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

Why We IGC Graphic.png

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!

student.jpg

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!”

31717 013.JPG

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!

020718 348.JPG

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

Why We IGC Graphic.png

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?  

IMG_1535.JPG

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.

Pine Lake students with Salva.jpg

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

Photo Nov 03, 1 12 32 PM.jpg

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!

Why We IGC: An Interview with Lindsey Fried of Piedmont, OK

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! 

Salva's Boston Travels

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.

Watch Salva's inspiring TEDx talk, where he tells of his journey as a "Lost Boy" of Sudan.

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.

Celebrate in Rochester & Boston with Salva this November!

WFSS Founder Salva Dut will travel to the US in November for a few special events with supporters in Rochester, NY and Boston.

Salva starts his visit with Linda Sue Park at the Rochester Children's Book Festival on Saturday, Nov. 12 from 9:30-11 a.m. at Monroe Community College. The festival's 20th anniversary will honor New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water by Newbery Award-winning author Linda Sue Park. The festival's theme is Books Change Readers, Readers Change the World. More information available here.

Rooted in Rochester, Blooming in South SudanWFSS Celebration Brunch Sunday, Nov. 13. Join Salva and WFSS at the beautiful ARTISANworks in Rochester, NY as we celebrate the closing of our capital campaign. Meet Salva and hear updates from South Sudan. There will be a live auction of artwork, African handcrafts and WFSS photos and art for sale, and more. Information and tickets available here

Meet Salva & WFSS in Boston!  WFSS will host a special celebration at Boston's Metropolitan Waterworks Museum on Thursday, Nov. 17, starting with a VIP Reception from 6-7 p.m., followed by a Celebration from 7-8:30 p.m. Meet Salva and get updates on our work in South Sudan. More information, tickets and registration available here.

Finally, on Saturday, Nov. 19, Salva will speak at TEDxBeaconStreet, followed by a special teen event in Brookline. Watch the TEDx talk, or register to attend at TEDxBeaconStreet website.

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 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.