In Her Words: Ellery's Reflection

We were thrilled to have former CIH participants attend and speak at our Faces of Hope event.  Ellery shared the story about how she and three of her friends were inspired to raise money to build a well in Africa.  Her reflection, included below, speaks to the impact of our programming to bring about action and to ignite, within children, a real and lasting desire to connect with and help others.We dig

Three years ago, Children Inspiring Hope came to my junior high class at Paideia. We exchanged pictures, letters, and stories with children in Ghana while studying the economic and social ramifications the global water crisis. The statistics were mind-boggling: one out of every six people on this planet live without access to clean, potable water; 3.7 million deaths occur annually due to waterborne illnesses, and almost half are children under the age of five.

The year before working with Amy and Children Inspiring Hope, my family traveled to Kenya and Tanzania on vacation, where I witnessed, first hand, babies bathing in mud, women walking for miles with heavy containers on their heads, and villages without running water or toilets. I knew I wanted to help -- it was too unfair that I routinely enjoy hot showers, ice-cold glasses of water, and a sprinkler-assisted green lawn -- but I didn’t know how I could help. Working with Children Inspiring Hope encouraged me to take an active role in making a difference.

When instructed to carry out a service project as a part of our studies of race, class, and gender in our homebase classroom, I knew I wanted to make a lasting and tangible impact. Without hesitation, my friends Leah, Daniel, Ben, and I decided to fund a well in Africa. We called ourselves “We Dig Water,” and created a blog to share our progress. After researching countless organizations, we chose to work with The Water Project, a non-profit organization committed to providing safe water to communities in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda.

We decided on Sierra Leone, where $4,500 would build and maintain a well for a village of as many as five hundred. $4,500 seems a relatively low price for such a huge effect, but that’s a lot of allowance and Bar Mitzvah money for four junior high students. Thankfully, I hadn’t hit up my family for Girl Scouts cookies, coupon books, or Sally Foster in years.

We wrote letters to our friends, family, neighbors, and teachers discussing the global water crisis and our effort to help. Donations flooded in, ranging from $500 to $10.23. At Paideia’s Earth Day, elementary school kids lined up to peg Daniel with water balloons for fifty cents a pop. I realize wasting water in the form of water balloons to raise money for a water project is a bit hypocritical, but it raised $80 nonetheless. We were so grateful to have such enthusiastic participation from so many different sources; in just 6 short weeks, we surpassed our goal by $200.

We were thrilled because construction could begin sooner than anticipated. Ready to submit the money we’d raised, we were informed by The Water Project that contractors were backed up in Sierra Leone. They gave us the option to change our donation to fund a well in Rwanda, where demand was greater and where construction of the well could begin in only a couple months -- and its impact could be felt that much sooner. It was an easy decision. We wanted to provide clean water to those in need of it as quickly as possible.

In about six months, the money we raised built a well in Rurama, Rwanda. Seeing the pictures of the men, women, and children fascinated at using the new well brought an uncontrollable smile to my face. I was so happy to see that what we had done was actually affecting the lives of real people. I felt connected to the people in the pictures in the same way I felt connected to the students in Ghana when my class did the exchange through Children Inspiring Hope.

The entire process of building the well -- from my trip to Africa, to working with an organization as uplifting as Children Inspiring Hope, to throwing water balloons at Daniel -- gave me a greater appreciation for the easy access I have to water in my life and shrank the ocean that separates me from the people in Rurama. I can honestly say it had as great of an impact on my life as I hope it has had on the people who use the well every day.

Ellery, thank you for sharing your story. It is beautifully written and we remain inspired that you and your friends - Leah, Daniel, and Ben - were able to make this kind of offering at such a young age.