By Devlin Smith
Alex Lieberman and Michael Raven, juniors at Riverdale Country School in Riverdale, New York, an independent day school for students pre-kindergarten through grade 12, held a fundraiser for the African Well Fund on May 22nd.
With the help of other Riverdale students, the boys carried 80 gallons of water one mile to represent both the average amount of water used by each American and the distance many Africans walk each day to fetch water. Alex and Michael set up a Firstgiving page to collect sponsorships and, to date, have collected $3,180, with many donations coming after the May 22nd event.
Alex described for AWF how he and Michael put together this fundraiser, talking about the people who helped them and what they learned in the process.
Michael and I decided to take an elective at Riverdale called Human Rights. Our teacher, Mr. [Gustavo] Carrera, decided that the majority of our second semester we would each be working toward ameliorating some human rights issue that is taking place somewhere on Earth. Michael and I partnered up because we both feel strongly about the water crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa.
We decided to do our project on the fundamental right that all people have to fresh and easily accessible water. Both Michael and I are athletes so we wanted to somehow find a way to incorporate our athleticism into the project. While I was surfing [African Well Fund’s] Web site, the program  Miles in Her Shoes really stuck out to me. Michael and I decided that we would try and carry as much water as we could one mile to experience as first-hand as possible what it is like to have to carry your own water.
The next issue was the notion of our own water. Through research we found the shocking statistic that the average American uses about 80 gallons of water per day. Because of this, we decided that 80 gallons would be the target amount of water we wanted to transport, however, 80 gallons is a daunting amount for just two people. Michael and I got in touch with the community service director at our school, Ms. S [Lauren Swierczek], and with her help we got the varsity track team as well as the varsity boys and girls lacrosse teams to help us with our water endeavor. Additionally, we challenged all of them to get three sponsors each to donate to the Web site.
Michael and I decided to run the length of the road that our school is on. This turned out to be just about one mile long. Together with 50 other kids from Riverdale, Michael and I ran to our water checkpoint, scooped up water in buckets, water bottles and other containers, and began the return trip back to school.
The water was a lot harder to walk with than many of the kids anticipated. What was awesome to watch, however, was what the kids resorted to in order to carry their fair share of the 80 gallons. Kids began to carry the buckets on top of their head, like some of the women in Africa, and others took big sticks and hung the buckets of water in the middle of the stick and had two kids carry the two sides of the stick with the buckets hanging in the middle. When we started running everyone had a smile on their faces and by the end of the run everyone was exhausted and huffing and puffing, however everyone kept smiling.
The response that we got both from the kids and the teachers at school was unbelievable. During the day teachers were coming up to us and telling us what a great thing we did and how impressed they were with our project, and at night we’d check the Web site and watch the number keep getting higher and higher and the list of sponsors keep getting longer and longer.
Our original goal for the project was just to raise awareness about the water crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, however with the overwhelming support that we were getting, we decided to take it a little further. The finished product of the project was awesome. We raised a lot of money for a great cause and got a lot of support from kids who, prior to the run, had no idea that there were people in the world that didn’t have the luxury of faucets and water fountains that we have. Because of the project’s success, Michael and I have decided to continue the project and have another water run next spring. We hope to make it a tradition at Riverdale.
As for advice for future fundraisers, I suggest brainstorming something that you like to do or are good at, whether it is playing the violin, eating cupcakes or running. Whatever it is, there is always a way to turn your talent into a fundraiser. I also suggest trying to find a teacher or parent to help you with the process. Michael and I would not have been as successful had we not had the help of our community service director, Ms. S. She got in touch with the coaches of the teams and kept them up to date with the project.
On a side note, Michael and I realized that it would be counterproductive to take water, run with it and then just dump it out. Because of this we got in touch with the swim coach at our school [Brian Carver] and he let us take 80 gallons of pool water. After the run we took the water back down to the pool and dumped it back in, that way we didn’t waste any water.
By Devlin Smith