Writer Joseph J. Airdo // Photography by Carl Schultz
Anthem residents Abby Maxwell-Todd and Norah Lindsay have been global thinkers since the day they started kindergarten. Now, as Boulder Creek High School seniors, the 18-year-olds are formally transforming thoughts into actions, raising funds to drill a deepwater borehole to give children and their families in the Ugandan village of Nainala A. access to clean, life-saving water.
In February, the pair organized a Walk 4 Water fundraising event in which they invited their friends, neighbors and other supporters to walk with them around Anthem Community Park, symbolizing the walk that women and children in Uganda complete each day to collect water for their families. The two-mile walk was roughly only a quarter of the 7.4-mile roundtrip distance that those in Nainala A. must travel to their primary water source — which, by the way, is a dirty, contaminated swamp.
Maxwell-Todd and Lindsay’s own walk began 13 years ago.
“We started in the Mandarin Immersion Program while in kindergarten at Gavilan Peak School,” says Lindsay, noting that she and Maxwell-Todd are part of the program’s first graduating class.
The program, which the school introduced in 2008, sees students in kindergarten through sixth-grade learn 50% of their school work — typically math, science and foreign language — in Mandarin. Seventh- and eighth-grade students can then take Mandarin language classes for high school credit.
Upon entering high school, Maxwell-Todd and Lindsay not only took college-level Mandarin language classes, passed advanced placement exams and completed capstone projects, but were also encouraged to continue their culturally enriched educational journey by pursuing the Global Studies Certificate.
Boulder Creek High School’s Global Studies Certificate Program provides students with the essential knowledge, skills and disposition to understand, participate in and contribute to an increasingly globalized society.
Because Maxwell-Todd and Lindsay had, as Mandarin Immersion Program participants, already accumulated a fair number of the 200 points needed to graduate with the Global Studies Certificate, the decision to take advantage of the opportunity was easy. A portion of the points must be earned through the completion of a project that has an impact on a different country.
Inspired by her mother Carrie’s best friend Julie Schoppaul — who, as an ambassador for Hope 4 Kids International, has helped to raise funds to drill three clean-water wells in Uganda — Maxwell-Todd immediately knew how she wanted to tackle the project.
“It is obviously a really big project, though,” says Maxwell-Todd, noting that $11,800 in funds were required to drill a deepwater borehole in Nainala A. “I was definitely a little nervous, so I asked Nora to be my partner on the project.”
A Life-Saving Investment
Like Schoppaul before them, Maxwell-Todd and Lindsay decided to organize their project through Hope 4 Kids International, a nonprofit organization committed to serving children living in impoverished environments around the world by establishing economic, spiritual, water, educational and feeding programs.
Hope 4 Kids International vice president of international development Angie Simon says that Uganda ranks among the worst countries in the entire world for both access to and quality of water.
“We have a water division that is completely dedicated to drilling wells around the world,” Simon adds. “I think that we are up to 898 deepwater wells that we have drilled and they are primarily in Uganda because they are typically fetching water out of mud holes that they share with animals.”
Simon says that whereas most organizations that help to raise money to drill wells eventually hand the project over to other organizations to complete, Hope 4 Kids International finds the villages that are lacking clean water, registers them into its program, organizes and negotiates drilling contracts and oversees the entire drilling process.
Then comes the hard part.
“Because the people who we are reaching have never had access to clean water, they do not even know that the water that they are currently drinking is poisonous,” says Simon, noting that up to 50% of children in such situations die of dysentery and waterborne diseases.
“So the hardest part is teaching people to drink clean water instead of going back to their old water source. We have to teach them the value of walking a kilometer to the new clean water well — which is called a borehole — versus going back to a dirty pond that might be a little bit closer to their house.”
Furthermore, Hope 4 Kids International also teaches the people who will be served by the new well about proper hygiene and sanitation.
“We bring glitter with us, place it on our hands and shake their hands to show them how diseases are spread,” Simon explains. “You cannot get that glitter off until you use soap and water. We also teach them how to take care of their well. We set up a little committee that oversees the well’s operation so that, when we leave, they can take care of it.”
A Community Effort
Of course, none of that would be even remotely possible without funding. Therefore, the entire process begins with caring, globally-minded individuals like Maxwell-Todd and Lindsay, whose values were cultivated and nurtured by Boulder Creek High School’s Global Studies Certificate Program and Gavilan Peak School’s Mandarin Immersion Program before it.
“In order to accept culture, you have to understand it,” says Maxwell-Todd, emphasizing the significance of the two programs.
However, Simon says that the impact of the girls’ efforts reaches far beyond just a senior project.
“The impact that these girls have had on a well that serves thousands of people for 30–50 years with little to no maintenance is tremendous,” Simon explains. “These girls are literally saving lives. The World Health Organization says that there is no better investment than to bring clean water to a developing country. These girls are heroes.”
Maxwell-Todd and Lindsay prefer to remain humble, though, and instead share the credit with the entire Anthem community.
“The amount of support from the Anthem community has been outstanding,” says Maxwell-Todd, noting that local businesses The Tennessee Grill, Sam’s Frozen Yogurt, Legends Bar and Grill and The Carroll Law Firm are among their sponsors. “The Rotary Club of Anthem was our biggest sponsor because they [committed to matching corporate sponsors up to $2,500]. We have had so much help from the community. Everyone was so willing to help. It just shows how amazing Anthem is.”
In fact, at Images Arizona’s press time, Maxwell-Todd and Lindsay had raised $13,000 — surpassing their initial $11,800 goal. Nonetheless, they will continue to collect donations, with all excess funds benefitting well projects in other villages registered into Hope 4 Kids International’s program.
A Global Perspective
In addition to making a difference in the lives of thousands of people in Uganda, the girls’ project and all of their efforts that preceded it will make a difference in their own lives, as well, not only gifting them with a global perspective that will last a lifetime but also giving them a leg up on the competition as they continue their respective educational journeys.
Lindsay, who has applied to schools like Boston University and Northeastern Boston College as a biochemistry major with aspirations of becoming an anesthesiologist, says that the project has encouraged her to become more aware of and grateful for her own blessings.
“Not that I ever took water for granted but it was just something that I have always had and was, therefore, something that I never had to think about,” explains Lindsay, who says that she is also considering a minor in Mandarin. “Learning how much other countries are struggling just to get clean water really put into perspective just how blessed we are to live in the United States.”
Maxwell-Todd, who will attend the University of Oklahoma this fall, has yet to pinpoint her exact career aspirations. What she does know, though, is that she wants to do something that will allow her to continue to help others.
“Right now. I am kind of into dentistry but I might major in biology or biological engineering just to see where that takes me because I know that, in one of the medical fields, I will be able to help people,” says Maxwell-Todd, noting that her senior project enhanced her appreciation of community. “Everybody has a place in a community. Everybody has their own part. The aspect of community is so important to understand, to be a part of and to be proud of.”