This August, two broken wells in Tanguin Dassouri, a town in central Burkina Faso, were successfully restored, thanks in part to the fundraising and awareness campaign of a group of passionate Oceanside elementary and high school students.
The high school’s World Interest Club teamed up with the elementary school’s Project EXTRA to raise nearly $2,500 in support of the Georgi Badiel Foundation, whose mission is “to help the people of Burkina Faso and Africa gain access to clean water and sanitation,” according to the foundation’s website.
The organization’s founder, Georgi Badiel, who won Miss Africa in 2004, decided to begin a career in water activism after learning that her sister, then nine months pregnant, had to wake up at 2 a.m. and walk miles to get clean drinking water, according to the site. Georgie’s story was the inspiration for the children’s book “The Water Princess,” by Susan Verde.
Recent OHS graduate Nathan Gershengorin, then a WIC student officer, reached out to Angela Abend, the Project EXTRA coordinator, to see about partnering with them on this project according to Abend. She said that a number of the WIC students had passed through Project EXTRA when they were younger, and had participated in a similar partnership with older students in WIC, and that the current WIC students wanted to pass the torch to the next generation. Danielle Block, WIC’s faculty advisor, said that she hopes that this will be the start of an inter-school tradition.
Abend called the experience “a true highlight of my teaching career. It was beautiful to watch from beginning to end, and it all came from the students.”
According to Block, WIC prides itself on their commitment to participating in world affairs, not just learning about them. “They really do want to educate themselves and others about current world events, and try to make a difference in some way. This project was great, because it got to do all those things.”
In March, the Herald reported that WIC had presented the Georgi Badiel Foundation with a $2,000 check. The funds came from a GoFundMe page that WIC set up, and also from an interschool bottle recycling effort.
Andrew Carlins, a now-graduated former WIC officer said that getting a portion of the money through recycling bottles found as litter in the community satisfying. “Doing that action over and over again is extremely rewarding,” he said. “ … What you’re doing not only helps your environment and helps clean up Oceanside, but also Burkina Faso and other international locations.”
For the younger students, the project was most important because of the connections that it created, Abend said. She facilitated a number of Skype calls between groups of her Project EXTRA students and water activists, including Susan Verde, who wrote the children’s book about Badiel, and with Badiel herself.
“It just knocks down the walls of the classroom,” Abend said, “when they can speak to someone who lived it.” Students also participated in virtual reality experiences, which allowed them to “visit” an African village & see wells being built to provide clean, fresh water.
Project EXTRA students also presented their project to the “Students of Long Island Makers Expo” charity pitch, where they came in second place out of 76 pitches, winning $125 for the foundation.
According to Block, she and Badiel are working on setting up a pen-pal program between Oceanside and Burkina Faso schools. Block hopes to have the exchange organized by the fall.
On Aug. 2, Bediel’s foundation sent Abend a video of a group of young school children in Burkina Fasso holding a banner that read, “Merci, Thank you Oceanside School District.” The students were waving and shouting “Thank you!”