As the holiday season approaches and we draw nearer to the end of the year, we take time to assess the events and achievements we have enjoyed. At Africare, we recognize how very much we have to be thankful for -- through individual donations alone, Africare raised more than $1 million in 2012.
Donations come from all over the world and from people of all backgrounds, races and ages -- from as far away as Australia and from children as young as 9 years old.
The philanthropic enthusiasm represented by younger donors gives us pause and compels us to feel optimistic about the future. More and more, the importance of "giving back" and "paying it forward" are becoming the ethos of an educated, aware, empowered younger generation that, at a very early age, is taking action to change the world for the better.
In Paradise Valley, a small town near Phoenix, Arizona, groups of fifth-grade students at Phoenix Country Day School made a commitment and a social investment in bettering the lives of Africans by helping them access clean water. To support it, they hosted their annual walkathon, Well Walk.
The tradition began in 2007 when a social studies teacher, Jane Creamer, decided to get her fifth graders involved in supporting vulnerable populations around the world. A year later, her successor Jill Scott (formerly Niemczura) decided to continue hosting the walkathon every year.
To capture and hold the children's interest, Mrs. Scott initiates a class discussion about some of the challenges kids their own age face in other parts of the world, including Africa. One example is that millions of children have to walk several miles every day to collect water, which often prevents them from attending school.
"The length of the walkathon is similar to the distance a child in Africa might have to walk to get water for his or her family. The students take pride in their efforts, and they are amazed at the final tally of the money they raise. This project has also inspired social activism in the students, as they go on to create their own charitable projects for local causes like gathering school supplies and providing basic supplies for animal shelters," says Scott.
Even though the geography curriculum has changed in recent years, Mrs. Scott still sees the importance of maintaining the walk.
"We have continued the tradition of the Well Walk because of the success we have seen as a school. The students not only learn about global issues in other parts of the world, they get to be part of the solution. Their actions affect the lives of others," she explains.
Phoenix Country Day School gives to Africare through African Well Fund, an organization founded in 2002 by a group of U2 fans inspired by Bono. All of the proceeds donated to African Well Fund go directly to Africare, and in the last six years the students at Phoenix Country Day School have raised over $23,000; an astounding achievement for a group of fifth graders.
"We believe that change is possible and that kids can really make a difference," says Scott.
She is right! The amount the students have raised has helped African Well Fund and Africare build over 314 wells, serving more than 330,000 people in 15 countries in Africa.
To the students and teachers of Phoenix Country Day School and to the residents of Paradise Valley, we at Africare say "THANK YOU."
This blog is part of our #GivingTuesday series, produced by The Huffington Post and the teams at InterAction, 92nd Street Y,United Nations Foundation, and others. Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday - which takes place for the first time on Tuesday, November 27 - is a movement intended to open the holiday season on a philanthropic note. Go to www.givingtuesday.org to learn more and get involved.