Students Raise Money for Clean Drinking Water in Africa

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Do you want to help drill a well for a community in Africa and ensure thousands of people there will have clean, safe drinking water for generations to come?

You won't be drilling the well yourself, but you can join Instructor Sherry Ballew's math for social analysis class at Radford University to raise money so the drilling gets done and the well is built.

On Sunday, June 10, the class is staging the inaugural 2012 Water Walk, a 5K run and walk on the Radford University campus. The event will begin at Lot CC at RU's Dedmon Center. Registration begins at 5 p.m. at Dedmon, and the walk starts at 6 p.m. Registration fee is $5. Children under 12 walk free.

"The 5K represents the distance some children and women walk in African communities to get water that often isn't clean," Ballew said. Ballew said gallon jugs filled with water will be available at the walk to give participants a perspective on what it's like to carry heavy containers of water for long distances.

The social analysis class, which previously read books, viewed videos and discussed the injustices suffered by millions of people worldwide living without clean drinking water, wanted to get first-hand experience of what it's like to carry a five-gallon bucket of water for just one mile around the RU campus.

"We had a hard time carrying two and a half gallons of water for even a third of the distance they carry," Ballew said.

Using her math skills, Jesse Douglas of Richmond chimed in that a "five-gallon bucket of water weighs about 40 pounds, and these kids who are a lot smaller than us are doing it every single day."

That class experiment prompted Ballew and her students, all of whom are education majors and aspiring teachers, to take action. "We felt the need to do something about children missing school to carry large amounts of water for their families," Ballew said. "We immediately began making plans to raise funds."

Ballew's math for social analysis class is designed to help students use their math skills to better understand and analyze the social issues and injustices.

"The goal is to become active citizens, and that is what has happened in our class," Ballew said. "We have used math to analyze the social issue and at the same time have become productive citizens and an agent of change."

For those unable to participate in the 5K, the students are also accepting donations, which can be made by contacting Ballew at (540) 831-5262 or Donations also can be made online through and The group has created a Facebook page to raise awareness for what it hopes will be an annual event. Businesses and organizations may set up tables during the event for a $100 donation to the water project.

The group also will sell wristbands displaying the words "2012 Water Walk" during the event. The cost of each wristband is $2.

In addition to the Water Walk, the class is taking donations of hand soap to send to needy families.

The class has set a fundraising goal of $7,500, enough to pay for construction of one well in Africa. Once the class has raised the money, the funds will be transferred to the Water Project, which has equipment in Africa ready to drill and construct the well.

The Water Project is a global nonprofit organization whose mission is to help communities around the world that lack access to clean water and proper sanitation.

Jun 5, 2012
Chad Osborne