Middle school project has trickle-down effect

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By Rebecca DeSensi

There’s a song that says, “we are led to those who help us most to groweeand we help them in return.” For East Oldham teachers Dennis Mangum and Kristy Reeder, those lyrics couldn’t be more true.

For more than four weeks the seventh-grade class at EOMS had been raising money and working on related educational tasks that would provide a barrio community in the Dominican Republic with clean water. Teachers Mangum and Reeder, along with Dennis Adams, were set to travel to the D.R. over Memorial Day weekend to install a water purification system in the barrio of Medina.

When they arrived in the D.R. however, they discovered that the barrio’s water was dried up, and there was nothing they could do at this time to help those residents. Since the travelers had already made it to the D.R. with the intent of helping someone, they looked for other opportunities to help in the country.

Connecting with an American in the D.R., the group learned of another community, filled with Haitian refugees, who were in dire need of help. They traveled more than two hours to the community, which Mangum described as “in the middle of nowhere.”

When they reached the village, the village leader approached them and said, “we have been praying for three solid months for someone to come help us.” When Mr. Mangum asked, “what kind of help do you need, sir?” The man replied, “we need help with water.”

“Well, water is what we do,” Mangum told the man, and they set about educating the citizens of Monte Cristy on the aspects of the water purification system and why they needed clean water to help them stay healthy.

There are about 1,000 residents in the refugee village of Monte Cristy. Mangum, Reeder and Adams were able to set up the purification system, which runs on a car battery and table salt, as well as teach the residents how to use it. The purification system can purify 55 gallons of water in one minute. They used the instructional videos, a PowerPoint, brochures and coloring books that the seventh-grade students at EOMS had developed to educate the residents on diseases they could contract from drinking contaminated water as well as problems that could arise from cross-contaminating their newly cleaned water with dirty containers.

The water purifier in Monte Cristy is now up and running thanks to the help of Reeder, Mangum and Adams, and the generous donations of community members who helped to send them overseas. In all, the students were able to raise $5,200 and counting for the trip. Donations from major corporations are still coming in; so far more than $900 has been placed into an account for next year’s seventh-grade project.

“We don’t have to go overseas to find bad water,” said Mangum, on selecting what the project for next year’s EOMS seventh-grade students will be. “Maybe next year we will focus on local needs. You can find bad water in Appalachia or in the areas that were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

While in the Dominican Republic, Mangum, Reeder and Adams also visited Gethsemane. There they trained about 50 residents on how to use a previously installed purification system. They left materials created by the seventh-grade students with other Americans working with purification systems to help with the education process.

Students worked on teams to create the informational items for the water purification project. Students were involved with the technology team, which was charged with creating a PowerPoint presentation or a movie; the education/art team, which created coloring books and brochures; or the marketing team, which worked on letters to solicit donations from the community.

Mangum said they were trying to teach the kids that there is meaning to life.

“There’s not a lot of awareness about what’s going on down there,” said one seventh-grade student when asked about her new understanding of the Dominican Republic. “We got letters back from corporations that said, ‘Wow I didn’t even know that was going on.’ I got to see what my science class could do around the world.”