While local school children are at home because classes have been canceled due to the coronavirus, many school girls halfway across the world aren’t lucky enough to go to school because they’re too busy fetching clean water for their family.
Two Culpeper County High School seniors are hoping to help with that situation through a Walk4Water event next month at the CCHS track.
And although it’s looking more and more likely that the event won’t be able to take place, Kasey Mize and Amy Thelin are already close to their goal of raising $10,500 to help drill as fresh water drill in the village of Pajangango, Uganda, to give 10,000 people access to a safe water source — and help girls there attend school.
“About three years ago I met with my with aunt … and she has been traveling to Uganda for 10 years now, mostly on medical outreaches through this organization, it’s a nonprofit, called Hope4Kids International,” Mize said. Mize was there as part of the Dress a Girl project to sew dresses and dolls for young girls in Uganda. “This is really important, because culturally if they don’t have a dress that covers their dress code, which is below the knees, young girls aren’t allowed to go to school or church. … That was really inspirational for me,” she said.
“Last summer I had the opportunity to travel with my aunt to Uganda and take the dresses myself and deliver them,” Mize said. “It was really an amazing experience. I got to do a lot of things while I was there. … I also witnessed a well dedication. And that was mind-blowing. I had no idea the need there.”
“The girl’s job in the family is to travel up to 3.7 kilometers to fetch water,” said Thelin. “And the water sources they have are full of disease. They’re just basically small mud puddles and they’re just full of feces. These girls, when they travel there, they’re subject to predators — animal and human predators. A well in this kind of community makes a huge difference because not only does it allow them to go to school and get an education, it helps them to break out of the cycle of poverty.”
Most people in Uganda live off less than $50 a year, noted Kasey’s Mom, Karri. “Sometimes based on the size of the family, they have to do that several times a day,” Kerri Mize said. “It just consumes their entire existence. The well, in addition to the public health and safety aspects, just frees up their time so that the women can be more productive, maybe even work.
“The main goal these girls were focusing on were the younger, school-age girls who would then have the ability to get an education, which is really the only way they will ever break out of that,” she said. “That’s the key.”
Kasey Mize said she was trying to think of a way to bring it back to Culpeper and raise money for a well.
“Amy, who is the NHS president this year, actually approached me after reading the blogs I was keeping while I was on the trip, and said, ‘Kasey, I think this something we can do through our school,’ which is an avenue I hadn’t even considered.
“Walk4Water is kind of a Relay for Life-style event,” Kasey Mize said. “It was … well, it is … going to be held at our CCHS track and it includes a symbolic walk that we’re trying to get people to walk around, the average the girls walk a day to get water, so around 3.7 miles.”
If it’s able to be held, there will be informational stations to learn about the group’s mission, games in the infield, live music and concessions. The goal is finish raising the $10,500 needed for a well.
“That seemed pretty overwhelming to Kasey and I, just two 18-year-olds trying to figure out how to raise that much money through the community. But through a lot of generous corporate sponsors and we’ve doing fundraisers at school … we are very close to our goal,” she said.
The girls also had a fundraiser, a change-for-change drive that had two popular athletes from each grade put their mugshots on a can and whomever got the most change in the can got “pied” in the face.
“We needed up raising over $140 through our particular school,” Kasey Mize said.
The April 25 Walk4Water would be $20 for adults, $15 for students and $5 for children 5 and under. Adults and students get a T-shirt with all the corporate sponsors.
“We tried to make it affordable for families, so they can all afford to register, come out and walk together,” Karri Mize said. “But by making it affordable then, if you do the math, it’s really had to get that many people.
It became clear that getting community partnerships would be necessary. “The girls were really diligent about knocking on doors and eventually we got it all worked out,” Karri Mize said. “It’s looking at this point that the event itself is unlikely to go forward … [but] through corporate sponsorship the well is going to happen. The upside is the community effort is successful; we just may not get the chance to celebrate together as a community at the event.”
Kasey Mize said one of her favorite things about Thelin’s idea to bring the project to the school is the way it has more of an impact on just the Ugandans.
“It’s a way to involve our student body and help them to see how they make a global impact,” Kasey said. “I feel like as high schoolers sometimes we think, ‘can I really make a difference to somebody else?’ But this is a way for them to affect somebody who is the exact same age as them a half a world away in a completely different circumstance.”
For more information on the local Walk4Water effort, visit www.w4ki.org/w4w/culpeper.