May 30, 2019

U.S. Teens Walk Miles to Raise Funds for Water

Maranatha Volunteers International, and Adventist Review

As with most neighborhoods in the United States, the Del Mar Mesa community in San Diego, California, has running water. Simply turn on a faucet and clean water is readily available.

Given this fact, the sight of nearly 20 girls in an affluent neighborhood carrying buckets of water up a ravine was out of the ordinary, to say the least.

But the walk was for a good cause: clean water.

“What we’re trying to do is represent what African women do on a day-to-day basis: the fact that they have to travel several miles — several hours — to just get water,” said Emma Reeves, an 18-year-old high-school senior from Del Mar Mesa. “And it’s not even clean water, so we try to replicate that,” she said.

She shared how they took their our own buckets and got “a bunch of ladies in our community” — from elementary school to high school — to show what they have to go through every day. “[We wanted] to see the importance clean water has,” Reeves said.

Learning About the Water Crisis

Reeves heard about the plight of African women from her neighbor, Elizabeth Rabbitt. Rabbitt had been on two mission trips to Kenya with Maranatha Volunteers International, a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She also attended the annual Maranatha convention, where she learned about the water crisis in sub-Saharan Africa.

Being acquainted with the plight of many in Africa motivated Rabbitt to start raising money for Maranatha’s water program. Last fall, she raised more than US$18,000 for #GivingTuesday, the international day of giving each November. Rabbitt also began talking to her friends and neighbors about what she had seen in Africa.

Among the listeners were Reeves and her best friend, Mia Goldman. Both teenagers have known Rabbitt since they were toddlers.

“The girls in this neighborhood have been coming to my ranch since they were 4 or 5 years old. They were tiny, and they hang out here, and we were painting, and they were talking about going to college,” Rabbitt said. “They knew I’d been to Africa, and they were asking me questions about what I learned and what it was like.”

An Original Fundraiser

The story of young girls spending long hours fetching water struck a chord with the teens. When Rabbitt suggested a fundraiser, Reeves and Goldman jumped on board. The three started organizing the details of the event, calling it “Walk for Water.” Participants would be asked to find sponsors, and on the day of the event, each girl would walk nearly a mile to a pond in the neighborhood, scoop water into their buckets, and walk home.

The goal? US$15,000.

Reeves and Goldman recruited members of Female Athlete Volunteers (FAV), a teen service club in San Diego. Rabbitt bought bright yellow buckets, much like the yellow jerry cans used by women in Africa, and decorated them with Walk for Water stickers. Using Maranatha's online fundraising platform, each participant created an account and a webpage where sponsors could donate. The local newspaper, Del Mar Times, interviewed the girls and ran a story on their event.

After three months of planning, on May 3, 2019, a group of 16 girls, ranging from elementary to high school age, gathered at Rabbitt’s driveway. They wrote name badges, selected Maasai bracelets that Rabbitt had brought from Kenya, and picked up buckets. Then, the participants walked down the neighborhood street and a ravine. At a pond, they collected water in their buckets, then hiked up the rocky trail back to Rabbitt’s home.

“Carrying that water was a challenge, and I wasn’t even carrying that much water. I couldn’t believe how difficult it would be. Girls — little girls — travel hours with that much water every day, and it would be exhausting,” Reeves said.

The team finished their afternoon with a pizza party to celebrate a successful event, which raised US$15,485. The amount is enough to fund a simple well for a village — a gift that will affect hundreds of lives.

Giving Back to Those in Need

Now, Reeves, Goldman, and Rabbitt are thinking of making Walk for Water an annual event.

“It’s such an amazing feeling to know that I can be giving back to other people because living in this bubble is great, but I haven’t been able to really experience the outer world,” Goldman said. “This is just so eye-opening, and I just really want to give back.”

This attitude of generosity is precisely what Rabbitt hopes to inspire in young women. And this summer, Goldman’s worldview will be expanding with a trip to Kenya. Goldman, along with her brother and mother, is joining Rabbitt on a Maranatha project to build a school. It will be the family’s first mission trip and venture to Africa.

Rabbitt hopes the experience will fuel the fire to keep serving and ignite positive change.

“We’re in San Diego, in beautiful homes. We wake up every morning and you’re just in paradise,” Rabbitt said. “When you think about how lucky we are — doesn’t that make us responsible for sharing our luck and sharing our wealth with others?”

Rabbitt added, “Imagine a world where nobody shared, where nobody was willing to give back. We depend on people and their generosity and their need to share. [It is essential] to make the world a better place and help people,” she said.

The original version of this story was posted on the Maranatha Volunteers International news site.