by Jennifer Gerfen
In Mrs. Juska’s English 9 Honors class, we started off the year with a book called A Long Walk to Water. The book was about the struggles that certain young people in South Sudan face with contaminated water, illness, war, and education. We learned that girls in South Sudan often have to forgo their educations to walk miles every day in order to find water, and the water that they do find is often contaminated and polluted. In some cases, it’s not much more than mud.
With Mrs. Juska’s help, the book inspired us to start a series of service projects to raise money to sponsor a well in South Sudan. When a well is drilled in a village, girls no longer have to walk great distances for water, so they can go to school. A well also gives villagers access to clean drinking water.
Our class split up into fundraising groups – some boys held a bake sale at Kobackers, other students used their musical instruments to street perform in front of Value Village; one group held a Peachwave fundraiser and another held a fundraiser at Empire Cinemas. These fundraisers were all successful, and the money raised went to our collective goal to build a well. Further, three girls – Alicia Eder, Rory Charbonneau, and Grace Galgano – decided to hold a Girl’s Walk for Water fundraiser. Their idea was to symbolize the girls’ situation in South Sudan by having seven girls from our English class excused from classes to walk around the track, simulating the trip girls make in Sudan, and carrying empty and full water jugs. The girls created a website to collect donations, and set their date for April 12.
We’ve met with the Southeast and Patterson Rotary Clubs to present our cause to them, and they have generously donated $1,000 each to our fundraiser. To date, the combined efforts of our class have raised over $8,000. Members of the classes of 2020 and 2021 have also raised over $2100 towards this well.
The walk itself was a humbling experience. In the book, we got to read about how the girls walked miles at a time, carrying heavy water jugs and missing out on an education. Our imaginations made that real to us – in one sense. But when we actually walked instead of going to school, their experience became our reality, if only for a day.
The walk was a very visual reminder of everything that we take for granted, and we had fun taking action for a cause that we wholeheartedly believe in. We appreciate the efforts of everyone who contributed to making our project a success. We all have the opportunity to do better for this world, and our community helped us to do just that.
Our goal to fund the cost of a well is $12,900, and we can still reach that even though the walk is over. If you’d like to donate to this cause, take a minute and go to
How Lucky We Are: A Walk Reflection
by Nora Paladino
Although we made the Girls Walk for Water as symbolic as we could, it was still nothing compared to what girls in South Sudan have to go through. It was freezing (and at times, raining) during our walk, but girls in South Sudan have to endure the opposite extreme – they walk in scorching heat. All of our feet were sore after the walk, but it made me think about how lucky I was to only have walked for six hours (with two bathroom breaks and lunch) and to have been wearing shoes. Girls like Nya have to walk barefoot every day on hot, thorn-ridden ground for much more than six hours. Our walk was successful in making all of us think about what we take for granted every day- not only do we get an education, but we get one in a building that has heat and air conditioning, and we have shoes on our feet as we make short trips from class to class.