H2O For Life in Uganda
An idea to help the global water crisis started in a Minnesota classroom, while another person in a row boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean dreamed of motivating others to solve the same global problem. And then the ideas flowed together in Minnesota—specifically, Blaine—where Aveda, a global company known for its commitment to a healthy planet, allocated sponsorship funds to an organization called H2O for Life, allowing the nonprofit to expand its message to schools around the country.
Patty Hall, a teacher at Highview Middle School in New Brighton, founded H2O for Life as a way to partner U.S. classrooms with countries such as Kenya, where clean water is needed most. Since the program’s start in 2007, more than 750 U.S. schools—that’s roughly 300,000 students—have provided more than $2 million for new wells, latrines, and hygiene education projects in more than 530 schools in developing countries. With access to clean water reaching more schools abroad, this means kids who used to walk several miles a day to get fresh water for their families can spend more time in school. H2O for Life also provides work to people in these countries: wells need to be dug, and pipes need to be installed, among other tasks. Global ambassadors provide education to the native people about how to get fresh water and keep it clean, and all the benefits of clean water.
Hall says that some Minnesota teachers have expressed their classrooms want to participate but don’t have the ability to fund a large project. “No problem,” Hall says. “I just tell teachers set any amount you think you can realistically reach, and we’ll make it work.” Some schools are able to raise enough funding alone, but many partner with other area schools to make a joint donation for a school abroad. So far Minnesota has 59 schools participating in this program, while the other states average about five.
All of the money raised by kids goes directly toward the H2O for Life classroom projects abroad. The corporate sponsorships fund other aspects of the program like marketing materials for teachers and people such as Katie Spotz who serves as an ambassador with H2O for Life, traveling to schools around the country motivating kids with her own adventures and why it’s important to have clean water around the world.
Spotz, a self-professed former bench warmer, ran her first marathon to benefit lung cancer when she was 18. That was the moment she discovered her passion of combining fitness and philanthropy. Nine years later, she’s cycled 3,300 miles from Seattle to Washington, D.C., ran a 62-mile marathon in Melbourne, Australia, holds a record for the first solo row across 3,038 miles of the Atlantic Ocean, and is the first person to swim across the 325-mile Allgheny River. And now, she’s using that clout to get kids around the country informed about how they can help fight the global water crisis.
Though Spotz has answered funny questions such as, “If you spent 70 days rowing on a boat, does that mean you now want to sleep on water beds?” she says she’s blown away by the majority of kids who have a passion for good causes and want to fundraise.
Hall echoes the sentiment, “The H2O program is important for so many reasons—not just for getting clean water to people who need it, but as a teacher it’s so cool to see that it helps kids get motivated in classrooms. I have kids who used to be quiet and sit on the sidelines that now jump at the chance to be a part of this program—it’s remarkable to see.”
Spotz is partnered with H2O for Life for the next three years talking to kids at schools around the United States about fundraising. This weekend, H2O for Life will be hosting the Water Ball gala at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Paul. For more information, head to h2oforlifeschools.org.