This on Earth Day is the third interview for Visions of Water, Visions of Life. We will be talking with the founder of H20 for Life. Patty Hall, a schoolteacher from Minnesota, started this NGO to help US students provide assistance for water and sanitation projects in developing countries. Witness the power of youth.
H20 for life is an organization where students in America help raise money for water and sanitation projects in developing countries. Can you explain more about how the program works?
We provide a list of schools in developing nations that need water, sanitation and hygiene education. US schools choose a partner school, study the issues surrounding the water crisis AND take action to raise funds to bring water to their partner school.
You are a schoolteacher. How did you come up with the idea of starting H20 for Life?
My daughter and I had visited Kenya on several occasions. We met a young man that asked us to find someone to help his community build a water project as they were in desperate need. I approached my middle school, Highview Middle School, in New Brighton, MN. My students overwhelmingly said “Let’s do it!” and they did! This success led to developing H2O for Life as we realized that schools in the US could make a huge impact around the world.
How has this program changed the lives of those receiving assistance in developing countries?
Statistics are showing that illnesses are decreasing in schools that receive a WASH in Schools project (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene education). Girls are more likely to continue their education once privacy is provided by addition of adequate latrines, and time spent collecting water, mostly done by girls, is diminished. Increasing access to education will help with community development over time.
How has this program changed the lives of participating students from the United States?
I believe that engaging students in service learning opportunities is essential. Students are developing skills that will be useful throughout their lives. As teachers, we also need to provide opportunities for our students to study world issues and figure out ways to make a difference. Studies have shown that students that engage in “giving” at an early age, become life-long donors and responsible global citizens for life.
How many schools have been involved in the United States? How much money has been raised for projects?
This is our third year of matching US schools. Our first year we had 16 schools – mostly in MN involved. Last year we had 120 schools in the US, spread across the nation, and this year we currently have 165 schools taking on projects. We have raised over $350,000 and expect another $300,000 this year to go to projects. Incidentally, every dollar raised by H2O for Life is matched dollar for dollar by the in-country implementing non-governmental organization.
H20 For Life is an all-volunteer run organization. How do you – and other volunteer staff – sustain the motivation and energy to lead H20 For Life?
First of all, we are no longer all volunteers. As we have grown, it has become necessary to hire an Executive Director and a Business Manager. I am a full time volunteer! We have other volunteers that help us by attending conferences to engage teachers, write thank-you notes, organize events and, more importantly, we have our SCHOOLS with amazing teachers and students that are all volunteers for H2O for Life. We need to continue to provide fresh, new, inspirational material that energizes teachers and students about our mission. As one teacher said- “Will we do it next year? Are there schools in need Absolutely!”
How can new schools get involved with H20 for Life? Is there an age limit?
We welcome any age group to participate. We have had pre-schools organize trike-a-thons to colleges that organize Walks for Water. Each school brings a different twist to events and focus. That is what makes it fun for us! We see great projects being done around the country. Our website is a place to share those ideas. Getting involved is easy! Visit our website: www.h2oforlifeschools.org. Schools can sign-up online!