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ICS and the Ugandan Water Project


Immaculate Conception School is on a mission to help end “water poverty”

By Sandy Rigas

            It dates back to June, when ICS Fifth-Grader Harrison Reagan and his mother, Shaye Cornell Reagan, of Wellsville, made a trip (with 250 pairs of shoes) to Kenya, where he noticed the lack of clean water for everyday needs. Whereas at home, he thought, water is there, at the touch of a hand.

            Curious about why, and eager to help, research was done, contact with the Ugandan Water was made, and a service project for Immaculate Conception School took root.

            The month-long project, which kicked off with an assembly October 19, involves the entire school in one way or another. “For us it has terrific curriculum benefits, “notes Caitilin Dewey, ICS principal. “There’s opportunity across all areas of the curriculum, ELA, Social Studies, Science and Math. And it’s good for our kids to realize how blessed we are, how much others need our help, and that their efforts will result in something real that they can relate to.”

            The goal of the project is to raise enough money for a rainwater collection tank and filtration system for a school in a village in Uganda. $3,600 is the target and about one-fourth of it has been raised thus far.

            The Ugandan Water will oversee the purchase and installation of the tank and will teach the local people how to maintain the filtration system.

            Jess Alinaitwe, a Houghton College graduate who has lived in Uganda, works for the non-profit organization, incepted 14 years ago, whose mission is to end “water poverty.” The guest speaker at the ICS assembly, she spoke with the students about the daily life of children just like them, across the globe in Uganda. Just like them, except that their school, nor their homes, have clean, accessible water. Just like them, except that many of them are too sick to come to school or are in the hospital, because of water borne disease. Just like them except that most of the girls and some of the boys are not able to attend school much because they instead spend their day walking to collect water and then walking back home, with a much heavier load. Just like them except that this walking to and from water can take hours, as many hours as an entire school day. Every day.

            The walking and collecting is only part of the process. The water needs to be boiled, then cooled for three hours before it can be used, for anything, including drinking, washing, cooking, bathing, cleaning. “It’s about an eight-hour process,” said Jess. “It’s a full-time job.”

            Installation of a water tank will serve 250 people for 30 years. With clean water available from the tank right at the school in the village, families will still not have the convenience of running water in their homes BUT the students can enjoy clean water at their school and carry some home to their families for daily use. The entire family then has the benefit of clean water that will not make them sick.

            With this comes the benefits of healthier children and adults. More days in school. More hours spent in school and better educated students!

            The advantage of the filtration system, Jess noted, is that it removes more impurities than boiling alone. She demonstrated the use of a water filtration system on a tank full of unclean water, to which a volunteer from the assembly added horse manure (a local substitute for animal waste which would be prevalent near and in Ugandan water sources). Within minutes, the tan colored, cloudy, murky water was transposed into crystal clear, clean water. Which, Jess and several volunteers from the assembly then drank.

            Shaye Reagan is also the ICS Home-School Association Co-President and the liaison between Jess Alinaitwe & the Ugandan Water Project. After speaking with John Embser from the Wellsville Chapter of the Rotary Club, she arranged for Jess to speak at the club’s next meeting. As the Rotary International Clubs pledge to “bridge cultures and connect continents” and “work to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, save mothers and children, support education, grow local economies, and protect the environment,” this project hits the heart of what they stand for and do.

Rotarian John Embser, Shaye Reagan, and Jess Alinaitwe

            Mark your calendar! PANCAKE BREAKFAST, Tuesday, November 8 (Election Day)

From 7 am to 12:30 pm at the Grace United Church, Main Street, Wellsville. Adults are $7 and kids under 10 are $3. A percentage of the proceeds from the breakfast will be contributed to the ICS Ugandan Water Project. 

 What can you to do help? Tell a friend about this article. Research the Ugandan Water Project to learn more about Uganda and what this group does. Ask an ICS student about the project or contact the school (593-5840) to make a donation. If it’s easier, go online to

And don’t miss out on the Rotary Pancakes!

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