Every year 7th graders at Decorah Middle School immerse themselves in a cross-curricular project aimed to sharpen their skills while also experiencing the benefits of philanthropy.  Students in Mrs. Carrie Reed’s Global Studies class examine how water can create inequalities in societies by impacting health, education, hunger, and poverty. These same students read and analyze the novel “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park in Mrs. Pamela Dambek’s language class. The project culminates in students walking from the middle school to the Upper Iowa River to collect water to carry through town on their way back to school. 

Two years ago the 7th graders raised over $5000 from donations from family and community members and other fundraisers: enough to build one well through the nonprofit organization Water to Thrive.

Recently the class of 2027–who are now 9th graders at Decorah High School–received information about how their donation became a reality: a well that benefits over 600 people in Uganda. 

Jennifer Kondelis, Programs Assistant, and Susanne Wilson, Executive Director of Water to Thrive communicated this to the teachers and students: “In addition to providing clean, safe water to hundreds of people, your well has significantly reduced the amount of time women and children spend collecting water. Women have gained the time they need to take better care of their families and engage in income-generating activities. Children now have more time to go to school and be absent less often as water-related diseases become a thing of the past.”

They added, “Included in the cost of these projects is hygiene and sanitation training for the community. Training is also provided to a local water committee (half women) that is responsible for keeping the water project in good working order, as well as establishing a maintenance fund for on-going sustainability.”

“We are grateful to have you as a partner as we commit to bring clean water to those who so desperately need it,” they concluded.

According to their website www.watertothrive.org, “Water to Thrive transforms lives in rural Africa by bringing the sustainable blessing of clean, safe water to communities in need by connecting them to social investors, congregations, schools, individuals, and community groups with a heart to make a difference.”

W2T Well Plaque DMS

Plaque in Uganda showing DMS contribution to well.

W2T Children at Well

Children in Uganda collecting water from the well that DMS students sponsored.

W2T Ugandans by Plaque

Ugandan women collect water at the well DMS students sponsored.