Water Warriors at the Gikambira Girls School Water Tank
When they held a bake sale outside a local Trader Joe’s six years ago, seniors Maya B., Ashley W., and Siena G. had no idea the ongoing, passionate commitment to bringing safe water to Africa it would inspire, and they definitely didn’t think it would ultimately lead them to Kenya. After studying the global water crisis in 7th grade, they formed the Water Warriors club to help children in the developing world gain access to clean water. But the club has grown far beyond a bake sale and a dream to make a difference.
During the first year of its existence, Water Warriors raised more than $6,000 to fund W.A.S.H. systems (water, sanitation, and hygiene) in South Sudan and Vietnam. Six years later, they have raised more than $60,000 for schools in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, South Sudan, Vietnam, and the Dominican Republic. And during Interim Week 2018, Ashley, Maya, and Siena, along with eight other students, hopped on a 17-hour flight to visit several of the schools in Kenya and the children who now have access to clean water thanks to them.
“The first year it was just a hope and dream to reach our target amount, so when we exceeded that it spurred us to expand our goals,” said Ashley W. “It wasn’t until the following year that I was able to see the pictures from the schools we helped fundraise for, but I never thought I would have the opportunity to actually see the W.A.S.H. system in person.”
When they finally reached Kenya, the Interim group was greeted at Kibera School for Girls by excited and grateful students who welcomed them with song and dance. The Water Warriors sang Surgere for the girls, danced with them, and took many pictures before seeing the water piping they had helped fund. They also visited the Gikambura School, where they had funded a full W.A.S.H. system, complete with a rain catchment, latrines, and wash stations.
“The most impactful part of the trip was getting to interact with the amazing kids benefitting from the water systems we funded,” said Maya B. “They were such happy and energetic people, and it was awesome getting to engage with them.”
The trip also included a homestay in an agricultural village where the students cooked meals and saw bean and mango farms, as well as a fishery. There was no electricity or running water in the village, and only a sand dam to filter out toxic particles from the drinking water, which was still brown and murky.
“It was amazing to see firsthand how one small water system can change so much for women and girls,” said Gigi Bizar, middle school teacher and faculty sponsor of the Water Warriors club. “Once you empower a girl to go to school, she can advance her whole community instead of spending six hours each day looking for dirty water to bring home.”
The group took a break to go on a safari in Amboseli National Park where they saw elephants, lions, hippos, zebras, and giraffes (oh my!). They also visited with a local Maasai tribe and learned about their daily life, participated in a dance and prayer, and purchased jewelry.
“Since our trip, I have struggled to wrap my mind around the water crisis. For a relatively small cost, people in the developing world have the ability to shape someone’s world for the better,” said Siena G. “Our time in Kenya confirmed that initiatives for clean water will always be an important part of my life in community service.”