As part of Sara Damon’s AP Geography curriculum, students at Stillwater Junior High School in Stillwater, MN, read They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan. Sara arranged for one of the authors to visit her class, which led to a fundraising project that raised $5,000 for an initiative of “Lost Boy” Salva Dut called Water for South Sudan. Students’ thirst for more service inspired Sara to then design a Fund for Teachers fellowship that took her to Kenya with the nonprofit H2O for Life, where she analyzed the impact of water wells.

“I met with administrators, teachers and students personally impacted by the fact that they now have clean water and toilets at school. “I saw and heard about the health, economic and educational effects of access or lack of access to improved water and sanitation in the school setting as well as in urban and rural home settings,” said Sara. “I shared stories and pictures with my students, staff and school community as testament to how water changes everything.”

Sara started the following school year with a new curriculum she created called “Ripple Effects: The Impact of Water and Sanitation on Standard of Living.” She also created a Story Map that summarized her experiences and demonstrated the WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) needs of Kenyan students. Then her students took over.

They hosted a school-wide Walk for Water and raised money through sponsorships and pledges for each lap around the track carrying two gallons of water, simulating the journey many in the world make on a daily basis. A student leadership team established awareness and fundraising goals and brainstormed activities, which included presentations to the Lion’s and Kiwanis clubs, Penny Wars, Chipotle fundraisers and film screenings.

Students’ determination to help meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal #6 (ensuring water and sanitation for all by 2030) resulted $80,000 raised to drill nine safe water wells in partnership with H2O for Life and Water for South Sudan.

“What I was able to see, hear and reflect upon as a result of the Fund for Teachers fellowship in Kenya allowed me to create new teaching content and to share in a compelling way the real life impact of  WASH projects,” said Sara. “I reinvigorated my desire to continue the hard work of motivating my geography students and the school community to translate geographic awareness into geographic action.”