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Laguna Beach High club rallies to raise money for water wells in Africa

Utah Urushido shows off stickers she created for the Walk for Water event this weekend at the Laguna
Utah Urushido displays the stickers she created for the Walking for Water event Saturday at the Laguna Beach High School track.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

When a group of Laguna Beach High students heard what people in the landlocked West African nation of Burkina Faso do to get water, they knew they couldn’t turn their backs and say it was someone else’s problem to solve.

Thus in 2016 students Charlotte Watkins and Ellie Glade joined a school club dedicated to raising money to build wells in one of Africa’s poorest countries.

On Saturday, the school’s Walking for Water Club, in partnership with the nonprofit Wisdom Spring, will host a morning of laps around the campus track, games, face painting, and a raffle, all to raise funds for wells.

“If [African women] can walk up to 20 miles, we can walk to get water,” Watkins, club president, said in a phone interview Wednesday, alluding to the distance some African residents — balancing heavy jugs on their heads — will go to retrieve water.

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Susan Hough, right, board president of Wisdom Spring, stands with students from Laguna Beach High Sc
Susan Hough, right, board president of Wisdom Spring, stands with students from Laguna Beach High School's Walking for Water Club who will participate in the fundraising walk Saturday. The students have partnered with Wisdom Spring for the walk.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Sometimes women must wait hours for the water table to rise to collect the prized resource, according to the Wisdom Spring website.

If the table does not rise, men dig up mud and the women squeeze whatever water they can, the website said. They then scatter ash atop the mud to separate it from the water.

Watkins’ mother is a friend of Susan Hough, Wisdom Spring’s board president and youth project coordinator. Hough moved to Laguna Beach in 2011 from Virginia, where she was involved with Wisdom’s Spring efforts to raise money for wells.

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The nonprofit also raises money to pay for children to go to school in Africa.

A group of Virginia high school students orchestrated the first Walking for Water fundraiser in 2004 after hearing Wisdom Spring’s founder Sobonfu Some explain the work required to access water.

“In the cities of Africa, there are faucets but never a guarantee that any water would come out,” the Wisdom Spring website said. “There are plenty of days when people turn it on and get nothing but air.”

Some, who had a weakened immune system from dirty water, died in January at age 48.

To date, crews have built 26 wells in Burkina Faso and have seven more scheduled to be built in the next year, including a well in Kenya, Hough said.

It costs between $10,000 to $12,000 to build one well in Burkina Faso, Hough said. A contractor in Africa builds the wells.

Laguna’s Walking for Water Club, which has 25 members, has spent the last few months seeking sponsors and businesses willing to donate goods for the raffle.

They hope to raise another $15,000 to bring their total to $30,000, enough for three wells, Glade, the club’s public relations coordinator and high school senior, said.

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Glade said Watkins inspired her to join the club.

“It’s exciting that I can save lives, even though it takes a lot of work,” Glade said. “It’s worthwhile.”

Charlotte Watkins, president of the student Walking for Water Club, center, stands with Greg Friedma
Charlotte Watkins, president of the student Walking for Water Club, center, stands with Greg Friedman, host of the Inner Journey show on KX 93.5, and Wisdom Spring board president Susan Hough in front of sign promoting Saturday's Walking for Water fundraiser.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Hough said high school students inspire her with their motivation to make a difference.

“Having this heart is so touching,” Hough said. “I’ve never had a group of teens so ambitious as this group.”

The walk starts at 9 a.m. at the school’s track at 625 Park Ave. Participants can walk up to 3 miles.

Adult admission is $20 and student admission is $15 with school identification. Children 4 and younger are admitted free.

To register for the walk, visit eventbrite.com/e/walking-for-water-in-laguna-beach-ca-june-3-2017-tickets-34211859593.

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To donate, visit wisdomspring.org/donate.

bryce.alderton@latimes.com

Twitter: @AldertonBryce


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