Philanthropy is defined by Webster’s New World Dictionary as “a desire to help mankind.” Synonyms for the word include: charity, compassion, humanity, generosity, benevolence and altruism.
But, the philosophy can be summed up by saying that those who exhibit philanthropy have an unselfish concern for the welfare of others.
Students in Monique Ritter’s seventh grade English class were perfect examples of what philanthropists do; they give unselfishly to a greater cause. The students, after reading “A Long Walk to Water,” a novel that is part of their Common Core modules for ELA, decided, along with their teacher to join the cause championed by the book’s inspiration and main character Salva Dut.
Salva Dut, a former “Lost Boy of Sudan” has dedicated himself to aiding the people of South Sudan by drilling wells in remote village in his home country. The book, “A Long Walk to Water,” written by Linda Sue Park tells the true story of Salva and the fictional character Nya a young village girl.
The story chronicles Salva’s real-life struggles in war-torn southern Sudan and in an Ethiopian refugee camp before being adopted and sent to Rochester, New York. Later, while in college he learns that his father is still alive but needing surgery and makes arrangements to travel to Sudan. While traveling back to the United States, Salva becomes determined to help the Sudanese and so decides to share his story and raise money to help drill wells to provide access to clean, safe water.
The story also mirrors life for fictional character Nya as Salva’s organization Water for South Sudan builds a well for her village in spite of being on opposite sides of long-standing tribal conflicts over water in the country.
The wells built by Water for South Sudan, not only serve to meet one of the basic needs of survival by providing safe, and easily accessible drinking water for villages, they also allow other aspects of the villagers’ lives to flourish.
Previously, families had to trek for hours just to get contaminated water, leaving no time for children to go to school and often infecting villagers with diseases. Creating the new wells not only gives clean, safe drinking water, it helps with education and economic development in the region.
The seventh grade students at Pulaski Middle School did a variety of fundraising methods including the “H2O challenge,” donating their allowance and/or birthday money or doing additional chores around the house to earn some extra money.
The students raised $400 toward the cost of building a well, missing their goal of $500, but according to Ritter, the students learned the valuable lesson that one person really can make a difference in the world.