When sinks and drinking fountains were turned off for one day at Timothy Christian School (TCS) in Etobicoke, students were given buckets and invited to seek hydration elsewhere—first to their gym, where a small pool of murky water was set up, and then to a water purifying station in a nearby classroom.
The dirty “pond” was an important aspect of “Saving Water Day”, an event meant to get the school community thinking about the significance of clean water, and how rare that resource can be in so many parts of the world.
The day was also about taking action and making a difference. Students took part in water themed activities with the goal of raising funds for Bopoma Villages, a small charity that works alongside local leaders to provide clean water to communities in rural Zimbabwe, by providing households with Biosand Filters (BSFs). Just one BSF can provide a family of ten with 60-80 litres of purified water per day. They are durable, require no fuel or electricity and are constructed from materials available in almost all rural communities.
Through Saving Water Day, which included a water themed bake sale (think blue cupcakes and aqua tinted rice crispy squares) and their water walk activity (which required many trips to the gym “pond”) the TCS community was able to raise close to $1000.00.
It was an outcome that far exceeded the students’ initial goal of raising $300.00—an amount that would have only covered the cost of three BSFs.
Grade 5/6 teacher at TCS, Janice Meidema, was thrilled with the grand total.
“For me it was overwhelming to see how our community of students and parents helped give to this cause,” said Meidema. “It was also great to see how my students were working. They were so focused on this task. This was a very real thing to them.”
Indeed, Saving Water Day was about more than just manning water filter stations or selling homemade goodies: It was also a chance for students to act locally within their community while thinking about realities that may have never crossed their minds before.
“I found out that not a lot of people have clean water and running water from taps.” said Renee, a grade 6 student. “Not everyone is privileged to go the the doctors either,” she added.
The health risks that come with a water crisis became especially “real” to students like Renee when Bopoma Village founders, Randy and Natalie Watson, spoke at their Saving Water Day assembly.
Students learned that Randy’s life changed after witnessing the devastating impact of the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, due to contaminated drinking water. That experience fueled he and his wife to build and distribute Biosand Filters in Zaka, a rural area in the country.
Meidema noted that the assembly’s message was eye opening for her as well, and served as a reminder that “God calls us to reach out and help those in need when we can”.
Grade 5/6 students had the opportunity to “reach out” with a spirit of team work and creativity thanks to their school election, which invited them to form three “political parties” and work towards a specific mission of their choosing.
Although “The Aqua Party” had some stiff competition (one competing party promised to get rid of homework for a week, the other promised to plan a school wide scavenger hunt) their campaign slogan, “saving water, saving lives” caught the interest of many student voters at the school.
Fortunately, though, their campaign didn’t end at a catchy slogan. Students were invited to follow through on their unique platform promises. And they rose to that challenge with gladness.