Uganda (MNN) — In a world with so many problems, heartaches, and tragedies, it’s important to teach children that they can make a real difference.
Thanks to a teacher at a middle school in Hudsonville, MI, a group of students are well aware of the needs around the world, and that selfless acts can make a change for the better.
Jo Ann Smit is a seventh grade science teacher. Around Christmas time last year, she organized a fundraiser for the Ugandan Water Project. The results of the fundraiser were beyond what anyone was hoping for.
How it started
Smit is a family friend of Jeff Stam at Set Free Ministries. About a year ago, they were talking about Set Free visiting some of the schools they work with in Uganda. Smit felt called to go. And when she heard about the basic needs for those schools, she was inspired.
Smit says for about one third of the school year, she teaches on water. One thing they cover is the inequity of water on the globe. To hear how this affects real people touched her heart.
“Once I found out that some of the schools that we would be visiting didn’t even have any water in the schools, it really hit home to me.”
This trip took place in early July. While she waited, Smit decided it was a perfect opportunity to do something about the water problem.
Blue Envelope Project
To raise money for a water containment system to be installed through The Ugandan Water Project, the school provided classrooms with envelopes that had various money amounts written on them. Students could pick whichever envelope they wanted with the goal of raising enough money to match the written number.
The overall goal was to raise $3,600 — enough to install one water containment system in one school in Uganda.
The fundraiser lasted for three weeks. And the results were incredible.
Smit says, “It was beyond our wildest expectations. When it came down to it, the students raised over $11,000 and we were able to put in three water containment systems in Uganda.”
She explains that students gave up Christmas money or created their own money-raising strategies. Some sold water bottles, others babysat or shoveled snow.
“Most of the envelopes I ended up opening had way more money in it than what the number was on the outside,” Smit explains.
She believes this fundraiser hit home for the students. While in the United States they have abundant access to water, they knew they were doing a lot by bringing water to a Ugandan school.
Meeting the schools
Early in July, Smit joined the team with Set Free to go see the schools that had received the water systems.
“I was overwhelmed. I still am overwhelmed. These people were so unbelievably grateful for a simple thing like water, which is simple for us, but life-giving for them.”
After seeing how much the water meant to these people, and also the great need that still exists, Smit is asking God to show her what’s next. She doesn’t want to let her own mission end there.
Water and the Gospel
As the International Director of Set Free Ministries, Jeff Stam is well aware of how movements like this make a difference in the lives of communities.
Physically, he says, the effects are tremendous. He says they receive quarterly reports from the school. Hearing that there were no deaths related to water borne illnesses in the last quarter is huge. In addition, students can spend more time on their studies than walking for water.
But in addition to the physical side of things, Stam says this type of project has its spiritual effects.
Some of the schools they work with have a majority of students coming from Muslim families. For these families to see the improved water and to know it was given due to God’s love is impactful on their hearts.
Through the Ugandan Water Project, Set Free was able to install three water containment systems total in two different schools. They are working to raise money for a third system for another school who is working to get property where such a system is allowed.
You can give to the Ugandan Water Project through Set Free Ministries. Contact them here to learn how to designate your gift.
Stam asks that you pray for the more than 5,000 students at the schools they’ve partnered with. Ask God to touch their hearts through the education they’re receiving there. Ask Him to change families through the Gospel.
For another story on a school helping children in Uganda, click here.