From Williamsville to Sudan, a mission for clean water

May 25, 2018

Students at a Catholic grade school in Williamsville are working to raise funds to help a community in Sudan in need of clean water. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says St. Gregory the Great School held a symbolic 'Walk for Safer Water' to kick-off their fundraising effort.  

St. Gregory the Great School held Walk for Safer Water to help Sudan.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Students first attended a morning Mass inside St. Gregory's Church off Maple Road. As they existed, they were handed two different sizes of water bottles.  Some carrying a gallon and others a smaller water bottle. Then they set out for a one mile-walk.  The water was used to symbolize water jugs carried by those living in Sudan, who walk miles each day in search of clean water.

St. Greg's sixth graders organized this event after reading the book A Long Walk to Water and studying about the water troubles in Sudan.

“We’re only walking a mile, but they have to walk more than eight miles probably a day. We’re just showing everyone here, how hard it is for them,” said Brianna Bonvissuto, sixth grader. 

Brianna Bonvissuto and sixth grader Josie Banas were among the 400-students who walked a mile. Students learned about the contaminated water in Sudan and the ill-effects it has on those who drink it. 

St. Gregory the Great School held Walk for Safer Water to help Sudan.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"We learned that many people die throughout the years because of this dirty water and Sudan has one of the highest mortality rates in the world, so we are trying to make it easier for them to get clean water,” remarked Banas.

“Because the people in Sudan have dirty and we’re trying to get them wells so they can have clean water and the girls that walk for water can get an education,” said Bonvissuto.

“I think it builds empathy and so this is a wonderful experience to help them – to be compassionate leaders,” Julie Gajewski, principal.   

St. Gregory the Great School held Walk for Safer Water to help Sudan.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Gajewski said these sixth graders worked along with their teachers, but the entire effort has been student-led.

“And a lot of work and collaboration went into the project and I’m so excited that the whole school get to benefit from this project,” responded Gajewski.

“So the water that they are carrying on their walk will go to local food banks to help our community,” explained Betsy Eden, STREAM coordinator at St. Greg’s.

Eden worked closely with students on this project. 

St. Gregory the Great School held Walk for Safer Water to help Sudan.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

“We’re trying to teach the skills that they’re going to need when they go out into high school, to college and into their work lives – to be able to collaborate – it’s something we have explicitly teach now days and that’s what we are trying to get them to do – to collaborate – to think outside of the box and to really take ownership of what they are doing,” Eden noted.

The students are working to raise $5,000. They want to buy a water filtration system or well for a community in Sudan, showing compassion from a Catholic school in Williamsville.