Camden students helping Tanzania kids get clean water

Despite living in the poorest city in the country, students at Ulysses S. Wiggins Family School have been fund-raising to help even poorer kids in Africa.

Since September, students at Wiggins in Camden’s Bergen Square neighborhood have been learning about the global water crisis and raising money for a clean water project in Tanzania.

On Friday, the youths will host a “water walk” to raise awareness of the lack of clean water in many developing countries, as well as raise money to help one Tanzania school.

Wiggins has teamed up with H2O for Life, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that provides funds for water, sanitation and hygiene education and infrastructure for partner schools in a developing countries.

The students have sold wristbands and held bake sales and raffles to raise nearly $3,000, said project liaison Gail Koplin, of Cherry Hill.

Koplin, who volunteered as a “book mate” at Wiggins, traveled to Tanzania a few years ago and was impacted by women, young and old, there who carry 40 to 70 pounds of water on their backs from water sources — sometimes several miles away — back to their villages.

She pitched the idea to help in Tanzania at Wiggins, since she was familiar with the school leaders.

“It would have been much easier to fund-raise at a local school,” the Cherry Hill resident said. “But I wanted to help people (in Camden) too.”

Wiggins principal Lana Murray and first grade teacher Jessica Louderback loved the idea and stepped in to help organize the events, Koplin said. The group was cautious with the fund-raising goal and set it at $1,500. The school has passed the $2,000 mark, so Koplin is aiming for $3,000.

The money will go toward building a rain catchment tank and new latrines, estimated to cost $5,759, according to the H2O website, for the Ipagala Primary School in Tanzania.

“I’ve seen them (students) get more invested as time goes on,” Koplin said. “Hopefully, they realize they can still make a difference.”

During Friday’s event, the students will walk three miles carrying water to symbolize what their counterparts in Tanzania go through daily to get water.

They also will have a bake sale and sell more wristbands that read “H2O for Life — Wiggins Cares.”