Inspired by Water: Fundraising brunch takes place in Rochester, NY

On a crisp fall day in upstate New York, our team at Water for South Sudan hosted a festive fundraising brunch: Inspired by Water: Celebrating 15 years with Salva. Held at La Luna restaurant, this venue boasted beautiful views overlooking High Falls as old friends, longtime supporters, and new acquaintances gathered to meet Salva, browse the marketplace of handmade African items, enjoy brunch, and participate in live and silent auctions. Local volunteers supported our staff as we welcomed over 200 guests to spend the afternoon with us.

Attendees first enjoyed time to mingle, take pictures, and explore the marketplace with African items that WFSS team members bought during this year’s trip to South Sudan. We had beautiful woven baskets, brightly beaded necklaces, and colorful purses. No two products were the same speaking to the fact that all were hand-made! There was no shortage of giraffes in our market as we know from years past these items are a hit. Giraffe scarves, statues, and note cards flew off the tables! Salva even signed the “Greetings from South Sudan” giraffe plaques to give them a special touch. Some of the very few American-made products were metal bracelets donated by Jordan Miner, a teen who created Jammin Hammer Jewelry with his mom. This duo donates proceeds from their sales to non-profits and has supported WFSS since 2015. Jordan graciously donated bracelets boasting the phrases “Keep Walking” and “Water is Life” to our event.

The Mount Hope World Singers gave a beautiful performance of two African-inspired songs to begin the program. To celebrate our 15th anniversary year, emcee Alexis Arnold, Salva, Board President Bob Shea, and Executive Director Lynn Malooly recognized Board members, noted accomplishments since drilling the first well in 2005, and shared what is coming next for the water, hygiene, and sanitation programs.

The room is set for the event to begin!

The room is set for the event to begin!

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Our team also recognized local supporters who have made extraordinary contributions to the organization over the years. The third annual Founder’s Award, established to recognize individuals who have been longtime donors, friends, and advocates of WFSS, was presented to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. From Salva’s first weeks in the United States and continuing today, St. Paul’s has been an unwavering financial and organizational supporter.

Reverend Rob Picken and Reverend Frederic Reynolds accept the  Founder’s Award  on behalf of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Reverend Rob Picken and Reverend Frederic Reynolds accept the Founder’s Award on behalf of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Salva presents Angelique Stevens with the  Long Walk Award.

Salva presents Angelique Stevens with the Long Walk Award.

Salva then presented Board member Angelique Stevens with the third annual Long Walk Award. Created to recognize individuals who have demonstrated great passion for the work of WFSS and made transformational contributions, this award speaks to Stevens’ dedication during her two trips to South Sudan, and assistance in developing our monitoring and evaluation and well rehab projects.

The program concluded with the marketplace practically empty, each guest having spoken with Salva, and a content staff that everything had run smoothly. A great time was had by all and attendees were generous in their support. We enjoyed a successful celebration of 15 years dedicated to transforming lives! Some of our favorite photos from the event are below. Please feel free to download and share them as you wish, but be sure to tag WFSS in any social media postings!

A final acknowledgement goes out to our sponsors as the event would not be possible without their support. Thank you to the following groups and individuals:

Salva’s Circle: The William and Sheila Konar Foundation
Village Circle: Bond Benefits Consulting
15th Anniversary Circle: Cricket on the Hearth; Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project at Monroe Community College
Drilling Circle: Alouette Tool Company; Cornerstone Advisory Group; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Seeds of Change: Best Times Financial; Sue Coia; Cook Communications; Nancy Curme; Fish and Crown Creative; Nancy and Robert Frank; Global Precision Products; Laura Hayden; Heveron and Company; Christopher and Louise Moore; Penfield Rotary Club; RIT School of Communication; Bob Shea and Kate Weisskopf; Anne Turner and Harry Bohrs; Paula Vargas

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!

Walking for Water or Walking to School— Water's Impact on Education

Here is another post in our continuing series of Water Wednesday blog posts by students at the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY.

The water crisis in South Sudan plays a large role in the lack of education available for school-aged children. South Sudanese who do not have access to clean water—about 68%—have to leave their villages and move for six months out of the year in order to find water. Thus, schools are not able to be sustained, so they are not built. In addition, many children’s parents succumb to diseases such as HIV/AIDS. This leaves these children as orphans and therefore responsible for finding work. They now have to provide for themselves and their siblings instead of seeking the opportunity to obtain an education. In Sudan and South Sudan combined, there are about 2 million orphaned children.     

The lack of access to clean water, however, especially affects girls. Girls are responsible for finding water for their families for up to eight hours per day. Thus, these girls cannot even attend school if there is a school in their village. If these girls are orphans, they also cannot find ways to provide for themselves because they are so busy trying to find water. If girls do attend school, they often have to drop out once they reach puberty if their schools do not have clean-water access. This is because they do not have use of proper toilets to take care of hygiene issues. Only 33% of South Sudanese girls attend school, and a mere 16% of girls ages 15 and older are literate.

This is a problem that Water for South Sudan (WFSS) works to remedy. One of WFSS’ missions is to raise money to drill clean-water wells in South Sudan so that more children can have the opportunity to go to school. If children and young people have clean water and can go to school, their opportunities for advancement are significantly increased. Thus, they can sustain a livelihood.

If you would like to learn more about Water for South Sudan and what they do, please visit WFSS website page detailing The Need in South Sudan.  or donate now here