Clean Water Fuels EducationEditor’s Note: As students head back to school, YSA is highlighting education and service in our Back to School Education blog series. Read blog posts from students, educators, and service-learning experts about their experiences with education and service.
Chris Olmanson discovered his passion for serving others through the nonprofit, all-volunteer organization H2O for Life. He has organized three H2O for Life fundraisers, the first two at Wayzata High School in Minnesota and the most recent at Boston College (BC) in Massachusetts. He is a sophomore at BC, planning to major in international studies with a focus on social justice issues. Patty Hall, Co-founder of H2O for Life, also wrote blog post for our Education series and it is posted in an earlier post.
Everything started in 11th grade when I found out that my high school had partnered with a nonprofit called H2O for Life and we were supposed to raise $5,000 for a school in the Philippines that needed clean and accessible water. My high school needed suggestions to raise funds and I had an idea that could potentially work. I was a cross-country runner and baseball player up to this point in high school, but because of seasons riddled with injuries, I did not performed near the level that I had dreamed. In all honesty, I saw this opportunity as a way to make a name for myself, to do something significant after a slow-start to high school, and to have something to put on my college resume. Man, did I get way more in return.
I asked my brother and close friend for help to organize a walk-a-thon fundraiser. We gathered a group of students to walk two miles to and from school each day in December to raise money for H2O for Life. We received an overwhelming response as we ended up raising $25,000, allowing us to provide several more schools with water systems. H2O for Life then provided us with photos of the children that we were helping and pen pal letters from the students at the Philippines school. It was incredible because we had changed the lives of real kids! Before the water system, the kids walked hours every day to retrieve contaminated water; wasting time that could be spent in the classroom learning and often getting sick from this water. Also without accessible latrines, girls would often stop going to school once they reached puberty. It was incredible to think that our little fundraiser could change all of this.
I felt like I had a legitimate purpose in life through this fundraiser and wanted to continue my work, so we did it again my senior year and then I did one my freshman year in college. I definitely felt like there were kids depending on me to do this. I am planning on majoring in International Studies with a focus on social justice issues and I am particularly interested in helping solve the global water crisis. H2O for Life was a phenomenal charity to work with and I have them to thank for developing my passion to serve.