Sunday, May 12, 2013

Raising Little Heroes: Water For People

14 families, 4 hoses, a big jar of loose change and lots of fresh water made for a beautiful and fun filled morning yesterday at East Boulder Community Park.  I could not have been more pleased with how it all went, which is saying a lot because the expectation I'd set for the project (and myself) was super high.  I'm really proud of this event and even more thankful for all of the help I received in preparation for it as well as actual implementation.  Thank you to Jessica Zeldner for not only being on the committee but for agreeing to help me form and solidify the idea from the very beginning.  Emma Pfister at Water For People was kind enough to invite me to work with her on this idea and I'm excited to say that it will be available on their website for other groups like ours to reference (when I get around to rewriting it that is).  Dan Yankowiak lent his support as an employee of the City Parks Department during the prep stage, even though he's crazy busy these days and Noreen Reeder and Lelsey Switendick offered to be on the committee in order to help us get it off the ground and carry out the presentation.  Last but not least, Jonathan Kosakow of Boulder based company Eco Vessel agreed to match our donation and was emotionally supportive during a particular "oh crap, this is never going to work" moment, even though he didn't need to be at all.  Thank you thank you to all of these people.  There's no way the event would have gone as smoothly as it did without your help and support!

So, here's how it all went down...

Participants were asked to bring with them loose change (at least 1 penny), a favorite "buddy" that they didn't mind getting wet and a small towel.  As they arrived, we asked them to put their change into one of 3 jars (labeled "Community", "Government" and "NGO") and then pick a station to stand near (an empty bin/bucket with play dishes, food and washcloths next to it)

 When everyone had arrived, we asked the kids to imagine that they were a community and that each station was a house.  We walked as a group down to the lake next to their community and talked a bit about the water.  We encouraged them to notice that the water was not the kind that you could take a bath in, drink etc...we talked about what happens when water stays still like that for a long time.  Then we asked them to imagine that this was the only source of water anywhere near their community.
 We then told them that there was a source of fresh water but that it was very far away.  We gave them empty milk jugs and bottles and walked with them to the fresh water source.  We had them fill their jugs and bottles and carry them back to their houses.

After everyone had returned to the community with their water and had some time to wash the dishes, food and their buddies a bit, we talked about how hard it was to carry all of that water all of that way.  We told the kids that in communities like these, it's usually the women and children who have to do that several times a day in order for the community to have safe water, which doesn't leave much time and energy for playing and doing fun stuff.

So, we told them that there are NGO's like Water For People that notice communities like these and want to help.  They come to the communities and ask the local government and community leaders if they want to team up to find a better system for providing the community with safe water.  It's important to team up  because they need to come up with a system that will last even after the NGO leaves.  So, they come up with a plan together and decide that they all need to pitch in some money to build a system.  Noreen, Lesley and I were representing these groups and so the three of us shook hands and took money out of our respective jars of loose change and told the kids that together, we were going to buy a hose.
We brought the group over to a pile of tangled hoses and said that we all needed to work together to get the hoses untangled and hooked up.

Once we got the hose hooked up and working in the community...
...we clapped and cheered and filled up more jugs and bottles and washed more dishes, food and buddies.  After a few chaotic minutes of that, we talked about how much easier it was this way.  We also pointed out that it was really crowded around the hose, and that we thought we could make the system even easier  by hiring a "water supplier" and "water transporters".  So, we "hired" the kids to play these roles and paid them for their work.  We instructed each "worker" to put one coin into the community jar and keep the rest.  We then talked about the importance of hiring "maintenance workers" to fix and maintain the system so that if it breaks they won't be back at square one.  We "hired" some "maintenance workers", put some kinks in the hose and asked them to  fix any problems they could find.  We then paid them and asked them to put one coin into the community jar and keep the rest.

Then we asked anyone who hadn't yet received a job to come forward.  We talked about the fact that now that they have access to more safe water, local farmers will be able to grow more food and not only feed their families, but sell their produce at a profit.  We "hired" "farmers" and "sellers" and gave them apples to "sell" to the other participants.  Again, they were asked to put one coin in the community jar and keep the rest.
Then we said that at this point, the NGO has to leave the community but that with their new skills and the money they are contributing to their community through the new jobs created by this new water system allows for the community and local government to keep the system running indefinitely.  We assured the kids that the NGO continues to monitor the community and steps back in if they are needed but that ideally, things will run smoothly from now on.

Then we told the kids that NGO's like Water For People are always on the lookout for communities in need and that we here at home can support their work by fundraising or donating money.  We discussed ways in which we can do that and helped them come up with the idea of selling lemonade in order to raise funds to donate.  We presented a cooler of lemonade and encouraged the kids to practice selling the lemonade to their parents, talking about Water For People as they did so.

So, there you have it.  All in all, a fantastic morning.  Thanks to all of the families who came out to share the experience with us!  The loose change we all brought added up to a $127.45 donation, which will  be matched by Eco Vessel!

If you would like to see more fabulous pictures of this event, you can find them on our website.

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