campaign to watch: second graders sweat for clean water.

Blog Home | | updates
start campaign button

campaign: Haverford Class of 2020
end date: June 30
campaign leaders: Haverford’s second grade class (Haverford, Penn.)
campaign mission statement:
On June 1, 2010 the second grade walked for water because in Africa people have unsafe drinking water. They have to carry a lot of gallons on their backs and walk a long time for unsafe drinking water that they can get sick from. I walked three miles and one lap around the track… I felt proud of myself because I was helping people in Africa. — a Haverford student

The Haverford second grade class tells us what it takes to Walk for Water — and raise $7,500 in the process:

How Haverford used charity: water to teach about the water crisis:



Teachers showed a six-part learning series of videos in class, starting with a charity: water video.


Kids made 3D posters to visualize the water crisis and Walk for Water t-shirts and key chains in art class.

online research.

Kids read blogs and other online materials from charity: water and the Peace Corps on water availability.


cultural dance event.

The school hosted an African folklore dance event with local performers and drummers.

facts + stats.

Kids learned facts about the water crisis and conservation; they presented book reports on African countries.

looping in parents.

Teachers involved parents from the start and encouraged further learning and discussion about water at home.


Walk for Water.

The grand finale: the kids walked around their school’s track to raise money for a water project. Teachers then did follow-up the day after the walk, asking students to write how they felt to walk and why it was important to them.

The Haverford School’s second grade class in Haverford, Penn., started learning about the water crisis early this year; by July 1, they’d funded an entire water project. We talked to Susan Reisbord, who coordinated the campaign, about what it takes to get a class of eight-year-olds to fight the water crisis with everything they can:

Where did the kids hear about charity: water in the first place?
Each year with this grade, we do a learning service project at school. The school takes this seriously — it’s not just community service or a big donation; the students have to learn along the way and put in sweat equity.

haverford logo
This year, the boys had a unit, where they were going to learn African dance and drumming by artists over the course of several months. We talked to teachers and realized it’d be such a good match to build a well in Africa. So I searched for a charity… we were looking for an organization that put 100% of donations towards a well. We didn’t want it to be a churchy organization; we have religious diversity in the school and didn’t want to offend anyone. And the learning materials had to be compelling. So as soon as I found charity: water, I thought, “This is definitely it.”

Was it hard to get kids on board?
Not really at all. We explained that one in eight people in the world don’t have water. They just got it. Then we did water facts, where the kids learned about how little fresh water there is in the world. And we sent the kids to the charity: water website, the Peace Corps blog and other sites to get more information.

Give us a run-through of the whole campaign.
We kicked off the whole thing with the charity: water video and spent months preparing for an African dance night where local musicians would play and perform (the kids learned about African folklore in Language Arts class). On May 5, we held the event at the school. All the parents came in for that and we ran the charity: water movie in the background so parents would get it. We kicked off campaign that day. The parents say the boys got it more than any other learning service project. It’s the materials charity: water provided, the photos and the statistics… they’re really compelling.

And throughout it all, you were fundraising for a well?
Yes — The culmination of the entire unit was the Walk for Water, where the kids would see what it’s like to walk four miles with a gallon of water. We asked, “Can you guys do it for one day? Other people do it everyday.”

One mom said to me, “If they don’t remember anything else about second grade, they’ll remember this.” They could do something about a big issue in this world. They’re going to take that away.

We handed out sponsor forms and little envelopes. There are 60 boys in the class; some donated their own birthday money, some set up lemonade stands, others asked family and neighbors. It was incredible how much they jumped on.
walkingAnd how did the Walk for Water turn out?
The kids were set on walking four miles, as that’s the average walked by families in Africa for drinking water. But most of them blasted through to 5+ miles, all with a gallon of water on their back, because they were paid by the mile.

Afterward, they wrote about how they felt to walk. Their reflection of it was, “I can’t believe kids do this all day.”

They really got how lucky they are and how hard it would be to fetch water. They were so proud to make a difference.
kid with waterWow. How did you get the kids so invested?
The teachers really embraced this project. They were having the boys make these 3D posters in the school. k-12 school, pretty big. Kids hitting up teachers for their campaigns. Teachers went out and bought t-shirts — art teachers coordinated kids putting their footprint on each shirt.

That was what was interesting — because there were these other modules about the learning part. The boys were blown away learning about how little drinking water there is on the earth. And they made little key chains to show that. They really got into the comprehensive learning about the whole idea of water.

So you brought the water crisis into their classroom, empowered the kids to fund a well… you got a lot done this spring. Was there anything else the kids took away?
Every step of the way the boys came together as a whole team. At first, one kid would say “I got a hundred!” and another is crying because he had two. So we made it a team thing, and it was really inspiring. the teachers tear up when they talk about it.

One mom said to me, “If they don’t remember anything else about second grade, they’ll remember this.” They could do something about a big issue in this world… I think they’re going to take that away. If they put their heads together and work their butts off, they can make a difference. And I think that’s huge, that they can take this work ethic with them.

And they’ve realized the world is bigger than where we live. And there are vastly different living conditions. They get that now, when they turn on the faucet, how different that is in the world, whereas I don’t think they thought twice about it before this happened.


Susan’s advice for running a mycharity: water campaign in schools:

1. Have a venue for introducing the parents early on.
Since we involved them at the beginning of the campaign, they were paying more attention when the kids came home with bits and pieces.
2. Use all these learning segments — it helped them put their arms around the facts.
Leading up to the event, the learning builds a crescendo. The boys were dying to walk, they couldn’t wait. We talked about it for six weeks. There was momentum and that was huge.
book3. Never underestimate the kids.
We didn’t know how long they’d be able to walk. I thought they’d make two miles, so I was stunned when they all made four miles. I’d recommend getting pledges per lap or mile. At first, I advocated flat-rate donations. My mistake was assuming that the boys would under-perform… but they over-performed! They counted every lap, especially the ones who were earning money per lap. Several parents had to tack on extra money online because they pledged per lap.
4. Markers are important.
$5,000 means a well. Four miles. One gallon. We decided the markers early on so they could think about them.
5. Use — it’s easy and simple.
Although some parents gave checks for us to mail in, we used the mycharity: water page because it made it very easy. Next year, when we do this again, we’ll put all donations there instead of mailing in checks.

Think your school can help us take on the water crisis? It’s easy to start your own campaign like this — and 100% of what you raise goes straight to building water projects. Learn more about our Water for Schools program here.

Previous from the field: far. Blog Home Next water news: elephants + malnutrition + Asian economics