In the weeks leading up to Walk4Water9, parents, staff, and students at Bridgeport Elementary School in Tualatin engaged in a variety of activities focused on water, sanitation and hygiene. Every Wednesday in April the school announcements included Water Words – a short focus on concepts of clean water and the reality of living without. The school library supported class and independent learning with resources on water conservation, the water cycle, and the importance of clean, safe water. The K-2 classes read Just Add Water while the 3-5th graders studied Linda Sue Park’s book A Long Walk to Water. Bridgeport Elementary 4th grade teacher Lisa Helm has a family connection to Salva Dut, whose story is told in A Long Walk to Water and this personal connection helped to bring the story to life.

In early April, WaterAfrica Co-Founder Diane Savage and Bridgeport parent Sarah Mattecheck led 500+ students in small group interactive presentations using WaterAfrica’s WASH stations to learn about the sanitation elements World Vision implements in rural Zambian villages before bringing clean water. Students learned that hand washing stations, bathing shelters, dish drying racks, garbage pits, and toilets help keep Clean Water Clean. After these presentations some students wrote response papers and several classes wrote letters to students attending Bimbe Primary School and Makonkoto Primary School in Zambia.

WaterAfrica's Diane Savage at Bridgeport Elementary School

Diane Savage & Sarah Mattecheck WaterAfrica presentations at Bridgeport Elementary

One Bridgeport kindergarten class got a memorable illustration of the challenges and hazards in maintaining a safe water supply when their teacher set up a simulation exercise. She placed buckets of water across the school field, at a significant distance from the classroom, and when the students needed water for projects throughout the day they had to cross the field to collect it. At one point the entire class headed out together to collect water they needed for their next project when they spotted a dog across the field, walking off-leash near their buckets of water. Almost as if on cue, the dog lifted his leg and peed in their water. The students had learned from Diane’s presentations about pigs, goats, and cows drinking from the same water holes as villagers in rural Zambia and they had heard about the animals going to the bathroom in the same water. This unexpected illustration drove the point home.

In response to their month-long water focus, the school gardening club planted seeds and sold the starts to raise money for Salva Dut’s organization, Water For South Sudan. Additionally, each classroom had a bucket labeled “A Drop In The Bucket” to collect change for WaterAfrica.

On the Friday morning before Walk4Water9, Chikondi Phiri visited Bridgeport Elementary for a school wide assembly. Students sat with full attention as Chikondi told them about kids in Zambia whose lives have been changed by access to clean water, good sanitation, and hygiene. Bridgeport students asked thoughtful questions after Chikondi’s presentation, and at the end of the assembly the students presented Chikondi with their buckets of change and letters for him to deliver to the Zambian schools. 

Gary Mittelstaedt and Chikondi Phiri Bridgeport Elementary School

WaterAfrica President Gary Mittelstaedt and World Vision Zambia’s Deputy National Director Chikondi Phiri fielding questions at Bridgeport Elementary School

Bridgeport Elementary Students at WaterAfrica assembly

IMG_2167 (1)After the assembly, all the kids had returned to their classes and the room was quiet. WaterAfrica visitors were preparing to leave when a young girl came back into the gym and walked straight toward Chikondi. When she reached him she looked up and  spoke a few quiet words as he leaned close to hear. When she was finished speaking she opened her hand and gave him her donation which had not made it into her class bucket, and then she quickly wrapped him in a hug. It was an exchange he will not soon forget, nor will any of us who were privileged to be present in that momentIndeed, WaterAfrica: Raising Awareness, Raising Funds, Transforming Lives. 

Thank you, Bridgeport Elementary School Students, Staff, and Parents for joining us in this important work. 

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