Students in Action

Students are a huge part of the driving force that makes WaterCan’s work possible. The time and effort that students and their teachers put into their advocacy and fundraising work is inspiring and heart warming.

Here’s one example of students in action!

West Carleton Secondary: Helping Change the World One Drop at a Time

Turning the tide of global poverty and environmental degradation is going to take visionary leadership, fresh ideas and commitment. As an international development charity dedicated to fostering global citizenship amongst Canadian youth, it gives us great hope to witness the thirst that today’s students have for global knowledge and meaningful engagement opportunities.

Students at schools across Canada have, over WaterCan’s 24-year history, made a significant contribution to the advancement of our charity’s vision of Clean Water for All! Their impact has been especially felt over the past three years with the introduction of WaterCan’s School by School Fundraising Challenge.

The Challenge was introduced in 2008 as a way of encouraging Canadian students to participate in local awareness and fundraising activities in support of clean water for their counterparts at east African primary schools. Even more importantly, however, the initiative was designed to provide students with an opportunity to learn about the direct impact of their fundraising efforts through photos, stories and updates shared throughout the project cycle.

Over the past three years, Canadian students have raised over $70,620 that has gone directly to supplying clean drinking water, basic sanitation and handwashing facilities to specific African primary schools and communities. Not surprisingly, schools in the National Capital Region have been amongst the most supportive. Take for example, the outstanding initiative and heart demonstrated by the students at West Carleton Secondary School.

Grade 11 students had their eyes opened to the world of water in teacher Amie Lee’s issue-based Environmental Science class. Lee explains, “The students were quite new to the idea that so little of the world’s fresh water was potable, and how much water we waste in industrialized countries. In our class, they completed labs about water filtration, and actually created their own natural filters and were surprised as to how clean they could get the water with what they had designed.”

Committed to translating their newfound knowledge into action, students launched an awareness and fundraising campaign that has rallied their peers, parents, teachers and even a neighbouring school in support.

“It’s amazing how much water we really use, and how much we actually waste. Even the simple act of flushing the toilet uses so much,” says student Kathleen. “Once you hear about it it’s not something you can forget about. Every time I turn on the tap I think ‘wow, I’m so lucky’. I believe that since we have the resources, we have the responsibility to help.”

And helping is just what they’re doing. Students, under Ms. Lee’s inspirational guidance, put their heads together and came up with a number of activities that emphasize creativity and awareness while at the same time raising funds toward their $5,000 goal. Students have taken on the recycling program and held a school-wide can drive competition. The winning class was presented with papier-mâché toilet filled with candy on World Toilet Day (Nov 19). To mark this international day of action, students also organized a “Big Squat” event, which had the entire school squatting in solidarity with the 2.6 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to basic toilet facilities. Of course, the opportunity to throw a pie at a teacher’s face in return for a donation was also a wildly popular fundraiser with students. Funds continue to be raised through a penny drive, the proceeds from performances of West Carleton Secondary’s dance program and a concert that is being planned for late March.

On World Water Day (March 22) students will bring their infectious enthusiasm to their peers at First Avenue Elementary School where they will organize a number of eco-games and read the environmental magazines and books that they’ve created as part of this initiative. First Avenue Public School is making a gracious donation to their fundraiser in return.

In reflecting on the impact of the initiative on her students, Ms. Lee writes, “I like this campaign because my students are directly affecting students in other countries. We live in a privileged society, and water should be a human right, not a traded commodity which it is speedily becoming. My students are now asking questions, which is all I can ask that they get out of any science course!”

Worldwide, nearly 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. A further 2.6 billion have no basic sanitation like toilets and latrines. This constitutes one of the most lethal, yet solvable, public health emergencies affecting the developing world today. The lack of safe water and adequate sanitation is the world’s largest cause of sickness. Diarrhea, alone, kills 1.5 million children under the age of 5 each year – more than AIDS, Measles and Malaria combined.

Efforts by the students at West Carleton Secondary and many other schools across Canada are making a real difference in the fight against global poverty. The small-scale, community-driven water and sanitation projects that they support are helping to break the cycle of poverty and disease and increase opportunities for health, education, gender equality and economic growth.

West Carleton Secondary’s donation will be matched by the Nichole J Poulin Bursary Fund and matched again 3:1 by the Canadian International Development Agency. When combined with the contributions of several other schools participating in this year’s School by School Challenge, it will help WaterCan to provide clean, safe drinking water and basic sanitation to 13 primary schools in Bondo District, Kenya!

We commend the selfless actions, compassion and critical thinking demonstrated by the students of West Carleton Secondary. Together, one drop at a time, one well at a time, they are leaving a legacy of health and development in a country far from our own. Yes, this does reaffirm my belief that the future truly does need our children’s leadership and courage!

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