A Powerful Partnership for Learning and Service:
Stillwater Junior High School, 3 Lost Boys of Sudan, H2O For Life and Water For Sudan
SJHS Students Raise More Than $11,000 To Fund Wells in Southern Sudan
The Lost Boys of Sudan are 27,000 boys orphaned during the 2nd Sudanese Civil War who undertook an incredible journey to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, enduring separation from families, war, hunger, wild animals and disease. In 2001, 3800 were resettled in the U.S. They Poured Fire On Us From the Sky is the story of three Lost Boys - Benjamin Ajak, Benson Deng and Alephonsion Deng.
For the past two school years, 9th grade AP Human Geography students at Stillwater Junior High School in Stillwater, Minnesota have read and responded to They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky. Thanks to grants from the Partnership Plan for Stillwater Schools and District #834 Diversity Funds, co-authors Benjamin Ajak (2009) and Benson Deng (2010), have travelled from San Diego, California to Stillwater to share their experiences as Lost Boys of Sudan. Benjamin and Benson each spoke with more than 300 Geography students in classrooms and with the Stillwater community via evening public presentations. Through this experience, students have learned that one of the most critical issues facing Southern Sudan today is the lack of access to clean, safe water.
A chance meeting in San Diego between Patty Hall, founder of H2O For Life (a Minnesota non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean water and sanitation to schoolchildren around the world) and a friend of Judy Bernstein, editor and mentor to Benjamin, Benson and Alepho, sparked a new partnership. When Patty first learned that Benjamin would be speaking in Stillwater in December 2009, she contacted Stillwater AP Human Geography teacher Sara Damon and suggested Benjamin’s visit serve as a catalyst to build a relationship between Stillwater Junior High students, H2O For Life and Water For Sudan.
Thanks to this powerful partnership, Stillwater Junior High students not only have a deeper understanding of geography concepts related to culture, migration and the refugee experience, but are also able to contribute to a better future for the family and friends of the Lost Boys. Collaborating with Water For Sudan is especially meaningful for Stillwater students, as the organization was founded by Salva Dut, himself a former Lost Boy.
During the 2009-2010 school year, students set a goal of raising $5000, to be matched by Water For Sudan for the construction of a well for a village in Southern Sudan. Students met and exceeded that goal - selling t-shirts, bracelets and tickets to Benjamin Ajak’s public presentation, bagging groceries at a local Cub Foods store, and speaking with and seeking donations from Stillwater Rotary Clubs. Additional donations were provided by local bookstore Valley Bookseller, the Minnesota Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and H2O For Life.
2010-2011 fundraising efforts kicked off with a Walk For Water in September. More than 100 Stillwater Junior High students, staff and family members collected pledges and walked 6 kilometers (15 laps on the school track) carrying 6 liters of water, symbolizing the walk for water taken by students in developing countries on a daily basis. In addition, students sold t-shirts and tickets for Benson’s Deng’s evening presentation and are looking forward to a forthcoming donation from the Stillwater Area High School National Honor Society based on proceeds from their annual coffeehouse event. Some 9th graders decided to “pay it forward” and have donated their holiday cash gifts. As of January 2011, students have raised more than $6800 and are well on their way to meeting this year’s goal of $10,000 to fund two additional wells.
Read student responses to They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky and Benson Deng’s visit here: http://apgeog.blog.stillwater.k12.mn.us/from-sudan-to-stillwater/
Learn more about H2O For Life here: http://www.h2oforlifeschools.org/
Learn more about Water For Sudan here: http://www.waterforsudan.org/
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