BAY VILLAGE - It’s been a school year full of planning, writing letters and fundraising, but members of the Key Club at Bay High School have achieved a pretty impressive goal: By working with the community and two other Bay Village schools, they have raised $12,000 to build a water well that will provide safe, clean water for a community in the country of eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) in Africa.
The money will be sent during spring break to an international group called the Thirst Project, which works to provide access to clean water in villages and cities in eSwatini, India, Uganda, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Kenya and Colombia.
The day before spring break, three BHS Key Club members met in adviser Anita Bauknecht’s Family and Consumer Sciences classroom to talk about the culmination of the school year-long project and share what they learned from the experience. Juniors Shea Janos, 16, Ben Anderson, 16, and Noah Lowery, 17, were the project chairs and coordinated activities such as selling T-shirts, a Chipotle fundraiser, class challenges, writing solicitation letters to area corporations and coordinating similar events at Bay Middle and Westerly Elementary schools.
The biggest push, including competitions on who could raise the most money, came during “Thirst Project Week” in March, which involved all three schools.
In recognition of their success in raising the entire $12,000 needed, Shea, Ben and Noah have been invited to a Thirst Project conference at Pepperdine University this July.
The ultimate goal of the Thirst Project was not recognition, but to help alleviate diseases that in many cases would be eliminated by access to clean water, the students agreed.
The Key Club members first thought of helping out when they heard through their sponsors, the Kiwanis Club, of the group called the Thirst Project. It was started in 2008 by seven 19-year-old Southern California students and so far has raised more than $8 million to provide some 280,000 people in seven countries with clean water. The projects include building hand-pump wells, constructing home bio-sand water filters and providing spring protection/rainwater catchment systems in countries needing emergency or disaster relief.
The three Bay students, sitting around a small table with multiple sinks, stoves and kitchenware in the background, were serious and proud of their work.
“Incidents of HIV and AIDS are still problems in Africa,” Noah said. “Without clean water, health issues spike. Clean water decreases the risk.”
“eSwatini,” said Shea, “has the single highest incidence of HIV/AIDS based on its population in the world. Knowing that something we did will make a difference is so important. Lives are changed by access to fresh water.”
The fun part? “Working on all the projects and getting to speak to groups about the Thirst Project,” said Noah.
The final tally, when all the fundraising concluded, was: $3,569.55 from Bay high students; $1,551.11 from Bay Middle School donations; $2,354.72 from Westerly Elementary students; $2,500 in corporate donations; $496.11 from a Chipolte fundraiser; and $1,528.51 from the Kiwanis Club, sponsors of Key Clubs nationwide.
Corporate sponsors were: HDS/Howard Hanna Bill Reilly Team; South Shore Marine; Hyland Software; Magna; and O’Neill Healthcare.
Ben noted that he learned so much from the entire process. “Setting a goal in November and seeing it through is awesome.”
“The experience of interacting with the community is invaluable,” said teacher Bauknecht, who has been a Key Club adviser for eight years. “It builds leadership skills and helps the student develop and mature. The difference I see from year to year is significant. (This experience) will help them immeasurably throughout their careers and lifetime.”
It will also help those living in eSwatini who soon will be enjoying fresh, clean well water, thanks to a group of Bay Village students.
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