From the Leadership Institute Symposium on Social Change
Author: Sophia Edelstein
I was shocked after seeing the Movie Flow during Bell 2011. I could not believe the severity of the world water crisis. Water is the driving force of life and the world water crisis affects all aspects of society whether, economic, political or social. The Bell program provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn about the water crisis. It awakened my commitment to take action and raise awareness about this issue.
For my action plan at Bell, I proposed to create a project to educate and create awareness about the water crisis in my immediate community. At the beginning of the school year I created “The Flow Club” at my high school. The purpose of The Flow Club is to raise awareness about water contamination, lack of access to clean and fresh water, water privatization and other issues pertaining to the global water crisis we currently face. An additional purpose of the club is to motivate students to take action to preserve clean water. Meanwhile through our various campaigns, we raise money for Water.org, an amazing organization that provides clean water access to people in developing nations. I knew that in order for the club to be successful it was important to recruit other leaders who had the same passion for this issue. I recruited two fellow students to be co-head and secretary of the club. Having others working and running the club with me has been a fantastic experience. As I learned at Bell, everyone has different leadership styles and together we create an excellent balance. We asked Ms.Josephs, a biology teacher at Dalton and graduate of Brown to be our faculty advisor.
As a club we hold a meeting every other Tuesday. During the meeting I have tried to implement some of the techniques I learned at the “How to Run a Meeting“ workshop during the Leadership Symposium. Our meetings vary week to week. At the beginning, the meetings were focused on raising awareness. The majority of the students at my school did not know about the World Water Crisis. Through clips of the movie Flow, PowerPoint presentations, and articles we read as a group, everyone has been able to gain a good understanding of the crisis. We have had amazing support from our community. My classmates are extremely enthusiastic and we generally have around 20 students attending each meeting.
Since the beginning of the year, the club has implemented various campaigns. Our first was an awareness poster campaign. The poster campaign provided key information about the water crisis, and allowed us to recruit more club members. The posters featured our logo (see attached) and our slogan, “Conserve Water! Conserve Life!”. Using skills I have obtained through a new media class and my interest in graphic design, I created a logo, which the club has decided to use as the official Flow club logo. While observing my school community, I realized that people were always walking around with disposable plastic water bottles or plastic and Styrofoam cups. We discussed this issue at our club and we came up with the idea of designing and selling reusable environmentally friendly water bottles to raise money for Water.org. Once again, I was able to use my graphic design skills to create the design on the bottles (see attached). Since we knew it was going to be very expensive to purchase and design our own water bottles, I submitted a grant proposal to the student government for a $600 loan. My fellow head and I went to the student cabinet meeting and advocated for the club. While speaking to cabinet I tried to utilize the public speaking skills I learned at Bell and the Fall Leadership Symposium. The student cabinet was very supportive and offered us the grant. We used this money to purchase 100 water bottles. We sold these water bottles in the lobby of my school in the mornings and the afternoons for $10 each. The sale was very successful. We sold all of the water bottles in four days. Through the water bottle sales we raised $500 for Water.org. As a result of our campaign, our fellow students and our teachers were talking about Flow and our mission. It was incredible to see our teachers and friends walking around with the water bottles we created. Personally, it was wonderful to see my action plan finally come to life.
Another campaign the club is working on is a collaboration with the School Fund. Our Club Advisor, Ms. Josephs, put us in contact with Christi Zeleski, a Brown alumni and the vice president of outreach for the School Fund. The School Fund is an organization that supports primary and secondary education for children in developing nations. Another part of their mission is to put the children in contact with their funders in order for them to hold conversation via their website and an online journal system they have created. The organization is interested in creating journals and online blogs related to different issues such as water. After several conversations over the phone, Christi traveled from Boston to NYC to speak to Flow. She discussed the possibility of us working with the School Fund, to create online journals and specifically to create an online relationship with the students they support to talk about water issues in their lives. As a club we are very excited about this opportunity, which will allow us to learn about water issues at the global level. We are in contact and in conversation with The School Fund as they develop this new online system.
At the moment, the Flow club is beginning a new project to test tap water. We came up with the idea of doing research to study the tap water from our individual apartments and our school to test the quality of water in our communities. Based on our results, we will rate the water on a scale of 1 to 10. We are also going to create a map showing the places where the water was collected and our results. Our hypothesis is that the quality of tap water varies depending on the socio-economic status of the area in NYC. We are very excited to begin this project and display our results to our community. For the next year we plan to develop new campaigns. We would like to have a campaign that focuses on international health related issues pertaining to water contamination. We would also like to raise awareness about the political and economic issues pertaining to water becoming one of the world’s largest markets and most expensive commodities. It is an amazing feeling to walk around school and see my fellow classmates and teachers use their water bottles, discuss the world water crisis and talk about The Flow Club. Our teachers and fellow students have acknowledged the impact Flow has created at the school. An example of this impact is a newspaper article that the “Daltonian”, our student newspaper, published about The Flow Club and our progress as a rapidly growing club in the community. Personally, it has been wonderful to be a part of this experience, working with others to make my action plan come to life. My commitment and the enthusiasm that I see in others to support this issue, motivates me to continue working hard on developing the club. I have learned so much throughout this entire process. I have learned more about the water crisis at the national and global level. I have also learned how to organize a project and to work with others to pursue an idea. Through the Flow Club, I have become a better leader and I have learned that I personally can make a difference. Although The World Water Crisis is an enormous issue, I believe that the more awareness we can stimulate the closer we are to a solution.