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School providing clean water

NASHUA – Members of the Nashua community have continued to show support for those in other countries who do not have sustainable clean drinking water.

The children at 2nd Nature Academy, a school that teaches their elementary, middle and high school students through a non-traditional curriculum, will be partaking in their fourth Water Walk on Thursday as they continue to raise awareness and money for the individuals in Ututu, Nigeria, who struggle with these issues.

The school has partnered with the Thank You Project, a Christian-based nonprofit founded by Charles Okorie, who, along with his wife, are natives of the area that is struggling with poverty and contaminated water.

Working with Okerie and his nonprofit has provided a teaching opportunity, while helping the children of the school get involved in a cause that affects a community far from home.

“Working with Charles, he’s a local individual who comes and talks to the kids, and he brings pictures and videos when he comes back from Nigeria when they are doing construction on the wells,” said Deborah Gleeson, the head of 2nd Nature Academy and co-founder/president of The Nature of Things, “and you see the pictures of the faces when they turn on the spigots for the first time. You’ve actually changed the lives, you’ve enabled them to take charge of their life and get an education.”

The Thank You project has been hosting water walks for more than five years, having had their most recent walk from Greeley Park to the Nashua River and back on Sept. 14.

The 2nd Nature Academy got involved a little while after the initial Water Walk, hoping to use the teaching opportunity as a way for the children and the school to do good.

“So, the head of the school asked me to come and show them what other kids have to contend with in real life, just to get water for their families and to drink and not fall sick,” Okorie said. “With all the diseases that affect the community – malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, all those water bound diseases – they get to drink and die, and you have infant mortality at rates that are practically unimaginable.”

“She told me that this is really going to be an educational effort as part of the curriculum for the kids, to physically feel what the next person is feeling,” he added. “And, hopefully they internalize that and grow with it and they will always leave with the concept of giving a helping hand to the next person for the rest of their lives.”

During their water walk, the students of 2nd Nature will start at the campus’ summer campus location, where they will fill buckets with water and carry them all the way to the school’s barn a third of a mile away.

“It’s really truly a hands-on learning experience when you talk to kids about walking in other people’s shoes,” Gleeson said. “This is a process where they actually learn through the process and through the experience.”

Gleeson said that during the walk, the children learn empathy while feeling the burden carried by those who live these kinds of experiences every day.

“I think its just a good way to bring a community together to teach empathy, compassion, natural resources and inequalities and poverty,” she said. “There are so many things you can teach when you do a water walk.”

“Every class has an hour, and its takes the entire school an entire day to fill the trough to give our animals enough clean water for a day,” she added. “That kind of puts it into perspective, how much clean water is needed to feed a family and a community.”

Okorie said he has seen first-hand the impact the Water Walk at the school has had on the children, who at times have even given up their lunch money for the day to go toward the clean water efforts.

“They do the water walk, they raise funds,” Okorie said. “Last year, one of the kids came and donated her lunch money for the day. She knows it will help the next day.

“She said ‘No, I’m fine, I’ll forgo my lunch today just to help those kids that I saw, that Charles talked about in his village, to have a glass of clean water,'” he recalled.

Mathew Plamondon can be reached at 594-1244 or mplamondon@nashuatelegraph.com, @telegraph_MatP.