Somers Students Hope to Bring Fresh Water to Uganda


SOMERS, N.Y. - A community in Uganda will soon have fresh drinking water thanks to the students at Somers High School.

The school kicked off a two-week fundraiser Friday, March 4, with a presentation by the executive director of the Ugandan Water Project, James Harrington. The funds will be used to install a rainwater filtration system for a Ugandan community.

“The Ugandan Water Project is a non-profit organization that works with sponsors in the U.S. to provide safe accessible drinking water and other catalyst resources to communities in Uganda,” the Ugandan Water Project website states.

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Harrington started the project in 2007 and since then the organization has funded 250 projects bringing clean water to approximately 80,000 people in Uganda.

Jack Sullivan, a member of the student council, had heard Harrison speak at a convention in November and was so inspired, he asked Harrington come speak at the school.

“You told me not only about a problem that needs fixing, but how to fix a problem, and how I could do it and how my peers could do it,” Sullivan said to Harrington during the assembly.

Sullivan, Harrington and the rest of the student council have challenged the community to raise $3,600 to supply a rainwater collection system for a school in Uganda.

Harrington explained that for most communities in Uganda it takes an hour to walk to a water source, an hour to fill their jugs, an hour to carry the 40-pound jugs back. After that they have to find wood to boil the water, and then wait three hours for it to cool. However, the country’s 80 inches of annual rainfall make it a great candidate for this method of water filtration. According to the website, there are currently 241 campaigns being conducted toward creating new systems.

During the assembly, Harrington demonstrated how the filter works. He polluted the water with horse manure and clay and then called up volunteers to sample it. He said he has absolute faith in the filtration system and that his crew used the filters while in the field and hasn’t gotten sick.

The Ugandan Water Project hopes to use the funds raised in Somers to provide a rainwater collection system for Wells of Hope Academy in Kampala District. A typical system lasts 30 years and can supply water for 300 people. The filters themselves last for 10 years (or 1 million gallons). The organization provides two filters for each installation.

Sullivan said he has faith in his fellow students and the community to raise the money. He said Harrington told him to “keep your expectations low and the world will never stop surprising you.”

“Those words have stayed with me to this day, but I have to admit my expectations for Somers High School are huge,” he said.

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