Cash has been flowing toward charities supporting vital water projects of late, thanks to some liquid measures promoted by Harker’s Global Empowerment and Outreach (GEO) club.
Selling water bottles, gaining sponsorship for coffee-eschewing teachers, and topping it all off with a group dunking of campus adults, GEO’s diverse efforts generated sums far beyond initial expectations for charity:water, a nonprofit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations. The funds will help dig a pair of wells to provide clean water in places where that crucial commodity has hitherto been inaccessible.
GEO members were inspired by the Harker Speaker Series talk by activist Rick Smolan, who expressed enthusiasm for the lengths to which GEO members took his ideas and ran with them,
“One of the things that disturbed me so much as I worked on The Blue Planet Run book was how little attention the world was paying to something so important to every person on the planet. To be able to positively affect the lives of others at such a young age is something I don’t think any of the Harker students will ever forget and I am thrilled to think my lecture touched your students on such a deep level,” Smolan said. “Please extend my congratulations to all the students involved in this amazing effort.”
GEO’s efforts began in October, when students began raising money by selling water bottles and foot bands: rubber bands that students wore around one of their feet to symbolize the distances people in poor areas must walk to obtain dirty and often contaminated water. Teachers also gave up their favorite drinks for a week, and several students carried around jugs of dirty water to remind others of the reality of those less fortunate. The GEO fall week also included an appearance by charity:water representative Lane Wood and a special relay race among all the upper school grade levels that was won by the class of 2011.
All the deprivation, exertion and solemn remembrance of others’ difficulty gave way to some celebrating after the unexpectedly large fundraising totals were announced at a special meeting on Davis Field Nov. 9. Students were directed to the Singh Aquatic Center, where they were treated to their reward for raising more than $10,000: witnessing several of the school’s faculty and staff leap into the pool, fully clothed. The intrepid squadron of educators gathered at pool’s edge as a youthful chorus counted down “5…..4…..3….2….1!” At the appointed moment, into the drink they leapt, followed by good-natured frolicking. The Wet Ones: history teachers Julie Wheeler, Dan Hudkins, Ramsay Westgate, language instructors John Hawley, Diana Moss, performing arts teacher Jeffrey Draper, computer scientist Fred Triefenbach, college counselor Kevin Lum Lung, journalism teacher Chris Daren as well as alumni director Christina Yan and athletic director Dan Molin.
A bracing dip might have been just the ticket for another set of educators participating in the water-improvement campaign. Many of those who gave up or cut back on their favorite beverages ended up reducing their caffeine intake. The abstainers included science teachers Matthew Harley, Mala Raghavan, Eric Nelson and Gary Blickenstaff; math teachers Rama Sethia, Tony Silk and Jeannette Fernandez; history teachers Ramsay Westgate, Carol Zink, Julie Wheeler, Dan Hudkins, Donna Gilbert and Nicole Jensen; foreign language teachers Shawn Jahshan and Nicholas Manjoine; Naomi Schatz (psychology), Adam Nelson (debate), Jeff Draper (theater), Susan King (computer science) and Greg Lawson, the assistant head of school for student affairs .
After the week, participating teachers reported the challenge had been refreshing and less daunting than expected. Blickenstaff, well known for his dependence on a cup of joe during lectures, claimed that the prospect of living on half of his coffee dose was tolerable, and that he would give it up again if necessary. Raghavan even called the coffee cutback “fun”, declaring, “I was happy to have made it with just one cup a day for the whole week. I actually slept better.”
Together with the Lug-a-Jug fundraiser, Cups-for-a-Well donations and merchandise sales, the GEO-led effort brought in $10,918, allowing for a contribution of $10,118 after deductions to cover costs. Prospective users of the wells were not alone in benefiting from the project. Said GEO secretary Rashmi Sharma Gr. 12: “Pursuing outreach through GEO has helped me foster my passion about learning about international issues and how I can help solve them by empowering others.”