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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H2O for Life: Long-time WFSS Collaborator and Super Supporter

Water for South Sudan is proud to highlight H2O for Life, an organization that has supported our mission and services since 2008 using an incredibly unique and exceptional approach. 

H2O for Life provides a service-learning opportunity for schools in the United States that helps teachers and students raise awareness about the global water crisis while taking action to provide funds for a water, sanitation, and hygiene education project for a partner school in the developing world. H2O for Life is small, but mighty. Their international office is located in White Bear Lake, MN, where five staff members power their operations. 

Their backstory: Founder of H2O for Life Patty Hall was a teacher at Highview Middle School, MN in 2006 when she received a request from a friend in Kenya to assist them to fund a water project for their village. She introduced the project to her students at the time, who embraced the challenge and raised $13,000. Throughout the project, students learned about the global water crisis and connected with the Kenyan local community. This service-learning success led to additional projects and a relationship with WFSS as an implementing partner.

Over the course of their many years of partnership with WFSS, H2O for Life has facilitated over $250,000 in donations from schools all over the US.

 A well sponsored this year by Stillwater Junior High School through H2O for Life.

A well sponsored this year by Stillwater Junior High School through H2O for Life.

Patty first heard about WFSS through a Rotary Club connection in San Diego, California. One of the Rotarians she met there mentioned that his club was working with Salva Dut in South Sudan. The partnership with WFSS began during the 2008 school year. On that same visit to San Diego, H2O for Life met one of the authors of the book They Poured Fire on us from the Skyanother book about South Sudan. One of the Sudanese authors of the book was scheduled to speak at a local school near H2O for Life’s office in Minnesota. Teacher Sara Damon of that school embedded curriculum into her classroom, and through a collaboration with H2O for Life, donated more than $80,000 over eight years raised by her students for WFSS. She and her students are rock-stars!

Now, teachers and students fundraising through H2O for Life work collaboratively to take actions to raise funds to support implementation of wells by WFSS. WFSS provides photos of completed projects that allow our participating students to see the impact of their fundraising actions. The hope is to provide opportunities for youth to become global citizens who will be future advocates and champions for our global water resources.

"H2O for Life searches for partners that believe in engaging youth to become leaders of change. Our program focuses on providing educational opportunities for youth to learn about the important global issue--WATER. WFSS shares our vision!" -Steve Hall, H2O for Life

Thank you to Patty and Steve Hall, and all the many, many students and teachers who have made this collaboration so successful over the years!

 

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!

WFSS Fundraising Students Win Philanthropy Award

 Greece Athena principal Jason Fulkerson, teacher Vicki Richardson, students Ellie Dermody, Elliot Honan, Halie Cardon, Audrey Coons with WFSS Executive Director Lynn Malooly and WFSS Board member Laura Hayden at AFP Awards Luncheon.

Greece Athena principal Jason Fulkerson, teacher Vicki Richardson, students Ellie Dermody, Elliot Honan, Halie Cardon, Audrey Coons with WFSS Executive Director Lynn Malooly and WFSS Board member Laura Hayden at AFP Awards Luncheon.

President Ronald Reagan declared November 15th National Philanthropy Day in 1986. Every year since, communities around the world have hosted events to celebrate individuals, foundations, corporations, and others engaged in philanthropy. On November 3rd, the Genesee Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals held its annual National Philanthropy Day Luncheon, honoring Rochesterians who have made tremendous impact through their philanthropic efforts.

Among the honorees was Greece Athena Cares, nominated by WFSS Executive Director Lynn Malooly for Outstanding Young People in Philanthropy – Group. After reading Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water (ALWTW), a group of students at Greece Athena Middle School were inspired to get involved. “Athena Cares has raised over $14,000 for WFSS since 2014,” says Lynn Malooly. “Not only have they involved their school, but they’ve reached out to their community, creating a beautiful synergy.”

Greece Athena Cares started five years ago as a charity group dedicated to raising funds for Water for South Sudan. Three years ago the group branched out raise funds for other nonprofits, including Greece Residents Assisting Stray Pets and CURE Childhood Cancer. Greece Athena Cares has about 20 active participants under the supervision of seventh grade ELA teacher Vicki Richardson. “We typically do schoolwide fundraisers,” says Richardson. “We’ve had a couple of walks for water where kids would get donations and they would walk and donate the funds to Water for South Sudan.”

Lynn further noted how inspiring it to see the fundraising efforts of Athena students, and students from around the world. “When I look at these young people, at this stage in their lives, and know they've made such a difference, I know it changes their lives. Then I ask, 'What else can they do?'"

There are schools in all fifty states and many other countries that read ALWTW, inspiring students to help by raising money for WFSS.

“We are grateful to Linda Sue Park for writing this wonderful book and to all of the children around the world who help the children of South Sudan,” says WFSS Founder Salva Dut. 

Watch Inspiring Video about Athena Cares

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! 

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.