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Chagrin Falls Middle School students raising funds to provide water to South Sudan

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Posted at 7:38 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 19:38:50-04

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — Some middle school students in Chagrin Falls raised the most money in the country to help the people of Sudan access clean water.

This year, the students raised more than $25,000 for the Water for South Sudan nonprofit.

The nonprofit's goal is to "deliver sustainable quality-of-life services to and with the people of South Sudan by efficiently providing access to clean, safe water, and improving hygiene and sanitation practices in areas of great need."

In total, students raised $25,576 for the charity. By doing so, "the Chagrin Falls Middle School (CFMS) Class of 2026 won the Iron Giraffe Challenge Super School for raising the most money in the country."

By winning, the students will talk with Salva Dut, the founder of Water for South Sudan.

According to the nonprofit, Dut " was born in a rural village in southwestern Sudan to the Dinka tribe. At 11 years old, the Sudanese Civil War reached his village and separated Salva from his family. He joined thousands of boys, famously known as the 'Lost Boys,' on their journey by foot to seek safety in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. After living in refugee camps for 10 years, Salva was given the opportunity to move to the United States, where he was embraced by a family in Rochester, New York. Several years later, Salva learned that his father was still alive in Southern Sudan but was suffering with disease caused by waterborne parasites. His father’s illness inspired Salva to help both his father and his country by bringing clean water to those in need. This was the beginning of Water for South Sudan."

Dut's story and others like it have inspired the school and its students to help those in need.

“We do research about the water crisis; they’re seeing lots of video footage and images of what people live like and to compare that with what we live in here in Chagrin Falls and Northeast Ohio. They are starting to appreciate what we have here and realizing that they can do something to help,” said Chagrin Falls Middle School Teacher Jessica Johnson.

Due to the students' efforts, the nonprofit was able to build two new wells in South Sudan. The middle school has funded the creation of three wells in total. The school said it hopes to build a fourth well. Each well requires about $15,000 to build. So far, the school has raised around $7,400 for the next well.

There will be a fundraiser this summer to help raise money for the next well. On June 2, the school district will host the Chagrin Falls Schools' Cardboard Regatta at the Chagrin Rec Pool.

"This project is inspiring for so many reasons. The teachers work collaboratively to create meaningful, relevant connections while students work towards a common goal and develop deep understanding in multiple contents and global empathy,” said Principal Laila Discenza, Chagrin Falls Middle School. “Community members donate and support and the outcome is fresh water access is for those in need. What a wonderful way we all come together. It’s a true experience for all involved.”

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