A class novel prompts desire to give back among students in Ms. Sartin’s Middle School Language Arts class
By Amanda Compton
A class novel has touched the hearts of the Middle School Language Arts class, igniting a fervent desire to help others and prompting a swift call to action.
Based on a true story and published in 2010, A Long Walk to Water is told through intersecting life stories of two children in South Sudan – a girl named Nya in 2008 and a boy, Salva, in 1985 – both of whom suffered the ramifications of civil war and poverty, particularly the the lack of clean drinking water.
Upon finishing the book, Twin Oaks Language Arts Teacher Ms. Heather Sartin instructed her students to divide into discussion groups where they examined a series of seven questions including one on how they could respond to the water crisis right now. “They came up with all kinds of ideas such as shutting the water off while brushing your teeth, not taking long showers and doing full loads of laundry as opposed to more frequent small loads,” noted Sartin.
Salva caught the students’ attention due to his affiliation with the infamous “Lost Boys,” who covered the African continent on foot in search of their families, clean drinking water and for a safe place to stay after being separated during a civil war. Salva lived in refugee camps for 10 years before making his way to America to live with a family in Rochester, N.Y.
Impacted by the novel and class discussions, especially when contrasted with the access to clean water here in America, eighth grader Ben Kern went home and did a little research of his own. “The book was so good that I thought it would be cool if we could help out in some way,” said Kern. “So I decided to do a Google search to see if that was possible.”
Kern found that Salva had launched a nonprofit called “Water for South Sudan” after learning that his father was still alive in Southern Sudan, but suffering from water-borne parasites and disease. After hearing this, Kern’s classmates responded immediately and came up with the idea to raise money for “Water for South Sudan” – each student agreeing to bring in at least $5.00 to donate to Salva’s organization.
“We ended up donating $117 on behalf of Twin Oaks Christian School to ‘Water for South Sudan!'” added Sartin. “I am blown away by the interest in this book and the impact it had on my seventh and eighth graders. I think this book awakened them to just how fortunate we are to have running water – something Americans often take for granted.”
The Middle School Language Arts class also tuned in to a live online feed hosted by Salva during which he took questions from selected students in the audience about his story and the current work with “Water for South Sudan.” You may read more of Salva’s story here.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)