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Who hasn’t worried about sleeping through an important event—a final exam, a big meeting or an early morning flight to Hawaii in the dead of a Canadian winter? For Thalia Abrahams, that nightmare almost became a reality. The morning she was supposed to deliver a speech at an inaugural WE Walk for Water event at the British Columbia Legislature, the eighth grader slept through her alarm and woke up three minutes after the bus to the event was supposed to leave her school.
Fortunately for Thalia—and her speech partner Fraser Williams—the bus waited, and, with a bit of haste, she made it. Thalia was so worried that she would miss her speech altogether that she wasn’t even nervous about delivering it. Fraser’s punctuality left her with a bit more anxiety.
“It was very stressful,” Thalia says of her accidental sleep-in. “I would have been really disappointed if I had missed it.”
The girls earned the invitation to speak because of their stand-out leadership at Spencer Middle School in Victoria. The members of the school’s Youth in Action Club helped raise $1,303 for their WE Walk for Water fundraiser.
“Water is a resource, especially here in Canada, that we take a lot for granted,” says Fraser. “I can’t even imagine how it is for people who don’t have water all the time. Water is one of the most important things that you can give to someone.”
“It’s a basic human right, and a necessity to living. The fact that people don’t have that is kind of disgusting, in my opinion,” adds Thalia. “We throw away water all the time. You rinse out the pasta that you just boiled. You empty out your water bottle because it’s a day old. And people have to walk miles and miles every day just to get it.”
With an original goal of raising $500, the club decided to hold a school-wide competition. The class that raised the most money would get to attend the WE Walk for Water event at the legislature. Thalia and Fraser spoke at assemblies and visited classrooms to motivate the other 800 students at Spencer and tell them how their donations would help people in developing countries gain access to clean water.
Their passion for the cause made an impact. Students held bake sales, sold school supplies and auctioned off crafts. Some even saved up their own allowance to be able to donate the $25 it takes to give someone clean water for life. In one week, they had raised three times more than their fundraising goal.
When the day finally came to walk for water, Thalia, Fraser and 50 of their classmates emulated the walk that millions of women and girls take each day in the quest for water. With repurposed orange juice containers on their heads, jerry cans in their arms and pop bottles on their backs, students walked a minimum of five kilometres around the lawn of the legislature.
Thalia and Spencer agree that using world change as motivation is a great way to get people to be active. It’s an area where the school’s competitive nature shines.
“Giving back sort of motivates you to be active and not just do something because it’s required … like being in gym class,” says Thalia. “At WE Walk for Water we got to go outside and be with our friends, learn new things and learn about problems in the world. Instead of being sad about those problems, we can try to fix them by being active and raising money.”
“It was nice to have people walking around together and doing something nice for the world,” adds Fraser. “I think I would be much more motivated in gym if I was helping people.”
Standing on the steps of the BC Legislature, Thalia and Fraser surveyed the crowd that stood before them. More than 300 students and teachers from around Victoria had transformed the well-manicured lawn into a sea of blue T-shirts, homemade signs and painted banners. Surrounded by so many other passionate young change makers, their nerves began to melt away.
“We would like to challenge you to think about what you could do for others. Others who don’t have the same privileges as you,” Thalia told the crowd.
“If we all take even a small step to make a change, think of the effect it could have on the world,” Fraser said. “We don’t want to make the world a better place, we want to make it the best place. Together, we can do something big.”
Five tips for holding a WE Walk for Water fundraiser
Get the whole school involved Don’t just fundraise with your class or a club. The more people who are involved, the more money you can raise for your cause.
Raise spirits Try and put a positive spin on the issue you’re fundraising for. Don’t just present people with a problem, present them with a solution they can work toward.
Motivate people By introducing a friendly competition, fun activity or a prize, people will be more inclined to help out and get involved.
Ask for help Don’t try and fundraise alone. Reach out for help when you need it. You’ll have more fun and be more successful with a helping hand. WE are stronger together!
Go big Go big or go home. Reach out to local news and radio stations to tell them about your event. Hold your event at a public space (like the Parliament buildings!) instead of your school gym. Do whatever you can to spread the word.
Zoe Demarco is a writer and production manager for WE Stories. A third generation journalist, she has a natural curiosity for other people’s lives.