I am the Director of Religious Education at St. Margaret Church, Middle Village, NY. In the summer of 2011, Don Magnotta approached me and asked if I was planning to do any fundraisers with the Religious Education Program. He had a proposal to have us sponsor the digging of a clean water well for a village in Ghana.
The idea interested me and I set up a meeting with the Pastor, Monsignor Steven Aguggia, the school principal, Dr. Phil Franco, Don and myself.Hearing Don talk about the village, Atikpui, broke my heart. The 4,000 inhabitants got their drinking water from a filthy river near the edge of the village. Women and children would walk up to 2 miles each way to fetch the water, which was full of communicable diseases, dirt, animal droppings and chemicals. And, depending on the size of a family, up to 5 trips or more a day were necessary.Water is HEAVY. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Imagine carrying a 5-gallon (40-pound) can or huge bowl on your head!
That’s what these women and children did multiple times a day, every day. Boiling or straining the water helped a little, but there are many diseases that are not affected by these measures. We also learned that wells are relatively inexpensive, by our standards. We all agreed that this program would be a great fit for our Religious Education and school children to become involved in. Don told us that every penny donated would go directly to the well and that we would be kept apprised of every step in the process. Then he dropped the bombshell that he would send me to GHANA to see for myself! (A trip paid for with other funding, not with the money we would raise). The opportunity was tremendous, and after discussing it with my family, I agreed. And so the H2O Project began.
The children gave up all beverages besides water for two weeks, and donated what they saved to help people around the world. We raised $6,000 for the well in Atikpui, which was completed in early 2012. I went to Ghana in February, 2012, to attend the dedication of the well and visit other areas in need. Now I'm hooked! I have since helped bring the program to other schools and aided in raising thousands of dollars to help over 20,000 people!
I journeyed to Ghana again in August of 2013 to visit Avega Ando, where we dug a well with a hand-operated pump, Nyagbo, a village on top of a mountain that has no reliable water source, and to return to Atikpui, where the standard of living is much improved, school attendance is up and people are traveling to the village from other areas to fetch clean water and trade with the residents. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people with no access to clean water, so our work has just begun.