Teenagers often have the reputation of being self-centered. Whether playing video games, spending hours on Facebook or working a part-time job to make extra money, many teens spend their free time in pursuit of things that only benefit themselves. Two local students are shattering the stereotype of the selfish teenager by committing to raise $10,000 to help relieve the water crisis in the African nation of Zambia.
In July, Katy Bradley, a recent graduate of George Walton Academy who will attend the University of Mississippi in the fall, and Jenna Wagner, a junior at Eastside High School, attended the Christ In Youth Move Conference at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., with a group from Eastridge Community Church. In addition to the worship and teaching, Bradley and Wagner were moved to action by a video highlighting the water crisis in Zambia and the efforts of a non-profit organization called ActiveWater to help Zambians have access to clean water.
According to ActiveWater, 884 million people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water. Over 83,000 Zambian children die every year from lack of access to clean water. Girls bear the burden of gathering water for their families. Many of them have to walk 4 to 6 miles to the nearest well to retrieve unsafe water for their families. As a result, most Zambian girls are unable to attend school or must leave school early in order to make the journey to the well. Motivated by Christ’s command to love and care for those in need, ActiveWater digs and builds safe wells and provides sand filters for Zambian villages.
"The part of the video that stuck out the most to me was that girls my age were walking so far each day to get polluted water that will eventually kill them and their family," said Bradley. "I can’t imagine not being able to attend school because I had to walk miles each day to get water for my family."
"We take simple things such as safe drinking water for granted," added Wagner.
Bradley and Wagner got together after the conference sessions that night and decided to do something to help ActiveWater in their mission. They set the aggressive goal of raising $10,000 in ten months, which will pay for two wells and two dozen sand filters.
"We wanted a catchy slogan, so we came up with ’10 Months, $10,000: ActiveWater,’" said Wagner.
One of the duo’s first ideas was to print T-shirts to raise money for ActiveWater. Bradley initially wanted to make a shirt to wear around campus when she goes to Ole Miss in the fall, but she and Wagner decided instead to sell T-shirts that would raise both awareness and funds. Mark and Melinda Poole of Just Right Signs & Print in Rutledge designed T-shirts with an image of the African continent and the words, "Ask me about the water crisis" on them. Bradley and Wagner began selling the shirts for $10 apiece, and between shirt sales and other donations, the two raised $1,000 in their first two weeks.
Bradley and Wagner have one event set for Aug. 29 where they will sell coffee at a gathering at Eastridge Community Church. Other events in the early planning stages include a two mile walk in which participants carry jugs of water to symbolize the plight of Zambian girls gathering dirty water and a December parent’s-night-out event in which students babysit to allow parents to Christmas shop. Another way individuals can raise awareness and funds is a beverage fast, Bradley says. Participants in a beverage fast drink nothing but tap water for two weeks and donate the money they would have otherwise spent on drinks to ActiveWater.
Other students are helping them with event planning, and one of the adult leaders from the CIY trip, Tara Sammons, has assisted them by encouraging them and handling finances. Both Bradley and Wagner are aware of how revolutionary their commitment is to raising awareness of and funds for the African water crisis, but they both also know how such passion stems from Christ’s love for the world.
"The focus of our campaign is to share the love of Christ by spreading awareness and providing the people in Zambia with safe water," said Wagner.
"I absolutely believe that we can move in great ways in our community and with friends and families, but I know God had bigger plans for me," said Bradley. "Getting involved with the crisis in Zambia was God’s way of using me in a radical way."
Needless to say, the girls’ parents and ActiveWater are proud of Bradley and Wagner and are excited about their efforts.
"It’s so hard to put into words how proud we are of Jenna," said Karen Wagner, Jenna’s mother. "It’s an awesome thing to see God work in your children."
"Jenna and Katy are amazing young ladies whose lives resonate the heart of ActiveWater’s mission," said Amie Hadaway, Co-Founder and Director of Communications and Development for ActiveWater. "They set a huge goal that most adults would fear to even speak aloud. But it’s a perfect plan because it requires stretching themselves and relying tremendously on their faith. We are honored to be a part of channeling that passion to bring hope and change to Zambia!"
Anyone who wants to help Bradley and Wagner raise funds for ActiveWater can visit their Facebook page. Go to facebook.com and search for "10 Months $10,000." Visit activewater.com to learn more about the ActiveWater organization.