Today we speak with teachers and students from Marlowe Middle School who were among hundreds of individuals from the school who worked over the past few years to raise funds for a well to provide communities in South Sudan with fresh water.
The project grew out of a passion discovered after students read the novel A Long Walk to Water for a sixth-grade social studies assignment.
The book, which chronicles the dueling stories of Salva Dut, a real-life Sudanese “Lost Boy” who led some 1,500 refugees of the Sudanese Civil War to safety, and Nya, a fictional 11-year-old girl who walks miles every day to retrieve fresh water for her family. After escaping war and migrating to the United States, Dut founded Water for South Sudan, a nonprofit that drills wells to provide clean water for villages in the region.
The cost to complete a well-drilling project is approximately $15,000. Students approached staff members with a desire to raise enough money to build a well in the school’s name. Over the past few years, the school has held Color-a-Thon fundraisers to support the cause.
“It was a pretty lofty goal that we had, and we thought it would take us a lot longer than two years, but within two years of fundraising we hit our goal thanks to the amazing work of these students and a bunch of their friends and family members in the community,” said teacher Jessica Borst.
Teacher Ryan Starnes said the project was a strong example of extending learning beyond the basic curriculum and into the real world. Students read the book, talked with staff from Water for South Sudan via Skype, and received pictures of the completed well earlier this year.
“The whole thing was was truly amazing to me, because you want them to learn the content and the information about things that are going on in the world, and then for them to approach us in saying, like, let’s do something about this problem,” Starnes said. “We talk about empowering students all the time, and it was 100% student-led, like, let’s raise some money and see what we can do!
“And for me, in my 10 years in the District, it was the coolest thing that I’ve been a part of, to help others and just to see that these kids are capable.”
Watch the video below to hear more about what students and staff learned through the project.