Student project trades cost of homecoming mums for clean water project in Africa

Posted Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
How to help Those interested can contribute via the Grapevine-Colleyville school district donor page on the Water is Basic website. Colleyville Heritage High School homecoming is Friday

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When Chandler Clark and Peter Leach see students wearing homecoming mums, their minds turn to all the water it takes to grow the showy flowers.

The teens’ lives were changed last summer when they took a fact-finding trip to South Sudan and saw the need and importance of clean water in the African country.

“Clean water saves lives,” said Clark, 18, a senior at Colleyville Heritage High School.

They came back determined to make a difference, one T-shirt at a time.

In September, the students started a charity project called HOPEcoming 2013. The project asks fellow students to purchase a $20 T-shirt instead of a homecoming mum. The shirt says, “I sent my mum to Africa.”

Proceeds from their project are donated to Water is Basic, a Dallas-based international nonprofit organization that drills clean water wells in Sudan.

“We’ve raised about $7,000,” said Leach, 16, a junior at Coppell High School.

Chandler and Leach met through Steve Roese, who founded Water is Basic. After attending a Water is Basic meeting to discuss new ways to raise money, Leach sent a text to Chandler.

“Hey Chandler! This is Peter Leach! I don’t know if your mom has told you about me, but I go to Coppell and I’m sorta involved with Water is Basic!” the message said. “What I think would be so cool is if you and I became actually very much involved with Water is Basic. Like taking a trip to Sudan this summer.”

Hundreds of messages followed, and the trip became a reality.

Sponsored by their parents, a carwash and fundraising through social media, they took a 10-day mission trip to South Sudan to assess the humanitarian needs of the relatively new country.

The students were welcomed at a reception that included singing and dancing, Clark said. Accompanied by Roese, they visited Sudanese people who, Leach said, “never take anything for granted.”

”We learned that before food, jobs, houses, crops and shelter, their top priority was clean water,” he said.

Clark said she was astounded by the transformative power of water in the villages.

“After a well is installed, life just radiates through a village. Children no longer die of sleeping sickness, and health is restored. Communities are formed. It brings people together. There are far fewer tribal conflicts over dirty water holes, and people are united in the common need for clean water,” she said.

Leach said he knew that mums would be a good hook for the project because “homecoming and football is Texas.”

Colleyville Heritage High School has helped get the project off the ground through its Peer Assistance Leadership program and its Spirit Shop.

“Our T-shirts are flying off the shelves,” Clark said. “This does more good than wearing a mum for 10 days and sticking it in your closet.”

Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367

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