Two Meadow Elementary students experience the African way of transporting containers of water at an assembly. | Nicole Kunze

Teachers and students at Meadow Elementary are raising money for a Village Drill- a lifesaving invention that brings fresh water to African villages.

The students have been reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, a book based on the true story of Salva, a Sudanese boy who was separated from his family by war. Salva leads 150 boys on foot to safety in Kenya and ends up being one of the 3,800 Sudanese “Lost Boys” airlifted to the United States in the mid-1990s. Park’s book also tells the story of Nya, a young girl who lives in the Sudan today. Nya and other young children in villages all over Africa spend all their time fetching water for their families.

“What would a day here at Meadow Elementary be like if you didn’t have any water? You wouldn’t have a drink of water to wash down your sandwich and apple at lunch. There wouldn’t be water fountains to drink from. We wouldn’t have bathrooms because there would be no water to flush the toilets. You wouldn’t be able to wash your hands,” said Sonja Jorgenson from WHO Lives, a non-profit organization bringing clean water drills to villages in Africa. Jorgenson’s presentation included photos and videos she took on a recent trip she took to Kenya where she watched as a clean water drill was installed in the village.

Jorgenson explained to the students that a typical woman or child walks over three miles a day to fetch contaminated water. The women and children place a donut-shaped roll of fabric on their head, then balance a large container weighing as much as 50 lbs. when it’s filled with water, on top of the donut. Almost 6,000 children die of water-related diseases each day in Africa.

In 2011, the BYU school of engineering was approached by Village Drill founder, John Renouard, with the concept of bringing a clean water drill to remote African villages without access to clean water. Renouard’s vision was quickly adopted by the BYU team and they soon introduced the Village Drill to the world. The drill can be quickly disassembled and transported, fitting easily in the back of a small truck. The manually operated Village Drill can drill up to 270 feet to access clean water. Because of the Village Drill, African children, particularly girls, can attend school instead of spending all their time fetching water.

“Children around the world are more alike than they are different. They just need the opportunity to be healthy and strong. Instead of spending their days collecting water and wishing for a better future, let’s get them clean water and the chance to go to school,” said Jorgenson to loud cheering from the assembled students. Meadow Elementary is spending this week bringing in their coins and loose change to raise funds for a Village Drill, maybe two. The drills cost about $3500 each.

“This is life-changing for the kids,” said Jorgenson. “This is a miraculous way for kids to connect with children across the world who need their help. They can take action! If everyone did just a little bit, the problem would be solved.” One Village Drill brings clean water to 1000 people.

WHO Lives is available for presentations at schools statewide. Donations can also be made online at WhoLives.org.

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