PCHS club aims to quench world thirst, one well at a time
Kalli Peers had never thought much about what it would be like to not have access to clean water. After all, like most people in the United States, she had grown up with fresh water just a twist of the faucet away.
But that all changed last year, when she learned about the plight of millions of people in impoverished areas of the world who trek several miles each day to bring back disease-infested water to their villages.
"When I saw the kids that were so thirsty, it made me feel sick inside," Peers said. "I wanted to do something."
Peers soon got her chance. In October, the Thirst Club of Park City High School formed, dedicated to raising enough money to build a water well in a small village in Africa. Ashley Mott, adviser of the club, started it as a service project for the school’s dance program, but she soon realized there was a bigger opportunity. She opened the club up to all students, and it’s been growing steadily every since.
"It’s been really amazing," Mott said. "It’s been fun to see it build some momentum. In the beginning, it was really slow, so it’s taken some time to get going, but I feel like things are really starting to happen."
Mott was hopeful that Monday would serve as a breaking point for the club’s influence. Members of the national Thirst Project organization gave presentations to students during all four class periods in an effort to raise awareness and get more students involved.
"After today’s meetings, I feel like there’s a lot of momentum," Mott said. "I think there will be a lot of students who want to get involved and participate. I don’t know how many will join the club full-time, but they’re interested in joining the cause and helping us."
The Thirst Club of PCHS is hoping to raise $7,500 by the end of the school year. The money would build a water well for a community in Uganda, an effort that would completely change the lives of the villagers. Mott said in small villages like that, it’s typically the women and children who fetch the water each day, making trips that average 3.75 miles and carrying jerry cans that weigh 44 pounds when full. The water they collect is often from dirty and disease-infested ponds shared with animals.
"When you can bring a well to a community, that whole community is changed from that one thing," Mott said. "Children can go to school and get an education, the women can go to work, the disease rate drops significantly, the mortality rate improves. It literally transforms the face of a community."
Darby Williams, a member of the Thirst Club of PCHS, said that being involved in the club feels like a noble effort. To her, it’s a chance to change the world.
"I’ve always wanted to do something like this," she said. "I always like to help people, and this is just something that I love to do. With other organizations and clubs, it doesn’t feel like you’re really changing anything that much, but with this, you feel like you are. You really feel like you’re connected."
The representatives in town Monday from the national Thirst Project organization were encouraged to see the students’ enthusiasm. They said the generation currently in high school possesses a huge power to effect change.
"It’s amazing to work with students and give them a voice," said Evan Hutton, a Road Warrior with the Thirst Project. "And then you get to connect with an issue that is worldwide. It’s not just an issue that affects a few people. There are 663 million people who don’t have access to clean water. And we take it for granted."
As well as getting students involved, Mott is hoping the community also rallies around the cause. The club is organizing a 5k race fundraising event for the spring, and Mott believes Parkites will be eager to help as awareness spreads.
"I feel like a lot of the community doesn’t know about us yet," Mott said. "I’m hoping to educate them and let them know what we’re doing and trying to create here. But I’ve been amazed since we started at the response we’ve had from the people who do know about us. When people do hear about what we’re doing, they seem really supportive."
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.