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Global giving in a small community

WALK FOR WATER A small school raised more than $2,000
to build two wells in rural India

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Although Alberta is known to be one of the drier regions in Canada and drought years can be tough in agriculture, it is still very easy to take water wealth for granted.

Most Albertans — with the notable exception of First Nation children — grow up with reliable access to safe drinking water. Rural kids are raised near creeks, streams and dugouts and in the northern part of the province, freshwater lakes abound.

That’s one of the reasons why Julie Gallant, a teacher at Fort Vermilion Public School, thought students might be greatly rewarded by giving the gift of safe water. “We could really see the kids were interested in doing something outside of their own community,” she said.

Fort Vermilion is a hamlet of 750 people, 661 km northwest of Edmonton, near the northern-most edge of agriculture in Alberta. Seventy students participated in the SOPAR (Society for Partnership) program, which is a non-profit organization devoted to international development in India, to fund building a water well in an impoverished community.

“Our original goal was to raise $850 to pay for one well. We actually exceeded our goal, as students raised over $2,200 for the cause,” said Gallant. “In the end, we purchased two wells and a class set of desks for an otherwise furniture-less school classroom in India.” Fundraising events included a Valentine’s Day dance, Candy-Gram sales and a Walk for Water which alone raised over $1,600.

One of the wells was actually built at a high school. “That was a twist we weren’t quite expecting,” said Gallant. “I think that meant a lot to them. They’re high school students, and they were helping high school students. I think it really made them realize that we’re a global community and we can make an impact on people and students far away from us.”

Access to safe water is one of the biggest issues facing rural India, and it is usually the women and children who must walk tremendously long distances to bring water back to their home. Most wells built serve 150 people, but the high school well will serve 450 students. “The response was overwhelming and the community was amazing. We are very proud of our students,” said Gallant. More information on SOPAR can be found at www.sopar.ca.

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