Northwest NEWS

June 11, 2001

School

Not sure what to get your child's teacher? Try the gift of water

Every year, parents face the challenge: what to buy for Janie's teacher? Teachers also face a challenge:what to do with all the strange gifts they get from their students? This year, Starr Klube's sixth grade class at Sunrise Elementary is giving something that will change lives: the gift of water.
   It started last year, when Klube thought of a way to channel all that goodwill toward a good cause. "I found out about WaterPartners from Lois Nelson, a parent of one of my students, and thought that helping people get safe water would be a great lesson for my students," she said. "What really struck me was that someone on this planet dies from sickness caused by impure water everytime I breathe! Clearly, the children can do something here to make a difference."
   She asked Marla Smith-Nilson of WaterPartners International, a Seattle resident, to come talk to her class about WaterPartners' projects.
   Then, with the assistance of Nelson, Klube organized the students and parents to donate to WaterPartners instead of buying her presents.
   Nelson says, "I thought it was an excellent project, especially because my daughter and her classmates could learn about world needs beyond our backyards."
   Last year, the students in Klube's class gave $335 to WaterPartners. Those funds helped people in Cololaca, Honduras, start building a safe water system. In this way, the students are giving safe water to families in developing countries, and the gift of extra closet space to their teacher.
   "Most of us have more than we need," says Nelson.
   The activity also helps the U.S. students appreciate their access to safe water, especially in the face of the local drought. Since it was a success last year, Klube asked Smith-Nilson to talk to this year's class, too.
   Each day, an estimated 25,000 people in developing countries die of water-related diseases, and 15,000 children under the age of five die of dehydration.
   Water-related disease accounts for 80 percent of all sickness in the world and claims approximately 10 million lives each year. It is easy to take for granted access to a safe supply of drinking water.Yet, more than one billion people in developing countries lack this most basic commodity, according to the World Health Organization.
   WaterPartners International is a non-profit organization that addresses the water supply and sanitation needs of people living in developing countries.
   They promote innovative and cost-effective community water projects that have the greatest chance for long-term success. All of the water projects WaterPartners has funded are still operating. WaterPartners works through local partners in developing countries.
   They carefully seek out and support organizations that have proven their ability to facilitate quality projects at the community level. After funding the projects, they stay involved with site visits and progress reports to insure long-term sustainability.
   WaterPartners International began in 1990 as a benefit dinner organized to support a safe drinking water project in Honduras.
   It was founded by Gary White and Marla Smith-Nilson. Smith-Nilson is the Director of International Programs.
   To date, the group has funded 49 projects benefiting more than 20,000 people.
   For more information, visit their Web site at www.water.org.