A Rain of Compassion

People gather around the displays at the Amman Imman presentation.

A drought parched the east coast this fall, leaving the rivers low, the lawns brown and the leaves lackluster through most of the fall season. Then during the third week of October, the rain began to fall. On one of those very rainy nights, approximately 50 people gathered in Chevy Chase, Maryland to hear Ariane Kirtley talk about a region in West Africa called the Azawak where drought brings more than inconvenience and dead lawns.

In the Azawak Valley, unceasing drought consumes the region for at least nine months of the year. Children die due to the intrepid lack of water. People spend all their time and energy searching for water simply to survive. After walking 35 miles in a day, the water they find and bring home is minimal as well as muddy and contaminated.

The drenching rains of that evening, an inconvenience for driving and a nuisance for
those without an umbrella, presented a stark contrast to the challenges that the lack of water brings on a daily basis to the people living in the Azawak. The program's focus for that evening was to raise awareness to the situation in the Azawak, one of the poorest regions in the world, which has been almost completely cut off from any aid.

Until now.

Water holes in a dry marsh
In 2005, Ariane Kirtley went to this region as a researcher and returned with a mission to help these people who suffered not just from the lack of clean water, but from no access to water at all. During interviews in the Azawak, she consistently heard, "We need access to water in order to save our children from dying. Please help us." In, 2006, under the auspices of the American non-profit The Friendship Caravan, she formed Amman Imman, which seeks to bring water to this region as the first and foremost requested need of the people living there.

In July, 2007, Amman Imman's first well borehole began to dispense pure and unlimited water to 25,000 people and their animals in the Azawak.

The evening's event celebrated the initiative of worldwide Montessori schools who one year ago had formed Montessori Wells of Love to support the work of Ariane Kirtley's program. Children and adults from several Washington D.C. area schools including Aidan Montessori, Henson Valley Montessori, Barrie School, Howard Gardner School, and Oneness-Family School attended. Displays (see pictures below) illustrating examples of student leadership, collaboration between schools, and fundraising activities that have occurred since this partnership with Amman Imman began lined the room, as well as Ariane's beautiful photographs from the Azawak.

Luis Torrealva on bass, Andrew Kutt on guitar
As people arrived they were treated to the instrumental guitar music of Andrew Kutt, director of Oneness-Family School, who had introduced Ariane to the Montessori community at the Montessori Peace Academy conference last November in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Oneness-Family school parent and singer-songwriter Laura Baron sang about building a dream, a theme deeply suggestive of the spirit of Amman Imman's work in the Azawak.

Ariane listens to students making presentations

Contributions from students who had been helping Amman Imman over the last year brought to life the message of Amman Imman and the partnership that has been nurtured with schools over the last year. Two students shared an original poem about water. Another student shared a poem about hope. A highlight of the evening was a surprise presentation of a check for $1300 by two students who hosted a bake sale table at the International Monetary Fund.

Aidan Montessori head of school Kathy Minardi and Oneness-Family School director Andrew Kutt each shared moving accolades about their personal connection with the mission of Amman Imman and their school's commitment to help.

To introduce the presentation, Ariane explained that she was going to tell three stories.

  • The first story would be about the 500,000 people of the Azawak who are dying of thirst.
  • The second would be the story of Program Amman Imman founded to bring water to the people of the Azawak with the hope of saving many lives.
  • The third story would be the story of the many individuals, schools, institutions, and organizations who have joined Amman Imman in saving the lives of the children in the Azawak.
Ariane spoke about the Heroes of Compassion, the students around the world for whom the story of Amman Imman has become their story.

After the presentation, people circulated around the displays, talking, sharing and writing down their ideas on the white boards beside each table.

Outside, the rain had eased a bit. People got back in their cars and returned to their homes, where besides the inconvenience of rain, life is fairly easy with water never further away than the turn of a faucet. The story of the people of the Azawak searching for water every day gave them a new perspective on their own lives, drenching them in the rain of compassion and the possibility that with their help, water can flow to the people of the Azawak and Program Amman Imman can save lives.

Three presentations boards illustrating examples of student involvement in the areas of Student Leadership, Fundraising and Collaboration.
a special thank you to
Sharon Caldwell, Montessori head of school visiting from South Africa,
who helped put together these presentation boards.

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