During Catholic Schools Week last January, middle schoolers at St. Cletus got a small taste of how some children in eastern Kenya spend their days.
In an event called “Walk for Water,” the St. Cletus students walked a mile loop around their campus’ grounds, while carrying buckets and cans filled to the brim with water.
“I thought it was going to be kind of easy, but the buckets were pretty heavy,” said Nolan Lambert, noting that girls in eastern Kenya must walk five to eight miles to manually draw water from a polluted river to satisfy their families’ daily drinking, cooking and bathing needs.
“It was really hard (to haul the water), but the kids in Kenya suffer more because they have to walk every day,” said seventh grader Son Nguyen, “and we only had to walk a mile.”
St. Cletus students are hoping to make this water-gathering scenario a thing of the past for at least one Kenyan school. Since their “pretend” walk, they have dedicated their money, time and prayers to raising money to build a freshwater well and modern restroom facilities for Gakeu Primary, a co-ed school of 333 pupils in eastern Kenya. To date, students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade have raised about $3,500 for the effort, just shy of their $4,000 goal. They are alsohoping a local business will step up to match their $4,000 donation, to get to the well’s $8,000 pricetag.
“The girls (who have to walk to get water) can’t go to school, so a well will give them fresh water and a chance to get an education,” Son notes.
Making the well-building project especially important is the famine that is currently impacting Kenya, a crisis middle school religion teacher Rose Spring made her students aware of through various news reports and maps. Nick Albares, parish social ministry coordinator for the archdiocesan Office of Justice and Peace, visited Spring’s religion classes to tell students about his mission trip to Kenya with Catholic Relief Services to help with the famine.
“Ms. Spring showed us the pictures of the people in Kenya and what they were going through,” said Audrey Johnson, who was shocked to learn that some Kenyan children are compelled to work in copper mines to raise income for their families.
Campus fund-raising activities have included a Valentine’s Day candy sale and a schoolwide contest in which students papered their homeroom doors with $1 “water droplets.” An Easter dance fund-raiser also is planned, along with a pen-pal program between St. Cletus and Gakeu Primary after the well’s construction.
“Our mission country this year is Kenya, so this project fits perfectly with that,” Spring said. “I just feel like kids have a deep sense of empathy, and when they find out that people are suffering, they really want to do something.”
To make a donation, call the school office at 366-3538. To learn more about the well-building organization – H2O For Life – visit www.h2oforlifeschools.org.