
It seemed like a natural progression. I want the students to be global citizens and to think of the world as small. I wanted to promote citizenship and connect them to their learning. I think a project like this is something that you don't easily forget.
Why did you decide to do a walk to raise the money?
For many people, mostly women, getting water is a physical task. I felt we should get physical, too. When students are directly responsible for the fundraising, they learn a lot more. I wanted them involved. A bake sale felt too distant, too removed.
What kind of reaction did you get from students, parents and the community to the fundraiser?
It has been amazing. The students did an unbelievable job raising money. The parents were a huge support. Lisa Ghelfi, a parent, was instrumental in the success. She organized an African drummer and stilt walker to be present for the event and helped with a lot of administrative tasks. Many other parents volunteered to work the event—to count laps, to provide water or fruit, and to help set up and clean up.
But what's more the kids really learned something. I have gotten many e-mails complimenting the project, saying what a difference it has made to the kids. Water has become a constant topic at the dinner table for many of the families now. I can tell that for some of these kids this project has changed the way they think of things.
How did the result of the fundraiser compare to your expectations?
Our goal was to raise $1,200. We raised over $10,000. I'm speechless.
Does your school have future plans relating to Africa and the African Well Fund?
I would love to continue to raise money for the African Well Fund or other Africare projects. At Phoenix Country Day School we like to say we are "a private school with a public purpose." I think these students extended "public" to the greater global community. I can't think of a greater "public purpose."
What other types of similar fundraising and study units have your school done in the past?
Our school is really involved with community service and fundraising. In the past they have raised money for people affected by the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, and our eighth graders volunteer regularly at a shelter in downtown Phoenix.
Anything else you'd like to share about the fundraiser and your class's study of Africa and water conservation?
I'm really impressed with the work the African Well Fund does to provide clean water to African communities. The more aware people are about the lack of clean water, the more moved they are to do something, no matter how old they are.
It is amazing what empowering young people can do. Fifty-eight 10 year olds walked over 3.5 miles to raise money and awareness. Their passion and determination generated over $10,000. Many of these donations were $20 here and there. You don't need a lot of money to make a difference, every little bit helps. I hope readers will be inspired by the achievements of our fifth graders.