The Middle School of Piedmont in Piedmont, Oklahoma, has now taken the Iron Giraffe Challenge four years in a row.
Four years ago, Water for South Sudan (WFSS) launched the Iron Giraffe Challenge (IGC), and since then, students all over the world have taken the challenge to raise money for WFSS to help fund a new drilling rig for the organization. The IGC culminates in a prize drawing in April that will reveal which school has won either a visit with Salva or one of the Skype call prizes. Salva has visited three different schools in the last three years: the American School of Dubai, Daniel Bagley Elementary in Seattle, WA, and Millbrook High School in New York.
We wanted to share this perspective on the IGC from a teacher who has taken the challenge every year since 2014 with her students and community. I interviewed Lindsey Fried of the Middle School of Piedmont in Piedmont, Oklahoma to see why she and her students have returned to the IGC every year, including this year.
WFSS: How did you first hear about the Iron Giraffe Challenge?
Lindsey: This is my 3rd year teaching at Piedmont Middle School. I had never specifically heard about the Iron Giraffe Challenge till I came to Piedmont. I knew water wells were needed in Africa, but I had no idea there was an organization in place to help drill wells and provide access to cleaner water. I have a friend, Lindsey Andrews, that writes children's books about the living conditions and water issues in Ethiopia. Her first book titled, I Walk For Water, is a book with vivid illustrations about what a child goes through to find clean water on a daily basis in Ethiopia. This book opened my eyes with how much water is taken for granted by many people when several places in this world do not even have access to water. When reading through the links on the Water for South Sudan website, I was shocked when I read the price of a new drilling rig, or "iron giraffe," and I realized how necessary it is to participate in the challenge with my students. Seeing the picture of the current iron giraffe helped me put together why the name of the challenge is called the “Iron Giraffe Challenge”.
"When reading through the links on the Water for South Sudan website, I was shocked when I read the price of a new drilling rig, or "Iron Giraffe," and I realized how necessary it is to participate in the challenge with my students."
WFSS: What motivated you to sign up every year after the first year?
Lindsey: I am a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, and part of our curriculum is reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. This book is the main reason Piedmont became motivated to help with the cause. After Piedmont’s first year of signing up and contributing to the Iron Giraffe Challenge, it has been so inspiring and challenging to continue contributing each year thereafter. Our students become passionate when they realize there are places that lack one of the biggest necessities in life, water. In class discussions, students realize how much they take water for granted on a daily basis, and they become empathetic with other children who do not have water as a luxury. The staff, the students, and the community of Piedmont come together to reach our yearly goal to donate to the IGC. Piedmont is a great town where families, churches, businesses, and the schools work together to make something happen.
WFSS: How have students reacted to the Iron Giraffe Challenge?
Lindsey: Students are typically a little shocked when they see the videos on the Water for South Sudan website, because seeing primary examples of the water that the people are forced to drink for lack of options is very eye opening. They find it fascinating to read both Nya’s and Salva’s story, and they love the ending of the book. Students also realize how much they take water and their education for granted when they read the story of Nya having to walk the majority of her day to gather little water or none at all.
"Students also realize how much they take water and their education for granted when they read the story of Nya having to walk the majority of her day to gather little water or none at all."
WFSS: Has there been a student or group of students that really took fundraising into their own hands?
Lindsey: One group of students took a cross-curricular project that was assigned to the next level. One particular student in that group took all of his data and research from each class and put it into a presentation with a voice-over. He walked his audience through his findings of daily water usage for Nya’s people and compared that information with his personal water usage. He calculated the distance Nya walked daily to determine how long it took her to travel that distance. His ten minute presentation was so outstanding, that it was shown to several teachers, the principal, and the superintendent.
WFSS: Can you share some of your fundraising ideas with us? What was your favorite fundraiser?
A favorite fundraiser we have done at Piedmont to reach our goal is having a walk-a-thon at the school. We have a time set where students walk nonstop around the gym. We also purchase gallon jugs of water to provide students with the opportunity to experience what it feels like carrying water on their heads like Nya does in A Long Walk to Water. At last year’s fundraiser, some students chose to take their shoes off while walking to get a feel of what Nya’s feet feel like when going to gather water. Some students would limp on one foot while carrying a jug of water to represent the thorns that would poke into Nya’s heels. Other fundraisers have included selling bottled waters and flavored water packets.
WFSS: What has been the most inspiring part of fundraising with your students?
Lindsey: The most inspiring part of fundraising with the students is seeing their determination to reach our set goal. I will share our donations page link through Google Classroom, and students will tell me that they have shared the link with their church or their parents have shared it with others. Students will encourage other students to take part by creating public service announcements with slogans that say, “Don’t Wait; Just Donate” or “Don’t Delay and Give Today.” Seeing students become leaders is a very inspiring part of the fundraising as well. I can teach, educate, and inform students about ways to help, but it is the student's motivation and determination that pushes their classmates to step up and be leaders, too, in order to contribute in making a difference for the people of South Sudan.
"I can teach, educate, and inform students about ways to help, but it is the student's motivation and determination that pushes their classmates to step up and be leaders, too."
Thank you to the students and community at the Middle School of Piedmont for your hard work and commitment to WFSS!
You can take the Iron Giraffe Challenge today with your school! Entry forms are due by February 15, 2018.
WFSS Remains Committed to Serving the People of South Sudan
Having just marked the USA’s 241st birthday, Water for South Sudan (WFSS) joins the South Sudanese people in celebrating the sixth anniversary of the world’s newest nation’s hard-won independence. Yet, the South Sudanese are still suffering from decades of civil war. There are tremendous challenges in this young country, but also many opportunities.
Founded in 2005, WFSS’ mission is to empower the people of South Sudan to transform their lives through providing access to fresh water and hygiene education. Funded by donors in all 50 states and 33 other countries, WFSS waters the seeds of change in South Sudan by helping remote rural villages grow and develop in a country that lacks necessary infrastructure like roads, plumbing, and electricity.
Reliable access to safe water is usually the first step in development. A constant source of clean, safe water means villagers no longer need to migrate for half of each year in search of water. The stability that comes with access to water allows villages to plan for the future. Markets, schools, and clinics can be established. The lives of all, particularly those of women, girls and infants, are transformed by access to fresh water and hygiene education.
When WFSS drills a new well villagers are involved in every step of the process: from determining the well’s placement to assisting our teams with village labor as needed. WFSS also requires villages receiving a well to create water committees that will help them manage their new resource. Water committees oversee the wells as a shared community resource.
With more than 300 wells drilled to date, and over 1,000 villagers educated on how to train others about safe hygiene, the impact of our work is visible and growing. Access to water means that villagers can stay in one place more permanently, and helps prevent conflict or competition around sources of ground water.
WFSS is not only empowering people but also developing South Sudanese talent and capabilities. Our leadership in South Sudan has expanded, thanks to our founder, former “Lost Boy” Salva Dut. Ater Akol Thiep and Ajang Agok lead the operations teams based at our Operations Center in Wau in South Sudan’s northwest region. We work with our leadership team there to help them build their management and technical skills. Our intern program in South Sudan enables us to identify and develop the skilled people we need to implement our expanding programs.
WFSS is also working to establish examples of positive cross-tribal collaboration with Omaha, Nebraska-based Aqua-Africa (A-A). In partnership, WFSS and A-A began the United Peace and Development Project (UPDP), which has provided 14 water wells to date, along with community-building discussions and training. Equally important, the UPDP showcases cross-tribal leadership and co-operation, demonstrating that collaboration between tribes is possible.
We join all who work for peace and development in South Sudan. We’re grateful to our world-wide supporters who enable WFSS to remain committed to the people of this young country through our locally-led, grassroots development work.
Water for South Sudan is so grateful to our many supporters, across the US, and around the world, who enable our life-saving work in South Sudan. We are especially thankful to those groups who commit to helping us year after year, and find a special connection to us through their work.
Once special group of super supporters is our friends in the Federated Garden Clubs of New York State (FGCNYS).
The Garden Clubs have raised over $144,000 for WFSS since 2010. They have sponsored seven new wells, and this year they also sponsored the rehabilitation of an older well.
Salva and WFSS Executive Director Lynn Malooly were able to meet some of our Garden Club members in New York City in March while Salva was in town for World Water Day events.
Lucille Bauer, State Chair for World Gardening, FGCNYS First Vice President was thrilled to meet Salva, and brought along Lyn Pezold, state recording secretary, District Director Graceann Morawek and fellow Castle Manor member Karen Maskuli.
"We're proud to sponsor Water for South Sudan as our World Gardening Project," said Lucille. "It was a pleasure to to meet Salva in New York. We are thrilled that we collected over $25,000 in 2016 for WFSS."
The Garden Clubs have consistently raised over $15,000 a year since 2010, and have been sponsoring wells since 2011.
"We are so grateful to our gardening club friends for choosing Water for South Sudan for their World Gardening Project," said WFSS Executive Director Lynn Malooly. "Their support, for so many years, has transformed thousands of lives in South Sudan."
FGCNYS's first well sponsorship came in 2011. This past year they had their highest fundraising totals ever, and donated to WFSS. These funds will sponsor another new well next drilling season. In addition, they were able to sponsor the rehabilitation of an older well this season.
This new pilot project, spurred by our 2015 well evaluation study, led to the creation of our well rehab team in 2017. To date this year the new rehab team has repaired the cement platforms of 26 of our oldest wells.
"Thanks to the support of FGCNYS, this repaired well will continue to produce clean water for years to come," said Malooly.
The Federated Garden Clubs of New York is a member of National Garden Clubs, Inc., the largest gardening organization in the world. The Federated Garden Clubs of New York State, Inc., was founded in 1924 and incorporated in 1930 for the purpose of supporting the Garden Clubs of New York State. The FGCNYS presently includes more than 250 garden clubs with 8105 members across the state.
Just Water, Drilling Updates, and Events in NYC & NJ
Water for South Sudan joins the world in recognizing the need for clean water for all people.
March 22 marks the annual celebration of World Water Day. WFSS is celebrating with an initiative called "Just Water" to raise awareness of the many needs that water fills, and how access to clean water is an inalienable human right.
Please consider supporting this initiative by learning more about the impacts of clean water on the people of South Sudan, and by sharing this information with others. Please also consider donating to our campaign for World Water Week.
WFSS fully supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our work in South Sudan underscores the importance of SDG Goal #6, which is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
The UN notes that water and sanitation are at the core of sustainable development, critical to the survival of people and the planet. Goal 6 not only addresses issues relating to drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene, but also the quality and sustainability of water resources.
Salva in D.C., NJ, and NYC
WFSS Founder Salva Dut and Executive Director Lynn Malooly were in D.C. earlier this week for a congressional panel on WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) and Agriculture. The rest of the week they will be in New York City and New Jersey for meetings, interviews, and special events. Please check our upcoming events page for more information on meeting them and hearing more about our work.
Work Continues in South Sudan
The WFSS teams are continuing their work in South Sudan, bringing access to clean water and hygiene education to those in need. Our 2017 season has been ongoing. Unrest in South Sudan, and famine being declared in parts of the country, only underscores the importance of our work, and of our grassroots efforts for development in the world's newest country.
As of March 21, the WFSS Drilling Team has completed 10 new wells. This year the drilling team is focusing on drilling wells in school areas.
The WFSS Rehab Team, a new pilot program this year, has completed the rehabilitation of 14 of our oldest wells. Our 2015 well evaluation project showed us that some of the oldest wells needed to have the cement platforms surrounding the wells repaired. The new rehab team has set out to repair these wells to our updated design specifications. WFSS is now using a stronger cement mixture for all well platforms, and has also lengthened the channel leading from the pumps down to the drinking pools for animals.
This year we have two hygiene education teams in the field, traveling with both drilling and rehab teams, where they work with villagers to identify hygiene practices in need of improvement.
Although the news out of South Sudan continues to show the struggles of the new nation, WFSS has been able to continue our operations. We are in regular contact with our teams who report that they are safe, and able to travel and continue regular operations.
Thank you to all of our supporters around the world who enable our work.
We will continue to update you on the progress of this season. Please check back here for regular updates. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sign up for the WFSS email news here.
While many know of Salva Dut's journey as a former "Lost Boy" of Sudan, and his subsequent founding of Water for South Sudan, not as many know another part of the story-- how Rochester, New York, Salva's adopted US home, played a pivotal role in the founding of this nonprofit.
It was the Rochester, NY community, and friends that Salva made there, that helped establish what was then Water for Sudan as a US 501c3 nonprofit organization.
Read more about how Salva's time in Rochester, (including working at Wegmans!), helped start an effort that has been transforming lives in South Sudan since 2005.
WFSS Founder Salva Dut presented at TEDxBeaconStreet on Saturday, Nov 19, where he shared his journey as one of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan. Salva's inspiring and moving TEDx talk is available here.
Thanks to Boston-area WFSS Board member Anne Turner, he was also able to visit a number of schools, including three middle schools who had sponsored wells (Pentucket, Rupert Nock, and Concord (Peabody and Sanborn), and attend a teen event in Brookline.
In addition, WFSS hosted Celebrate with Salva at the Waterworks Museum on Nov. 17. Supporters came from all over the Boston area; a few "super supporters" traveled much farther, including some teachers from Plattsburgh, NY, but the prize went to Gladys Mouton and her son Stephen who drove 26 hours from Louisiana to meet Salva, their hero!
Watch Salva's moving and inspiring TEDx talk.
School Visits in Boston
Thanks for the warm welcome from Pentucket & Rupert Nock Middle Schools, Mario Umana School, Beacon Academy, and Concord Middle School (Peabody & Sanborn).
Thanks to all who came out to meet Salva and WFSS! Salva lives in Africa now, and only travels to the US about twice a year. Schools around the world do have the opportunity to win a visit with Salva through our Iron Giraffe Challenge. Each school year WFSS challenges schools to raise at least $1,000 for WFSS. Schools who complete the challenge by the deadline are then entered into a drawing to win a visit from Salva. Details available here. 2017 pledge forms due Feb. 15. All funds are due March 31, 2017.
Waterworks Museum Celebration
We had a wonderful time at the lovely Metropolitan Waterworks Museum in Boston. We met many supporters, including a number of teachers and students. Salva shared his story and was able to visit with many attendees, who were also able to visit the impressive displays of early municipal water systems.
TEDxBeaconStreet and Brookline Teen Center
Salva shared his story of hope and perseverance at TEDxBeaconStreet on Nov. 19, 2016. Watch his talk here. Thank you to the Brookline Teen Center for hosting our final event in Boston, where Salva again told of his journey as a "Walking Boy." We enjoyed meeting so many enthusiastic supporters, many of whom had read the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water, by award-winning author Linda Sue Park.
Salva is now back home in Africa, helping the WFSS teams prepare for our upcoming season. Thanks to supporters in Boston, across the US, and around the world, WFSS will continue to transform lives in South Sudan. Stay in touch with WFSS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for our email newsletter here. Please share our story and help us do even more.
WFSS Founder and Senior Advisor Salva Dut traveled to the US for a whirlwind trip in November, visiting our headquarters in Rochester, and helping us celebrate the success of our Watering the Seeds of Change campaign. Boston photos, and a link to Salva's TEDx talk, will be coming soon.
Rochester Celebration Photos
Smiles and hugs with Salva, dancers, awards, auctions and more at our Rochester Celebration.
Thanks to all who attended our "Rooted in Rochester, Blooming in South Sudan" Brunch in Rochester! In addition to a wonderful celebration, including a special water dance entitled "Everyone's Delicious" by Present Tense Dance, and the WFSS Marketplace, we honored the seven original board members of WFSS: Scott Arrington, John Bevier, Jim Blake, Nancy Frank, Robin Hill, Chris Moore and Nancy Reinert. They all received the inaugural Founder's Award.
We also presented our new Long Walk Award to Ben Dobbin, an AP Reporter who wrote the first national news story about Salva, and has traveled to South Sudan with WFSS twice, and his wife, Linda Sue Park, author of the New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water, which has brought Salva's story to readers around the world.
Thanks to all the attendees, sponsors and volunteers who helped make the day so special.
Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
Celebrated annually on October 15 since 2008, Global Handwashing Day was founded by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, and is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times.
Global Handwashing Day is designed to:
- Foster and support a global and local culture of handwashing with soap
- Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing around the world
- Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap
The 2016 Global Handwashing Day theme was “Make Handwashing a Habit!”
In South Sudan, Global Hand-Washing Day was celebrated at Muktah Primary School, near WFSS’s Operations Center in Wau. T-shirts and caps designed by UNICEF in partnership with the government were distributed.
The celebration was opened with words of prayers from the Bible and Quran, presented by Christian and Muslim students.
Many NGOs and government institutions participated, including: WFSS, Red Cross, IOM, UNICEF, WHO, OXFAM GB, Meltaster International. Several government ministers and
other distinguished guesses were also invited.
Other invited guesses included students and teachers from 10 different schools who presented drama and songs related to promotion of hygiene in South Sudan. The main event of the celebration a hand-washing demonstration.
Representatives from NGOs WASH Cluster and Government delivered speeches, and gifts of soap were given to all the participating schools.
WFSS Sanitation Manager David Majok attended the event and reported that “It was fantastic for WFSS to be part of this event!”
Water for South Sudan (WFSS) continues to deliver on its mission to transform lives in South Sudan by bringing access to fresh water and hygiene education.
Our team was able to drill 23 new wells in the 2015-16 season, and is hard at work planning for the upcoming 2016-17 season with goals of drilling up to 40 new wells, rehabilitating 20 older wells, and bringing hygiene education to all villages in which we drill.
WFSS is currently seeking a full time lead mechanic for its Operations Center in Wau. The lead mechanic will be responsible for general mechanical work, repairing and maintaining cars, trucks, and generators.
Applicant must be a South Sudanese citizen with at least two years’ experience as a mechanic with an International or National NGO, and must present a letter of recommendation from a former employer.
Applicant must have a basic understanding of diesel and gasoline engines.
Applicant must be fluent in English and able to communicate with US personnel in English, including technical description of problems, parts, and tools, and without needing the assistance of additional South Sudan management/staff.
For the full job description, all requirements, and application information, please see job description here.
"World Humanitarian Day is an annual reminder of the need to act to alleviate the suffering. It is also an occasion to honour the humanitarian workers and volunteers toiling on the frontlines of crises. I pay tribute to these dedicated women and men who brave danger to help others at far greater risk."
— UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon
WFSS joins the global community in marking World Humanitarian Day. We honor all those who work to aid the suffering in our world. We especially honor our team in South Sudan, who work tirelessly to improve processes and impact as we work to bring access to clean water and hygiene education in the world's newest country.