Why We IGC: A conversation with stellar supporters at Ridgway Middle School

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Committed students at Ridgway Middle School lead all of their school’s fundraising efforts, learning simultaneously about helping others and leadership!

Our passionate supporters at Ridgway Middle School in New Jersey have an innovative student-led model to support Water for South Sudan which has helped them reach fundraising goals and has placed young students in key leadership roles. We recently asked Candi Schwartz, a 5th grade math teacher at the school, about their efforts and experiences. Continue reading the interview below to learn about their Iron Giraffe Committee, special dedication month, and overall enthusiasm (you can see some awesome t-shirts, too)!


WFSS: Why did you first decide to participate in the Iron Giraffe Challenge? How did you learn of it?

Candi: Here at Ridgway Middle School, we had guest readers come into our fifth grade classrooms and read the book A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. On the last day of the reading, the fifth grade students discussed the book collaboratively and decided they wanted to help the people of South Sudan. The fifth grade teachers researched ALL possible ways to help and presented them to the fifth grade class. Every fifth grader voted and they voted to raise money for the IGC. Having a well drilled was only one vote less. The executive decision was then made to do both!

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WFSS: You participated in the IGC for three years in a row and completed the pledge each year. What was your motivation and your students’ motivation for doing so?

Candi: Honestly, the students’ biggest motivation is the chance of winning a visit with Salva himself. He is like a rock star here at Ridgway Middle School Don’t get me wrong, the (now seventh graders) want nothing more than to help the people of South Sudan, but the chance of having their “hero” here at their school is great motivation!

WFSS: Your school fundraises primarily during the month of March for Water for South Sudan. Can you explain your thoughts behind having a special month to focus on WFSS and what activities you do?

Candi: The Iron Giraffe Committee meets all school year. Having one focus month of fundraising is for the sole purpose of time and energy. Everyone is seriously busy (kids included) with many clubs and after school activities. The decision was made to dedicate one month and work 100% (or more) on South Sudan only. The kids and staff involved go 500 mph for the entire month. We love everything about it and there are really no words to express the gratitude we feel behind every single donation!

The students and staff members collect money every day at lunch for different weekly incentives. Weekly incentives include: Tape a teacher to the wall, bracelet sales, t-shirt sales, turn the cafeteria wall blue, pay to get out of class for 1 ½ board game time, etc… All ideas come from our students involved in the Iron Giraffe Committee. We also have a WFSS dance!

“We love everything about it and there are really no words to express the gratitude we feel behind every single donation!”

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WFSS: What has been the most inspiring part of fundraising with your students?

Candi: For me, the most inspiring part is watching the children work hard for others. The students have a deep passion for Salva and helping the people in South Sudan. They feel like they are making a difference by using their time, energy, and talents!

“The students have a deep passion for Salva and helping the people in South Sudan. They feel like they are making a difference by using their time, energy, and talents!”

WFSS: What would you say to a teacher considering participating in the Iron Giraffe Challenge? Do you have any advice for them?

Candi: I would definitely encourage any teacher to participate in the IGC. My advice would be to start by reading the book and then go from there. You don’t need all the answers. I had no clue what I was doing and if I’m being honest, I still don’t have a clue. The kids are the ones with the amazing ideas, I just help facilitate. At the end of the day, everything is for good, everything is helping the people of South Sudan. There really isn’t a way to mess up. Just jump in and wing it! This is what I did and my co-workers jumped in right along with me and it’s the best decision we ever made.


Thank you to Candi for taking the time to speak with us and to everyone at Ridgway Middle School for their continued support! If you would like to join the IGC alongside passionate like-minded educators and students, visit this page to register and learn more!

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Why We IGC: An interview with the 2017-18 Winner, Pine Lake Prep Charter School

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As summer comes to a close, the fifth Iron Giraffe Challenge is ramping up with the new school year!

Each school taking on this challenge works to raise $1,000 for a chance to win a visit from Salva Dut! Since its beginning in 2014, over 500 schools have participated in the IGC. Here at WFSS we love to witness students so committed to helping others and to see the creative ways they fundraise.

With the IGC being one of our most-supported events and entries for this year’s challenge rolling in, we wanted to share the thoughts of a three-time IGC participant and our most recent IGC winner! I interviewed Natalie Goodwin of Pine Lake Prep Charter to see what has motivated her to fundraise with her seventh grade students for the past few years and to hear about their winning visit from Salva.

WFSS: Why did you first decide to participate in the Iron Giraffe Challenge? How did you learn of it?  

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Natalie: After reading the novel A Long Walk to Water for the first time several years ago, students voted unanimously to raise some funds to send to WFSS. The novel just lends itself to reaching out and giving back. Not knowing yet about the IGC, we did something on a very small scale and sent in a donation. So when the IGC was announced, or when we discovered it on the WFSS web page the next year, we were so excited! The IGC is tailored to schools; it gave us a structure to follow for giving back to WFSS and a goal to shoot for while competing against other schools! Students love a good competition!

WFSS: You participated in the Iron Giraffe Challenge for 3 years in a row and completed the IGC each year. What was your motivation and your students’ motivation for doing so?

Natalie: Each year, my students love the novel LWTW, and they love watching the videos and the TED talks of Salva. I always have a large bulletin board in my room with photos of South Sudan and Salva. It is very natural that they are motivated to want to help after reading and exploring this compelling story. I try to ensure that they feel like they are making the decision to take the IGC, and they are involved in the plans for our fundraisers. I don’t want them to feel like it is my vision or plan only. I want them to feel empowered!

WFSS: How did students react to meeting Salva after winning the 2017-18 IGC?

Natalie: Our students were immensely excited- more than I could have ever imagined. For many, I can truly say it was an experience they will never forget. They were inspired by his talk and by what he has overcome and done with his life. Students wanted to take photos with him and to hug him. After one of his talks in our auditorium, a student who has had some struggles at our school and who felt a connection with Salva came forward to the stage and asked to speak privately with him which he did.  It was very touching.

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WFSS: What has been the most inspiring part of fundraising with your students? 

Natalie: The most inspiring part has been watching my students each year come to understand life exists outside of their “bubble” and that humans are human no matter where they live or how much they have. Yet, everyone should have the right for fresh water and the benefits it brings. I teach seventh-graders, most of whom have not yet had that many experiences with putting the interests of others before themselves. So, it is inspiring to watch them do that, grow from the experience and want to help people on another continent. My hope is that participating in the IGC will influence them and lead them to becoming life-long global citizens who have an awareness and a genuine interest in helping others in need around the world.


"My hope is that participating in the IGC will influence them and lead them to becoming life-long global citizens who have an awareness and a genuine interest in helping others in need around the world."


WFSS: What would you say to a teacher considering participating in the Iron Giraffe Challenge? Do you have any advice for them?

Natalie: I would say “go for it” of course!

WFSS, the novel LWTW, and the IGC all make it easy for teachers to participate with their classes or their schools. I would say it’s okay to start small- but just start. I have told my students in the past that even if we don’t raise the set amount or we don’t win the contest, we have still done a great thing-no matter how small- to change the world!

For the past three years, only classes of seventh graders have entered the IGC, so again we started small, but now we have a history with WFSS and the IGC and I am appealing to our entire K-12 school to get on board this year with the fundraising. Now, we are moving ahead to the next step and our goal is to raise money for an entire well through WFSS. So it can be hard in the beginning to get others on board who don’t yet know the story and about WFSS. Winning the challenge helped us to educate others at our school about this amazing non-profit WFSS.


Thank you to Natalie for taking the time to speak with us and thank you to everyone at Pine Lake Prep Charter School for their support! We can’t wait to see who our next winner of the IGC is in April 2019!

Iron Giraffe Challenge Update

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The Iron Giraffe Challenge (IGC) is well on its way to meeting the 2018 goal of $150,000 with $90,225 donated. Pledge forms have been received from over 100 schools, and 35 of those schools have already completed the challenge to raise $1,000. Each school completing the challenge will be entered into a drawing to win a visit with Salva at their school, or one of several other great Skype call prizes.

Key dates for IGC 2018 are:

February 15th: Deadline for submitting pledge forms

April 6th: Funds must be received by WFSS (via mail or online)

April 9th: Live drawing of IGC prizes

 Chardon Middle School, in Ohio, has completed their pledge for the Iron Giraffe Challenge.

Chardon Middle School, in Ohio, has completed their pledge for the Iron Giraffe Challenge.

Salva and the entire WFSS team are so grateful to all of the schools and students who raise money for WFSS. We are inspired by the compassion of these children to help children in South Sudan. It’s not too late for your school to join the IGC and help Salva drill more wells. 

For questions about the IGC contact Lucie Parfitt at lucie.parfitt@waterforsouthsudan.org or 585-383-0410.

Why We IGC: South Cumberland Elementary School

Eighth graders at South Cumberland Elementary in Crossville, Tennessee kicked off the 2017 school year reading A Long Walk to Water.

While many of the students had never heard of the country of South Sudan, each one quickly was drawn into the doubling narratives of Nya and Salva. The book’s ending made them hungry for more, which led to the school joining hands with WFSS and participating in the Iron Giraffe challenge.

Over the last three months, South Cumberland has had an ongoing race between seven teachers in our school to see which one could earn the most money and, in result, get duct-taped to the wall.

The students enjoyed dumping their money into their favorite teacher’s jar and hearing weekly updates as the competition has been sometimes tight between a few of them.

However, the Vice Principal of South Cumberland, Mrs. Mackzum, raised over $400 alone, making her the lucky winner.

 Mrs. Mackzum was duct-taped to the wall as the result of a fundraising incentive for students.

Mrs. Mackzum was duct-taped to the wall as the result of a fundraising incentive for students.

On the last day of school before Winter Break, the students gathered to watch the celebration of duct-taping and remembering the greater purpose of the fundraiser: to bring fresh, clean water to those in great need.

South Cumberland has raised $1,280 to be used by the Water for South Sudan organization during the 2018 drilling season. Thank you to all the students and staff for your creative and excellent fundraising efforts!

Students Raise $35,000 to Benefit WFSS

 port chester  middle school students present a check for $25,000 to wfss board member jack mckelvey (far right) as part of their lead2feed award.

port chester  middle school students present a check for $25,000 to wfss board member jack mckelvey (far right) as part of their lead2feed award.

Our student supporters across the US and around the world continue to amaze us with their passion, enthusiasm and results in raising funds for Water for South Sudan (WFSS).

One of the most recent outstanding efforts comes to us from Port Chester, NY where students at Port Chester Middle School helped raise $35,000 for WFSS.

Inspired by A Long Walk to Water, the New York Times bestseller by Linda Sue Park, the students raised $10,000 in 10 weeks and also won a grand prize in the national Lead2Feed Challenge, an annual contest sponsored by Lead2Feed. The award brought another $25,000 to donate to WFSS, for a total of $35,000 which will fund two full water wells to be named for Port Chester Middle School. Lead2Feed is a leadership program that nurtures a new generation of leaders while working to end hunger or meet another need in their communities.

Students in Allison Silverman’s eight grade leadership classes came up with the project, as part of the annual Lead2Feed Challenge, after reading A Long Walk to Water, which is required for all seventh graders in New York State. They decided to develop a project to help fight the global water crisis. Naming their project PC Hydration Nation they set out to encourage every student in the school to donate $10 over a span of two and a half months.

About 2,400 schools submitted projects to the challenge, which required them to go through three rounds of judges . Port Chester Middle School was named one of six grand prize winners, earning them $25,000 to be donated to the nonprofit of their choice (WFSS), as well as $10,000 worth of technology—they chose iPads—to the middle school.

Teacher Allison Silverman noted that her students went far beyond what she had expected. “This was one of the greatest accomplishments of my career,” she said.

Read more about Port Chester’s award and the Lead2Feed Challenge here.

A Conversation with Salva and Linda Sue Livestream Presentation a Success!

A Conversation with Salva and Linda Sue livestream presentation on Friday, March 18th was a resounding success! 272 schools from around the world, via Youtube, watched Salva Dut and Linda Sue Park discuss Water for South Sudan’s impact on South Sudan and how WFSS is bringing access to clean water and hygiene education in the world's newest country.

Linda Sue Park is the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Walk to Water, which is about Salva’s journey as a Lost Boy through Sub-Saharan Africa to America. Salva Dut is the Founder and Executive Director for East African Operations of WFSS. Together they answered students’ questions about the impact of A Long Walk to Water on WFSS, how WFSS drills and maintains wells, and what lessons Salva and Linda Sue could teach the students about how to become better global citizens.

About 350 people came to Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester, NY to attend the presentation. This group included three Greater Rochester area schools: Spry Middle School in Webster, Watkins Glen Middle School, and Oliver Middle School in Brockport. In addition, Avon Middle School, which won MCC’s Walk for Water challenge in the fall of 2015,, got to spend one-on-one time with Salva and Linda Sue before the livestream presentation.

The livestream presentation was hosted by MCC’s Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project. MCC's strong alliance with WFSS includes significant fundraising through their annual Walk for Water challenge and other efforts that have totaled more than $50,000 since 2007. Salva is also an MCC alumni and member of the MCC Hall of Fame.

Thank you to our hosts at MCC for making this world-wide event possible, and to all who participated in our livestream presentation! You are helping WFSS make a big difference. You may watch the livestream presentation here.

 

 

A Conversation with Salva and Linda Sue March 18

Join us for a livestream presentation, A Conversation with Salva and Linda Sue on Friday, March 18 at 12 noon, EST. 

WFSS Founder Salva Dut and Newbery Award-winning author Linda Sue Park will talk about the story behind A Long Walk to Water and the success of WFSS in bringing access to water in South Sudan.

The talk is available to all, but you must pre-register to get the link for the talk.   Please send an email with your name, and, if applicable, your school's name and address to SalvaLindaSue@waterforsouthsudan.org.  You will need an internet connection and access to YouTube to watch the talk.