Lancaster mission to build well in Africa continues to completion

Children who were first-graders at Lancaster Elementary School this past school year hold up a banner that states the grand total of their fund-raiser for the Georgie Badiel Foundation during a Skype call with the foundation’s creator, Georgie Badiel, on Thursday, June 28, at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library. The grand total, $11,588.91, will fund the construction of a well in an African community that does not currently have access to clean water.
Children who were first-graders at Lancaster Elementary School this past school year hold up a banner that states the grand total of their fund-raiser for the Georgie Badiel Foundation during a Skype call with the foundation’s creator, Georgie Badiel, on Thursday, June 28, at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library. The grand total, $11,588.91, will fund the construction of a well in an African community that does not currently have access to clean water. Photo by Steve Clark.

Classes may have ended for good at Lancaster Elementary School this past school year, but the school’s mission to build a well in Africa did not.

That mission was launched by the school’s first-grade classes. Those students had read a book, “The Water Princess,” which told the tale of a young girl in Africa who had to walk long distances in harsh conditions to fetch water for her village. The book was based on the childhood experiences of Georgie Badiel, a native of the African country of Burkina Faso who went on to create a nonprofit organization that works to increase access to clean water in Burkina Faso and its neighboring countries.

Deeply affected by the book, the first-graders and their teachers reached out to Badiel’s nonprofit, the Georgie Badiel Foundation, and inquired how they could help further its cause. They learned that a donation of $10,000 would enable the foundation to build a well, thereby bringing clean, on-demand water to a village for the first time ever.

While the donation amount was high, the students were unfazed by it and started the fund-raising process. Before long, their passion for the project spread to other grades at Lancaster, then outward to Huntington County. By the end of the school year in late May, $5,594 had been raised.

Over halfway to the fund-raising goal, the first-grade teacher guiding the initiative, Jeanne Paff, continued to encourage people to donate. With Lancaster closed, she directed prospective donors to send contributions to the Huntington County Community School Corporation’s central office at Salamonie School, in Warren, or to donate online through the fund-raiser’s GoFundMe page.

Paff says the central office’s secretary, Cindy Gray, kept her abreast of how many donations were rolling in.

“It was nearly a daily thing that she was just receiving more money from the community, inspired by the story that was in the paper, inspired by the things that they had seen, and so the money just continued to come in,” shares Paff.

By early June, the fund-raiser was closing in on the $10,000 mark. And Paff knew that reaching that milestone was no longer a matter of if, but when.

“Cindy Gray called me and said, ‘We got a check,’” says Paff. “And it was exactly the amount (we needed).
“And I just burst into tears.”

Even though the goal had been achieved, donations still kept flowing in. Paff was delighted by this, as it meant that Lancaster would also be able to fund the repair of existing wells – a task that costs around $500.

“We’ll have at least enough money now to refurbish three wells,” she says. “So, three that aren’t working, they can refurbish, so that many more people are going to be helped.”

On Thursday, June 28, Paff organized a Skype call with Badiel to share the big news about the outcome of the fund-raiser. Students and their parents, along with members of the community, gathered in a conference room at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library. The students clutched a rolled-up banner and unfurled it to reveal the grand total of the fund-raiser to Badiel: $11,588.91.

An emotional Badiel thanked the students for their determination and charitable hearts.

“They have inspired me to continue the work that I do,” she said from her home in New York.

Badiel stated that her foundation would begin scouting for the best possible location to place the well. Upon pinpointing that location, she noted that construction would commence, with a tentative completion date coming sometime in October.

The finished well, which will sport Lancaster’s logo and colors, could help as many as 3,000 people, said Badiel.
Between now and then, Badiel promised to send Paff pictures of the well’s progress. Paff, in turn, promised to share those images with Huntington County on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PaffsBusyBees.

Despite having raised enough money to not only build a well, but also refurbish existing ones, Paff received yet another donation to the Badiel Foundation the evening of the Skype call. And she hopes they keep on coming.

“I just think, as a community, people (have) been inspired to make a difference and I think they’d like to continue to make a difference,” she says. “So, I don’t see this as a, ‘We’ve done one thing and now we’re finished.’ I can just see this being something that continues on.”

To make a donation, send cash or checks to “HCCSC attn: Cindy Gray, 1063E-900S, Warren, IN 46792.” Checks should be made payable to the Georgie Badiel Foundation. Donations can also be made through the GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/leaving-a-legacy-of-clean-water.