Monday, April 30, 2007
Undercroft Montessori in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Middle School students at Undercroft Montessori have been fundraising for Amman Imman and doing presentations since December. Teacher Laura Sesso heard Ariane speak at the Montessori Peace conference in November, 2006 and passed the project along to her students. The students took the initiative to bring the project to their community. Stay tuned for a story about the work of these students!
Woodland Hill Montessori in North Greenbush, New York. I talked with Upper Elementary Teacher Sherry Clune at the AMS conference in New York City in March about the Amman Imman project. Her class is starting a water ecology project based on the global problem of water depletion. Sherry and her students will study the Amman Imman website and this blog to come up with ideas on incorporating the project into the curriculum this year and into the next school year. We look forward to hearing about how the project develops at Woodland Hill!
Minnieland Private Day School in Richmond, Virginia. School Director Lori Marano picked up a flyer at the New York City AMS conference and brought the project back to her community. A story about Minnieland's contribution will be forthcoming!
Five Oaks Academy in Simpsonville, South Carolina. Five Oaks recently sent a donation to support Program Amman Imman.
Evergreen School in Wheaton, MD. The Evergreen School heard about Amman Imman after students from the Barrie School presented the project to them. Now Evergreen students will be joining us on A Walk For Water.
Monday, April 23, 2007
When people hear this story - the courage that the children and adults living in the Azawak region embody even as they struggle to survive in a land without water; the compassion and tenacity of Ariane in determining to bring them water; her commitment to forge ahead even after being told by large organizations that they could not offer help until there was water for their aid workers – they feel deeply moved. This is a compelling story. When people hear it, when they see the pictures of the people and the tenderness and beauty in their faces, and hear the stories that illustrate their strength of spirit and generosity, compassion is stirred. I felt my heart open up when I first heard Ariane’s presentation. The educators at the Montessori conference in November felt stirred when they heard Ariane and the students. And each time that the stories are carried forward whether through Ariane, through teachers, or through students, people are encouraged with hope, as the need for help is revealed and the possibility of change is made real and known.
And now, with the partnership of students around the world helping to tell the story of the people of the Azawak and raise funds to transform these circumstances into hopeful realities, this determination is manifesting into something tangible. The installation of the first Amman Imman deep well has already begun to change the quality of life. Hope is now manifesting. The people in Tangarwachane, whom Ariane calls her mother, her father, her sister, her children, are living healthier lives. They are using the water to make bricks to build a school. No longer do they have to spend their time searching for water but they actually have clean water to drink. And as the adults and children in both lands receive and give back the kindnesses through cards and wishes, the story becomes even more compelling.
Tim Seldin, president of the Montessori Foundation, presented a keynote address the first evening of the conference. In talking about Montessori education’s role in teaching students to be the global citizens needed as the leaders of the next generation, he mentioned Ariane’s work in the Azawak and the student collaborative effort as an example of leadership and initiative, modeled by Ariane and carried out by students. Young people need to learn about and discuss the problems of the world but they also need to engage in projects through which they can actively change something. They need real experiences that will lay a foundation of hope to inspire their leadership as they grow into adulthood. Through Ariane’s example the students have a model that proclaims: it is not right that people are dying simply because they do not have water to drink and I am going to change that.
Ariane has taken on a tremendous responsibility in declaring her commitment to fulfill the dreams of the people of the Azawak so that their children have the opportunity to have a future. She is doing it in such a way that the dream fulfilled is not only in the form of water, health care and education, but with the greater vision of preserving their dignity to continue their way of life and keep their traditions.
Ariane has already succeeded. Her initiative to change what was not right has made a lasting impression on the children in both cultures. The image of her courage and compassion will be forever imprinted on their hearts and minds. The message resounds:
Listen and learn.Children around the world, in every culture, are looking for hope, the possibility that their effort will mean something. By example, Ariane demonstrates that by following through with conviction and vision, transformation can happen and the world can change. And now students around the world have the opportunity to be that example for others. They can the the leaders of the next generation - today, starting now.
When there is a challenge, find a solution.
Do not take no for an answer.
When people are suffering and there is a way to help, do help.
Be a voice for those that need you to speak for them so that they can speak for themselves.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The Amman Imman team has returned to Niamey after 3 weeks in the Azawak. These past weeks were grueling, rewarding on both a personal and professional level, and extremely productive. Thanks to our field travels, we have been able to develop two short-term goals for Amman Imman:
1) Improving our first borehole in Tangarwachane. This will include:
- Equipping the borehole with a larger cistern, animal drinking basins linked directly to faucets, and better piping with additional faucets for human consumption.
- The community has been asked to contribute to the infrastructure by building a wall/barrier separating the animal from the human side and protecting the borehole and cistern structure. They will also be actively involved in the construction process so they can have a better understanding of how the system operates.
- We will hire technicians to better train committee members responsible for the technical maintenance of the borehole. We will continue training committee members as well as other beneficiaries in proper hygiene and sanitation behavior in order to maintain the water potable for human consumption.
2) Launch a bid for one or two boreholes, in order to hire a contractor for the construction of our next boreholes. During our field visit, we covered over 200 km 2, and have chosen 14 potential sites for future boreholes (sites cover both the Tchintabaradene and Abalak districts). We are currently waiting on the geophysical analysis to determine which sites we need to make a priority based on the depth of the water table. The geophysical situation is being analyzed both by the Department of Hydraulics in Tahoua and by Mary Ohren of the Desert Research Institute, and Ron Peterson, independent geological consultant. In order to reach a permanent and sustainable water source, we must drill to the "Continental Intercalaire" (CI), an underground water table that flows across Niger . The CI can be reached at approximately 200 meters to the East of our target area, and is found deeper and deeper as you go to the west. Near the Malian border the CI can be reached at approximately 800 meters.
We used several measures to choose our initial 14 sites:
· Thanks to information we obtained from the department of Hydraulics in Tahoua, we were able to determine a large region of the Azawak where the water table is known to be at 250 meters or less. Given that our funds all come from private donors, we cannot currently afford to build a borehole deeper than 250 meters. We therefore focused our attention on this region.
· We obtained names of sites from the department of hydraulics in Tchintabaradene as well as the mayor's office. We also questioned influential members in villages and camps and asked where their needs would be best served.
· We visited the sites to determine their real need, and to discuss this need with community members. We developed a questionnaire, which included questions such as the following:
a. Is there a need for a water point in this area?
b. What type of water point would you like to have in this community?
c. Could you financially and structurally manage a diesel group engine, if this is the type of infrastructure you desire (mentioning price estimates, maintenance, the possibility for environmental degradation, etc.)?
d. How do you conceive managing the water point and ascertaining the financial viability for maintenance and diesel costs?
e. How do you envision the role of women as active participants for the proper management of your water source?
f. What kind of contribution can the community make towards building the water point?
g. How many people and livestock would benefit from this water point?
h. How far do people currently travel to find water in this area?
· We therefore determined sites based on recommendations, requests from the beneficiaries, actual need, as well as the capacity of beneficiaries to manage their water point.
While we were in the Azawak, we also visited several boreholes run with diesel group engines in order to determine if these were being successfully managed, to learn how these were run, and establish benefits and problems associated with this type of infrastructure. We visited the boreholes and then conducted a group questionnaire to management committee members, as well as other village leaders.
Some boreholes were poorly managed, and others very well managed. Those that were well managed had undergone a great deal of follow up after borehole construction (including excessive training of community members in technical management, financial management, organizational management, and hygiene and sanitation) and active involvement on the part of committee members and beneficiaries. Those that were not successful were those built by organizations that did not follow up after the construction of the borehole. Beneficiaries were left with a complex infrastructure that they did not know how to manage.
Thus, the major lesson learned after our visit to existing boreholes is the following: in order to ensure the long term success of the boreholes, there is a need for long-term follow up including monitoring and training for several years after the construction of the borehole. There is also a need for beneficiary involvement during the construction phase so that they feel they have invested in the borehole, and understand that THEY (with our help initially) are the ones responsible for ensuring the survival of their water source.
Finally, in America, lots of exciting things are happening, including "A Month without Water" where families across the nation are giving the equivalent of their April water bill to Amman Imman initiatives. "A Walk for Water" is going to be taking place in May, where students, family members, and friends from many different schools in the Washington DC area are going to walk three miles, in spirit of the children of the Azawak currently traveling up to 30 miles a day to find water. The students are asking for sponsorship for each mile they walk, and all the funds they raise will go towards helping to build permanent water sources in the Azawak. Please read more about these initiatives on the Montessori blog: http://montessori-amman-imman-project.blogspot.com/
Yours in gratitude and peace,
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Students from the Oneness-Family School, the Barrie School, the Evergreen School, the Love of Learning Montessori School and the Monocacy Valley Public Charter Montessori School, together with their friends and families, will walk 3.25 miles on the paved and wooded paths surrounding Lake Frank in Derwood, Maryland.
Students are encouraged to seek sponsorships for each mile they walk from friends, family members and neighbors as a way to raise money and inform the community about the plight of the children in this region who, daily, have to walk up to 30 miles a day in search of water for their families.
Registration forms are starting to come in; we are hoping that around 100 students, plus their families, will walk together. If you have friends in the D.C. area, please tell them about A Walk For Water. Everyone is welcome to join us! You can download a flyer, registration form and sponsorship sheets by following the instructions in this link: Instructions for Downloading.
Through Amman Imman, students are well-informed about the conditions in the Azawak, and what people go through on a daily basis, whether during the dry or rainy season, to have water. Students at Oneness-Family School first heard about the Azawak, when Ariane Kirtley came to the school in October, 2006, and spoke to teachers and students about Amman Imman’s mission there. Her stories, illustrating the extremes of poverty and generosity, lack of water and abundance of spirit in the people of the region moved the community deeply.
Since that time, Oneness-Family School students have taken the message outward, first with Ariane at a Montessori conference in Florida, and then to students in other schools. Using a slide show of Ariane’s pictures, the Oneness students presented the Amman Imman project to students at the Barrie School and the Monocacy Valley School. Subsequently, students from the Barrie School presented Amman Imman to students at the Evergreen School. Oneness-Family School students are again scheduled to present the project at the Love of Learning Montessori School on Friday, May 4.
A Walk for Water provides an opportunity for students in America to walk in friendship and solidarity for these children, making a statement that says: we are going to do something to help; we are changing the balance of things; we are here for you, our brothers and sisters.
It is a powerful message from children in a land of abundance of resources for children in a land of scarcity of resources. Yet it makes sense: both children share the most important thing in common: plenty of heart to give and live. When you see Ariane's pictures of the beautiful children in the Azawak, you see their spirit, you see what helps them thrive despite abominable conditions where their lives are in danger - not from violence or threat of crime, but simply because they do not have any water to drink. This is a crime above all other crimes because it can be prevented...and it is a basic human right.
There is enough on this planet for all to thrive, and if our children can set the example of helping the children in the Azawak thrive by simply providing them water, then they are setting an example for the world to follow, to come together and find solutions to provide the simple necessities of life to all the children in the world so that they can grow up.
These wells may be expensive to build because the water table is very deep, but they are not expensive in the scheme of things, in the value of life on earth. There is a quota that is unreachable in terms of the value of life, and that is the message we want to send, not only to our children, but also to the children in the Azawak.Both deserve to know that life provides enough.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Cathy Carpenter, an upper elementary teacher at the Barrie School in Silver Spring, wrote an article for Barrie's e-newsletter that exemplifies the inspiration students can bring to each other, and then how the world can be changed by the action they take:
On February 20, 2007, upper elementary and middle school students at The Barrie School saw a heartfelt presentation from three seventh graders and the Assistant Director from the Oneness-Family School in Chevy Chase, Maryland on the drought conditions in the Azawak, an area of Niger in Africa. Debbie Kahn along with students Gabrielle Espina, Katharina Kronsteiner, and Louise Eriksson spoke to an attentive audience of fourth through eighth graders that day.
Even before Barrie teachers presented their students with an opportunity for a response to this dilemma, one Barrie student decided to take action. Sophie Klein, a fifth grader in Sara and Karen’s UE class, began to go door to door in her father’s neighborhood with her small notebook of facts about Amman Imman that were handwritten in pencil. Sophie dutifully and eloquently presented the plight of these people. Amman Imman means “Water is life” in the Tuareg language. Sophie spoke with each neighbor who greeted her about the drought conditions that exist in this area, the high rate of death and disease that it causes, and the wells that need to be dug to bring relief. In one month’s time, Sophie raised sixty-three dollars to help build wells in Africa.
One student making a difference. One student taking her feelings about a cause and moving forward.
Maria Montessori said, “Follow the Child.” Sophie, we congratulate you for your dedication to this cause and the actions you took to make a difference in the world. We will be right behind you! We will follow your example!
The thread of inspiration continues to spread, student to student: the Barrie students will be presenting Amman Imman at the Evergreen School on Tuesday.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
I just returned from 5 days out in Azawak with Moustapha, Ariane, Denis and Yannick. It was an amazing experience. They are really working hard and thinking hard about the ways to help the people in this region. I am so happy to be a part of this project. Ariane sent me back here to Niamey with the attached update for you to post. She also sent me with some pictures, which I will forward on to you once I get to the US (where there is high speed internet!).
Dear Friends of the Azawak,
Team Amman Imman arrived in the Azawak one week ago. We have been seeing and living the beauties and hardships of life here, and have witnessed people’s daily struggle for survival searching for water.
Firstly, I want to reassure everyone that our team is faring well despite the tremendous heat, fatigue, and emotional difficulty seeing people suffer firsthand. Mary, our geologist, arrived last Sunday, and has been a true asset as we have been gathering coordinates for possible future sites, and determining the geological layout of the area.
Thanks to the first borehole we built in Tangarwachane, we have not personally suffered from a lack of water. It has been very exciting to see how significantly the lives have changed of the communities living near the borehole. When I lived with these same communities in 2005 and 2006, all the children and adults were chronically sick and covered in filth and pests. They survived off of marsh water, or well water often no less contaminated. Everyone was exhausted from their daily search from water. Today they are clean and healthy, and children have time to play, and soon time to go to school. The school is in its final phase of construction and should be opening in the next few months.
We are now working to improve the management committee, particularly concerning the maintenance of the pump and sensitization concerning hygiene and sanitation. We have also determined that the solar panel pump is not appropriate for this area (its use at such great depths is not sustainable), and are discussing with the population the improvements they would like to make in particular, such as a bigger cistern, more faucets, drink basins for the animals, etc.
We have also visited up to 15 sites, and are giving special consideration for two sites where we think a borehole would serve a large number of people, and where the population has asked for a borehole and has shown the capacity to maintain it after construction.
Life for most of the people here is not as easy as for the communities living near Tangarwachane. This year the rainy season lasted fairly long, and so most people are surviving off of marsh water that has seeped into the ground. They have dug holes in the dry marsh lands from 6 to 20 meters deep to pull out just a few 20 liter jugs worth of water for their families and their animals. Hundreds of animals, large and small, wait their turn to drink a few sips of water. People often spend days at one of these wells waiting hours at a time for small quantities of water to seep into the well and provide a few more liters of water for their family members and livestock. This water is contaminated with animal excrement and often has the consistency of mud rather than water.
The deeper of the shallow wells, up to 120 meters deep, do not provide relief because they do not contain more water than the marsh wells, and they also dry up for hours or days at a time depending on how many people use them. When the wells go dry, young boys or men are sent down to dig deeper. Sometimes the wells collapse on them, but this is a necessary risk to take for the hope of having just a little more water.
Four donkeys and the strength of several grown men are needed to pull the water up from such great depths. The work is so grueling that the donkeys can only pull up a few buckets of water before having to be replaced. They must almost be beaten to be forced to move and haul and pull, and we even saw donkeys fall over from exhaustion. Just filling a bucket at such a great depth takes a lot of strength and time. At one well we calculated that it took 8 minutes to pull the bucket up out of the well with the strength of several men and four donkeys, and a least a few minutes more simply to fill the bucket before pulling it up. This exhaustion is compounded by the distance that people have to travel to find these few non sustainable and contaminated sources of water.
One boy was so exhausted the other day that he dropped a bucket filled with water after pulling it up 120 meters. He and the other children and men stood in disbelief as the muddy water spilled over and then seeped into the sand. I wanted to hold him when I saw tears of sadness swell in his eyes, knowing that he had lost most of the water he was going to bring home to his family that day.
People are thirsty. They are so thirsty that they drink anything they find. It is so hot now, up to 115 to 120 degrees. They are exhausted. But they do not give up, and continue their daily struggle traveling from water point to water point, sometimes over 30 miles, just to find a sip to stay alive.
I am sending this message along with Mary who is going back to the USA on Friday so that you do not forget the people of their Azawak: their courage and their daily struggle for survival in a land without water.
We will stay here in the Azawak for at least a couple of weeks, learning more and selecting good sites for new boreholes.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers,
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I contacted Middle School teacher Brent Harrison who told me that the 7th grade students themselves had chosen Amman Imman as the project they wanted to support. The following description comes from the Hickory Day School's website:
The seventh grade class has completed their studies on several of the major issues Africa is currently struggling with. These include poverty, AIDS, lack of water, civil unrest, and child labor. To fulfill our civil liberties our students have chosen to help support the Amman Imman Project, which means "Water is Life."
To read the story on the website, go the the student's pages here.
The students constructed a symbolic well in front of the school. During the week they organized a fundraising drive throughout the school and collected $500 from students and their families.
The school's March newsletter reported the following:
Have you consumed your 64 oz. of water today? Chances are, your answer to that is "yes". We don't have to carry water on foot, we don't have polluted water, we don't worry that our water might kill us. all these things are part of daily life in the African country of Niger. Our students opened their hearts (and wallets) to collect money to support the Amman Imman Project (Water is Life). In one short week, the HDS family collected over $500 to support the drilling of wells in Niger. These wells will provide fresh, clean water to thousands of people who currently get their drinking water from polluted water holes. Students were eager to participate. They took time to investigate the quality of life in Niger and then whole-heartedly accepted the task of building the symbolic well on the Pavillion, as well as educating and motivating all the classes to participate.
The Hickory Day School, with only 62 students, raised just over $500 in that one week! On behalf of Amman Imman and the people in the Azawak, we thank the 7th graders at Hickory Day for taking this initiative!
Sunday, April 01, 2007
I invite each person reading this post to donate a month of water to the Azawak of West Africa.
Please...please help us bring water to the people of the Azawak, so that their children may have hope to have a future.Click here to go to the Amman Imman website to make your donation.