Smells for wells

A group of local children are stinking up their classroom for a cause.

Dawn Scholtens’ second grade class at Sunset Heights Elementary School in Webster City are taking part in a shower strike to raise money to build wells in Kenya. The shower strike is part of an annual campaign by the nonprofit organization Well Aware, which is now in its fifth year.

This is the second year that Scholtens’ class has taken part in the shower strike. Her class is the only second grade class in the United States that is taking part in the strike. The kids wear T-shirts with a shower strike logo with boxes on the back that are checked off for each day the student participates in the strike.

The strike began this week. The class had an initial goal of raising $1,000 for the campaign, but passed that goal and are now sitting at $1,300 raised. The students voted to continue the strike through the week. Some students in the class have opted to end their strike and shower up, but most are still going strong through Thursday when the strike will end for everyone.

When Scholtens presented the program to the parents of the students participating, she said they had a lot of questions.

“The biggest concern, of course, was cleanliness,” Scholtens said. “We talked about how all around the world, people might not be able to bathe and shower but they do wash up. So, the kids are supposed to wash up every day.”

The strike presented students with a chance to learn more about Kenya, where the money they have raised will be used to build solar wells. Scholtens said the Well Aware nonprofit organization keeps the wells they build running indefinitely, checking them annually to keep them in operation. Students chose what they wanted to learn about Kenya, with groups focusing on topics such as animals, schools and technology. Scholtens said they also learned about access to clean water, which can be sparse in Kenya, and how some children cannot attend school there because they must walk miles in order to obtain good drinking water.

“It’s been a really great learning experience for the kids, both to learn about other parts of the world and to learn about doing something to help somebody else,” Scholtens said.

The shower strike campaign doesn’t encourage students to raise money door to door. Rather, Scholtens said many students have turned to social media websites to ask for donations online. Still, strike participant C.J. Hisler likes to sell the campaign face to face.

“When people come over to my house, I just tell them everything I can about it until I can’t tell them any more,” Hisler said.

Between a few rashes, general itchiness and siblings asking them to play in their own rooms, students participating in the strike have made some sacrifices to raise over a thousand dollars. However, strike participant Avilahn Edwards said it’s all worth it.

“We wanted to just help out and make sure that they don’t die from dirty water. People die every day from having dirty water so we wanted to just help and make sure they didn’t die anymore. It feels good to think you’re saving somebody’s life,” Edwards said.

That mindset of encouraging philanthropy and learning is exactly what Scholtens hoped the program would encourage.

“Even though they’re little kids living in rural Iowa, they can still do something to help other people,” Scholtens said.