Students at the Oneness-Family School, in Chevy Chase, Md., jumped rope, shot hoops, dribbled basketballs and did jumping jacks to raise money for some of the poorest kids in the world.Taking its name from the organization it benefits, this “Amman-a-thon,” will donate proceeds to a grassroots water project called Amman Imman. Through a partnership with the Oneness-Family School and more than 40 other Montessori schools around the world hosting similar events, the organization drills borehole wells in an extremely impoverished region called the Azawak Valley of West Africa. The Azawak stretches throughout northern Niger and southern Mali and is near barren due to a prolonged drought.
Each jump, basket or dribble yields a pledge to the project. Students were responsible for finding donors to sponsor them to do two of the aforementioned activities.
“The kids want to save the world,” said Madhavi Ray, the first through third grade teacher at the school who created the project last year for her students and attributes the idea to the children.
After brainstorming ideas with her class, the Amman-a-thon was born. More than 30 students participated in this second annual event, which is intended to promote an interest in physical education, as well as philanthropy.
The children practiced their skills for more than a month prior to the contest, said Ray.
The event is reflective of the school’s Manifestation Program, which combines community service with world outreach, said Debbie Kahn, the Oneness Family School’s associate director.
“It really enhances the mission of the school,” said Kahn.
“It was good to be helping people in a place where they have water problems,” said second-grader Elya Baker. “Here, we go to a machine or a water fountain for water, but there they (in the Azawak) have to go for a long time.”
Benjamin Keeler, another second-grader who shot baskets and did jumping jacks, says the money he raised will go to drill another borehole well for people in the Azawak.
The project drilled its first borehole -- which brings a clean, sustainable source of water to 25,000 people and their animals -- more than a year and a half ago.
Drilling borehole wells is important, said Keeler, “because they might get sick and die when they drink dirty water.”
Students jumping rope. Another student counts the number of jumps accomplished in 5 minutes.
The Amman-a-thon follows the Friendship Bracelet Exchange with children in the Azawak. The Exchange, led by Kahn, allowed students in the United States to trade hand-made bracelets, photos and cards with children in the Azawak.
“Anytime you find a way to inspire a child to help another child, you keep it,” said Ray, Baker’s teacher.
The students at the Oneness Family School will continue their efforts to bring water to the Azawak Valley, May 16, when they participate in a Walk for Water around Lake Frank, in Derwood, Md. The school hopes to surpass the $12,000 the Walk raised last year for Amman Imman.