Rain Didn’t Stop Students in Shanghai From Having Fun for the Azawak

In April 2014 we received an email from Sean Kelly, a teacher at the Fudan International School (FDIS) in Shanghai, informing us that he was organizing FDIS’s first ever A Walk for Water event--a fundraising event that is a part of our Wells of Love school program. The event raised close to $1,945. Like clockwork, Sean emailed us again this year in early June 2015 announcing that FDIS would be holding their second A Walk for Water event.

It brings us such joy when schools and groups make A Walk for Water an annual tradition. This case is especially meaningful because FDIS chose to hold another Walk for Water event despite the fact that it rained during their entire 2014 event! That demonstrates true determination and appreciation for the cause.

Our summer Intern Alicia Russo (AR) asked Sean (SK) a few follow-up questions to learn about the details of this year's A Walk for Water event. Read below to hear Sean’s thoughts and suggestions for others considering joining the Wells of Love program and holding an A Walk for Water event. If you or your school are interested in joining Wells of Love or creating a fundraiser like Sean did, please contact our Associate Director, Debra Kahn, at debbie@ammanimman.org!
AR: What made you decide to join Wells of Love and help to raise money for Amman Imman's projects?

SK: I always try to incorporate real-world action into my teaching. In most cases, this doesn't exactly mean having a full-blown community event! In this case, however, I saw that having a Walk for Water would be a great opportunity for our school to come together. When I was considering our first Walk for Water, I recognized that we really hadn't had any big community events at FDIS like I had enjoyed back at my elementary school in Virginia. The objective really was as much to have a great time together as it was to raise funds.

In my mind, before you can even think of instilling empathy on a global scale, you have to cultivate a feeling of togetherness on a community level.

After I found the information about Amman Imman, I researched a few other organizations, but decided for various reasons that Wells of Love was the right fit. I felt like your organization views the problems surrounding water in a broader, more holistic way. After wells are built, Amman Imman goes further to address related issues like health and education. Additionally, the information regarding the region's plight and it's lack of larger international support was a factor.
AR: How have you shaped the Walk for Water event model to best suit your community?

SK: As I mentioned before, our school hadn't had a lot of the traditional events that I had enjoyed as a child, such as a rummage sale, a raffle, a fun fair, or a charity drive. FDIS is a very small school - each year there are roughly seventy students in the primary division - and while such a small school has its limitations, it also has its advantages. It is far easier to mobilize a group of 70 kids than a group of 1,000!

In China, charity events are less common and there have been many public scandals. For this reason, a charity event is harder to sell. With all of these things in mind, I decided that making the event fun was critical to get the kids and the parents engaged. I thought the best way to do that would be to create an event that incorporated many types of activities, with all proceeds going to Amman Imman.

Both last year and this year, we played group games, had a rummage sale of donated items, and had an official walking time. This year, we added carnival games, including a Plinko board (like from The Price is Right); a lollipop tree; a fishing game in a big play pool with plastic magnetic sea creatures; a larger, homemade version of the 90's board game "Marble Madness" using cut-in-half pool noodles as ramps to guide the marbles; a putt-putt game; and "Blast Off," a game where you have to shoot ping pong balls off golf tees with a water gun.

AR: How were you able to incorporate Wells of Love into the classroom and educate your students on issues of water scarcity both in Niger as well as in other regions?

SK: The main educational link was Linda Sue Park's novel regarding the drought and war in Sudan called A Long Walk to Water. However, the rest of the teachers addressed water-related issues in their classes through different means. This included the making of a chart that showed how many times each of the second graders flushed the toilet each day, counting up the liters of water that were used!

Students in my class also looked beyond the novel to also consider the importance of soil and how poor farming practices can lead to desertification. We explored the reasons behind the Dust Bowl, how environmental scientists in China were trying to stop the spread of the Gobi Desert in China through the "Great Green Wall," and watched videos from the Amman Imman website to better understand the difficulties of life in the Azawak.
AR: Do you have any suggestions or encouragement to offer other schools that are considering joining Wells of Love?

SK: First, I would say that anyone planning A Walk for Water should consider ways to keep things interesting during the walk, or have other kinds of activities to break up the walk. The fact is, most elementary school kids don't really have the patience to just walk in circles. Play some music. Get some group dances going. Add some games if you can. Make it as enjoyably silly as possible! Second, I think that it was really helpful this year that all students in the school, not just students in my class who were reading the novel, considered water-related issues in their classrooms.

** For those interested in hosting A Walk for Water, you can also check out our Resources and Tools area as well!


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