Abe Lincoln students raise money to help get clean water for poor families

News-DemocratMay 8, 2014 

Students at Abraham Lincoln Elementary in Belleville imagined how their lives would be without ready access to water. What would be pushed out of their lives if they and their mothers spent five hours walking to a water source? They decided to do something about that for their peers in Africa.

MARY COOLEY/BND

— They vacuumed, babysat and hid Easter eggs. They picked up trash and did "all the chores for the whole family." But instead of lining their own pockets with any resulting cash, fifth-graders at Abe Lincoln in Belleville are using it to turn dollars into clean water.

The two classes have raised more than $660 so far for Charity: Water, almost halfway through their 90-day campaign. Their new goal by the end of the school year is $1,100, enough to provide clean water to 55 people -- one person for each fifth-grader at Abe Lincoln.

Along the way, it's also sparked a deeper interest in science for at least one student.

Math was Andre White's favorite subject because it comes easily to him, but "then we studied water in science, and I got really interested in science when we started Charity: Water."

Eladge Diouf, 11, also perked up in science class after starting the water project. "We learned in the science books why the water is dirty and who got the most and least water."

Teacher Janet Henry took that interest and ran with it. She didn't have much of a choice.

"I was not planning this. We were talking from our textbook ... and I mentioned that not everyone has a faucet they can just turn on," she said. The fifth-graders kept wanting more information, and Henry kept finding it. They have watched a video on Charity: Water's website "about 20 times," and asked a mobile unit of the American Water Co. to give a filtration demonstration.

"They could not just sit in class and not do something. ... They couldn't believe people were dying because they didn't have clean water," Henry said.

"We should do something about this," Xander Van Horn, in Rachel Wunderlich's class, said students agreed after first watching a video on Charity: Water website.

Henry gave the students a week to come up with a plan, to partner with someone at home to tie the student's service into donations. Instead of a stack of plans, many students acted on those plans. They had met the $200 goal, in honor of Belleville's 200th anniversary, within a week.

"All the money you earn doesn't need to go to you," Andre said. He said helping get water to those without it "feels awesome."

Faith Levery, 10, and Haley Wangelin, 11, were quite animated when telling about the water crises. They've learned that without water, children may not go to school.

"I feel sorry for them because they don't have water (and ultimately) can't go to school," Haley said.

"Women and children have to walk for ... hours to get to water to carry on their backs," Faith said. It's not safe, she and Haley said, and the water isn't clean. The time spent prevents children from going to school.

Faith is donating her babysitting money to Charity: Water.

"We hope the fifth-grade next year will do the same thing, and then even more kids will have fresh water," Haley said.

Contact reporter Mary Cooley at mcooley@bnd.com.

FOR MORE INFO

Go to http://my.charitywater.org/abraham-lincoln-schools-5th-graders to learn more about the project.

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