We continue to read A Long Walk to Water with our students, a novel by Salva Dut that shares his childhood experience in Southern Sudan in 1998 and parallels the life of Nya, a young girl in Northern Sudan in 2008. For Nya, there is no school. Her day starts and ends with four hour trips to get water for the family twice a day, seven days a week. Not long after she returns to her home from the first trip, she must return for another refill.
To build empathy, we have kept track of our families’ water usage, comparing an average of over 700 gallons per week per family with the 70 gallons per week used by Nya’s family. We have carried jerry cans containing approximately three gallons of water in a jug that holds five. Each student carrying the jerry can for three days at school. They live and breathe these cans, never letting them out of their sight.
And now we are getting ready to start collecting donations from our families towards our annual CPU build (chlorination processing unit). The CPUs will be built by our sixth grade students with materials purchased using the monies donated. Each unit costs $50.00 to build and is used to chlorinate water and make it safe for drinking. The day of the build, students move with the CPU, in its stages of development. From station to station they add wiring, solder, glue, test for leaks. When the CPU is finished. it is wrapped and readied for shipment to a village halfway around the world.
Although they will never meet the people they are helping, they will experience the satisfaction of knowing there are real people in real places using the CPUs the students built with their own hands.
It is an exciting prospect, knowing that a village in Nepal or Sudan or Ethiopia will eventually receive this life altering device. For water borne diseases are one of the biggest threats to life in the developing world.
And this experience has made me think about how I use water everyday.
I feel blessed to live in the Great Lakes region and have unlimited access to fresh drinking water whenever I feel the need. But as lucky as we are to have these beautiful resources in our midst, we must also realize that our lakes are threatened everyday by the things we do as a society. On the heels of a contaminated water crisis just miles up the road, caused by the dumping of toxins decades ago, the cleanliness of our groundwater has now come into question.
We must all be stewards of our freshwater sources and make sure that our young people are aware of what they can do to be stewards as well, so that when they become adults, they too will still be able to experience the bounty of our beautiful lakes.