Community

Teachers head to Africa with Run for Water

MEI also does a
MEI also does a 'walk for water' to Mill Lake. In 2012, students walked 5.5 hours to bring back jerry cans full of water from the lake.
— image credit: File photo

Hearing about some children's daily struggle to collect water is one thing. Experiencing it is another.

To bring home the message that some kids in other countries have a much more difficult daily routine, Pat Kennaley, a Grade 4/5 teacher at Alexander Elementary in Abbotsford, did an experiment. She marched her young students the 1.5 km to Mill Lake one hot day in June 2013. The kids cheerfully waded into the water, each filling 20-litre jerry cans, and tried to do a lap around the lake.

"They could barely move them more than 10 feet because they were so heavy. So we emptied the cans half out, and from there they struggled with the cans around the lake," said Kennaley.

The students loved last year's "walk for water," she said. She's doing it with her current class in May.

But before then, Kennaley and six other Fraser Valley teachers are flying to Ethiopia to see the charity Run for Water in action.

Every year, the Run for Water Society holds a variety of runs – 5 km, 10 km, half marathon, full marathon and 55 km ultra run – in Abbotsford to fundraise for clean water projects in Ethiopia. In 2013, 4,830 runners came out. The organization has raised $1 million since it launched in 2007.

The seven teachers, five of whom are from the Abbotsford school district, one from Chilliwack, and one from Agassiz, will set off on the 13-day trip on Friday. They will be accompanied by one high school student and two Run for Water Society members.

The group will visit three different communities: one that has clean water after a successful Run for Water-funded project; one where a Run for Water-funded project is ongoing; and one that's slated for a future project.

"It's a terrific opportunity to engage my students in issues like this and bring back more to the classroom," said Kennaley. "When kids are needing to walk up to six hours a day to get water, it's generally the girls that are doing this, and they're not going to school. With water access, school becomes a possibility."

Sometimes making that connection between clean water and education can be difficult, says Kennaley. She sees the trip as one of professional development.

"When we're passionate about what we're teaching, then the kids become passionate and totally engaged…We really want to encourage the growth of global citizens. They're problem solvers and they're thinking beyond the limits of what's here in Abbotsford and what's possible."

The teachers will also be contributing to Run for Water's existing K-12 teaching curriculum, through which the organization teaches students about the project, and the connection between water and education.

Each travelling teacher needs to cover most of the $3,500 cost of the trip. Envision Financial, a title sponsor of Run for Water, has kicked in $1,000 of that per teacher. The financial institution will also create a promotional video based on the teachers' trip.

This year's Envision Financial Run for Water in Abbotsford is on May 25, 2014. Registration is at abbotsford.runforwater.ca/.

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