High school clubs raise awareness for women in Africa

Sequim High School students and faculty walked 4.3 miles carrying gallons of water from Hendrickson Road to the Dungeness River and back to fundraise and raise awareness for women in Africa that walk numerous hours daily to gather water.

Students from the Be the Change and Rotary Interact Clubs along with teacher and advisor Chelsea Reichner walked from across Sequim Middle School on Hendrickson Road to the Dungeness River where participants filled their own water carrying vessels with water and returned to the starting point.

Calvin Hazard, a Sequim High senior, walked with a yoke carrying two buckets full of water.

More than 30 individuals participated in the event starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, and by the end of the morning, the clubs raised enough pledges to purchase one cistern for women in Africa. The students have been pledging for the cause since the fall of 2016 and raised a total of $1,400.

Grant Pierson, Rotary Interact Club president and an SHS senior, said the Walk for Water, “brings awareness to the students with how privileged we are to have water so plentiful.”

Pierson believes the event also reminded students of “what also comes with water: economic opportunity,” he said. Pierson explained that access to water allows the women in rural Africa to uplift their family economically where water is a source of growth.

“Water is wealth” was a theme that resonated with participants and organizers who felt this event represented the importance of water both locally in the Sequim community and globally in places such as rural Kenya where access to clean water is vital for economic growth.

“I like the part where we’re actually carrying the water so we’re mirroring what the women in Africa do,” said Audrey Hughes, Be the Change Club president and an SHS junior.

“I think that when the students actually get down to it and walk four miles with large amounts of water it will be a little more eye opening and how important it is for them to have water where they live.”

The goal of the event was to raise enough money to purchase at least one cistern — a water carrying vessel — for the women in rural Kenya that walk three to six hours daily to gather water, which often is contaminated. Water is gathered in cisterns during the rainy season, Pierson said, and can hold up to 10,000 liters.

This is the first year SHS students are participating in the Walk for Water. Both clubs have similar visions of working toward a local and global cause. The Rotarians picked up the cause from the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club and members asked if they could share the service work with Be the Change.

Both SHS clubs hosted the event and Women’s Enterprises International of Seattle, a nonprofit organization that partners with women around the world to meet their most pressing needs, was the beneficiary of the event and the Sunrise Rotary Club acted as a facilitator.

The idea for the event was inspired by previous work done by Sunrise Rotary Club members Andrea Gilles and Mary Jane Apple. Gilles and Apple visited women in Kenya that partner with WEI to establish a cistern system. A small group of women in Kenya also must raise money to purchase a cistern and once they have enough, the United States will produce the funds to match, essentially raising enough money for two cisterns.

After the Sunrise Rotary Club raised enough money to purchase four cisterns for women in Kenya, Colleen Robinson, club member and Rotary Interact liaison, offered to extend the cause to SHS Rotary Interact Club members.

Reichner said the Walk for Water also tied in well with the Sequim community because of the awareness of water in the area with events such as the Sequim Irrigation Festival.

The students will continue to pledge for a second cistern until the end of the school year and may hold another Walk for Water event later in the year.

To make a pledge, contact Colleen Robinson at 460-5560.