H20 for Life

Forestview students raise funds — and jugs of water — for a worthy cause

WRITTEN BY SHEILA HELMBERGER  

WHEN YOU LIVE IN AN AREA KNOWN FOR ITS ABUNDANCE OF WATER, it can be hard to imagine that in other parts of the world it is not so readily available.

Each spring the students at Forestview Middle School in Baxter spend a week learning that others walk for hours every day to get something that we take for granted. They learn about the global water shortage, what it means to our world, and some useful ways to save water in their own homes. And then, the students step up to help.

Forestview Middle School students in Baxter will once again participate in their annual Water Walk, a school fund-raiser, on March 7. Students participate by carrying jugs of water as they walk, raising funds for water projects in impoverished countries around the globe. (Photo by Joey Halvorson)

An annual Water Walk is the culmination of the week. It offers students, staff and others willing to participate a chance to experience just a taste of what residents in places like Nicaragua and other countries go through to get water to their villages.

There is no force more powerful than our youth when they put their minds to doing something for a cause that they believe in. Used as a service learning project, the Water Walk is held each spring. Last year’s three hundred participants raised an impressive $12,000. Besides pledges, money is raised through various other activities, including doughnut sales and by purchasing paper “drops of water.”

H2O For Life is the non-profit behind the mission. Science teacher Sandy Loney heads up the fundraiser and the walk. This year’s walk, the school’s eighth, will take place March 7.  The event also draws support from the community in the way of donations in money and prizes for participants.

Costco donates the money from collecting its aluminum all year. Crow Wing Recycling donates the use of a can bin trailer. Dairy Queen donates dilly bars for the water drop contest and LCL Electronics provides a grand prize for the student who raises the largest amount of donations. Buffalo Wild Wings typically offers ten percent of its customers’ bills on a special fund-raising night to the Water Walk.

Loney says the responsibility of carrying the water in other countries falls primarily to the women and young girls. They will walk an average of three miles, carrying 40–60 pounds of water on the return trip back to their villages. The task can take up to six hours a day. Because of this, and the lack of sanitation in areas without water, many girls will not be able to finish school. Donations from the water walk can help change their lives for some of these girls.

“When they hit puberty,” says Loney, “If there is a bathroom in school it is easier for them to stay in school. When girls get an education, it lifts entire developing communities out of poverty. It really is essential for global poverty to keep these girls in school. The number one way you are going to do that is with bathrooms.”

Photo Courtesy of H20 For Life

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Thirty-seven percent of the population does not have safe drinking water.

“We have funded thirty-three schools and we adopted seven new ones this past year. That’s over forty schools.” Loney explained. “Our money is used to purchase hand-cleaning stations and composting, cement-pitted, vented latrines. It keeps waste out of the groundwater. The Water Walk is a way to show students that you don’t just have to help your neighbors. You can make a difference to people that are across the world.”

With each funded water project, hygiene education is provided to the students, too. This education is then taken home to share with family members. As a result, the entire community benefits from the school project.

Jugs for the walk are donated by students and community members. They are filled with water in the days leading up to the event. Participants will walk around the indoor track at the school twenty-eight times.

When the walk begins, students are talking and walking fast. But as the laps rack up and the jugs get heavier, some participants start to get creative. Jugs from under their arms are lifted to the top of their shoulders. Some hold them on top of their heads. It doesn’t take long for them to realize what a feat this is. And they know that what they are doing for one day is a far cry from the forty to sixty pounds that their counterparts in another country are required to do daily.

H20 for Life Since 2011, Forestview Middle School students have raised $59,103

“It really is a great event and the kids are just excited to help,” says Loney. “When these kids hear what it’s like in other countries they kind of look and go, “Wow. I have a bathroom at my house. I can wash my hands whenever I want. It helps change their outlook. And it feels good knowing they are raising money so others might not have to do this.”

After the walk the water used is not wasted. Any that is spilled or leftover at the end of the event is recycled and used in the school’s floor-cleaning machine.

To learn more about the H2O For Life projects and the schools that the students at Forestview Middle School have been able to help log on to h20forlifeschools.org.