For many Americans, it is hard to imagine that there are inhabited places around the globe, including tens of thousands of villages in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where there is no clean water to drink.
In early 2012, Susan Molloy, a sixth-grade teacher at Levy-Lakeside Elementary School in Merrick, set out to teach her two classes of students about this great inequality by having them read “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, a short novel about the lives of two South Sudanese children who are dramatically affected by their lack of access to clean water. One of the children is a fictional young girl, Nya, and the other is the real-life Salva Dut, who is now an adult and made his way to the United States to study business after he was separated from his family during the Sudanese Civil War in the mid-1980s and lived in a refugee camp for 10 years. “Long Walk” details Dut’s journey to eventually found Water for South Sudan, Inc., a non-profit organization that drills wells that provide safe drinking water to people in South Sudanese villages.
Molloy said she hoped to expand her students’ knowledge of the world beyond their own borders and instill in them the desire to help those less fortunate than themselves. She had no idea then how quickly they would pay the lesson forward.
She and several of her former students, who spoke to the Herald Life this month, said it was student Ben Carmichael who, after reading Park’s book and learning about WFSS, first suggested raising the money to pay for one of WFSS’ wells. From there, it was a semester-long dash to raise several thousand dollars, a project unlike any that then 11- and 12-year-old children had undertook before.
They began a fundraising campaign called “Kids Who Care.” Students Andrew Greenberg and Ben Birke designed T-shirts for sale. Carmichael designed bracelets. Jessica Rosen and Jessica Estrin made flyers, and all 41 students helped create posters and spread awareness. Parents lent their time, helping keep track of funds and, in the case of one who owned Long Island’s Laser Bounce in Levittown, letting the children host a school-wide fundraiser at the venue. Molloy said her students raised more than $5,000.