High school walkers bring water to remote African village

Imagine living in a part of the world that, in mid-2019, still lacks a reliable source of water. Every morning, you and your children must trek miles to a pond – the closest one to your village. Worse, the pond is also used by wildlife and the water has been known to make villagers sick.
Such journeys are a way of life for millions across the globe. Thanks to students at Jonathan Law High School, a village in Swaziland will have a much more reliable and convenient source of pure water in the form of a newly drilled well.
Jonathan Law’s Key Club organized its Walk for Water on March 29 to raise money for the Thirst Project, a nonprofit organization that builds wells in African villages that lack reliable, immediate access to clean water. The problem is especially acute in Swaziland, a small, landlocked country in southern Africa where 26 percent of the people have limited access to drinking water.
The walk drew about 200 participants and capped a year-long effort to raise $12,000 to build the well. Club members drew inspiration from a presentation at a regional Key Club meeting last year, during which members of the Thirst Project spoke and Key Clubs from other states talked about their success at helping the organization build wells.
“It’s a great cause,” said Patrick Hall, a Law senior who is the current president of the Key Club there. “In our day and age, it’s incredible that people don’t have access to clean water.”
“When we learned about it we realized we had an opportunity to make an impact,” added the club’s secretary, Ronan O’Reilly, also a Law senior.
Donors purchased different levels of sponsorship, ranging from $5 to $25. The Keyettes – a sister organization at Jonathan Law formed when membership in the Key Club was all-male – also purchased a walk sponsorship, as did faculty members, Milford residents and both large and small businesses. Of note, Subway’s headquarters team provided sandwiches to walk participants.
“We had tremendous support from Jonathan Law faculty, students, administrators, athletic teams and the community as a whole,” noted Ted Boynton, the Key Club’s adviser and a 31-year veteran of the Jonathan Law faculty. “One of our sponsors was Trinity Wealth Management – whose founder is a former president of our club. We are very appreciative of all the support we received from people throughout the city of Milford.”
Junior Angel Santiago, who will assume the club’s presidency next year, points out that as a service organization the Key Club chooses a new project each school year. “We will be choosing a new project – and a new beneficiary – at the beginning of the year,” he said.
Boynton said the new well will have a dramatic impact on the Swaziland village’s people. Currently, they have no choice but to use water that might contain dangerous impurities.
“Village children are often the ones who have to make that daily walk for water,” he said. “They must do this before school – if they go to school at all. So this new well will have a dramatic impact on people’s health and the living conditions in their village.”
Founded in 1925, Key Club International is the oldest service program for high school students. While it mainly consists of students in the U.S. and Canada, it also has chapters in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia and Australia. Membership now totals 266,000 students worldwide.
The Thirst Project was formed in 2008 by college students on the West Coast who wanted to make a difference worldwide regarding the international water crisis. In 2012, it pledged to bring clean water to the entire nation of Swaziland by the year 2022. It also sponsors water projects in El Salvador, India, Kenya and Uganda.