Local school digs helping role
ASHEBORO — It seems like a world away for Uwharrie Charter Academy seventh graders, but helping people on another continent find fresh water tends to hit home.
For the past five years, students in Suzanne Bryant’s classes have raised money in what’s called the Iron Giraffe Challenge to support water for South Sudan.
“The students were very interested,” Bryant said. “Probably close to 700 students have been involved.”
That’s because members of the first group to take part in the project have just entered their senior year at the school.
Because the school has sent more than $5,000, it’s considered a partial sponsor of a well. This particular site is in the village of Bazia in Western Bahr el Ghazal State in South Sudan.
The project has stemmed from seventh graders reading “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park.
“It touched my heart in a really cool way,” said student Lila Ingold, who’s now a freshman. “All they went through and how they lived. And they couldn’t even get fresh water.”
A nonprofit organization, Water for South Sudan drills wells to bring clean water to villagers.
Bryant, who teaches English language arts, said the story about the well-digging tends to grab students’ attention.
“That’s my goal is making them aware and seeing that they’re making a difference in the world,” Bryant said. “Now they’re seeing the results of all this had on the world.”
The goal each year is to raise $1,000. This is done through various fundraisers, including Pajama Days at school. Students write a speech to present to their parents on the school’s Iron Giraffe Parent Night in a quest to elicit support.
“When I started teaching this novel and having students write the speech for their parents, I wanted them to know that through their words and their voice, they could make a difference in the world,” Bryant said. “I know they believed in the power of their words each year after surpassing the $1,000 goal, but now to have the well dug and to be able to see pictures of the villagers who are benefitting from their efforts, it will make them more certain of their ability to impact the world around them.”
Ingold took it another step by selling painted pumpkins at Halloween and then Christmas ornaments. She said this is a good way to share what was learned by students and the challenging facing groups that need assistance.
“What can I do to help?” Ingold said of her endeavor to extend the fundraising outside of school.
Bryant said that’s the ideal example.
“I hope along the way (other students) are as passionate as she is,” the teacher said.
UCA superintendent Sharon Castelli said the biggest positive for her school is students realizing how they can make an impact in a global way.
“The benefit is more for all students to see what a small thing can do to help others,” Castelli said.
Because the project has involved so many students who’ve passed through middle school, it’s like a school-wide undertaking.
“Each year, a lot of teachers are very involved and asking how much we’ve raised,” Bryant said.
If Uwharrie Charter Academy reaches the $15,000 level of support, the school will be considered a full sponsor of a well. According to information provided to the school, Water for South Sudan has dug more than 450 wells, with each providing clean drinking water to 500 to 1,000 people.