More than 40 members of the TASIS community ignored cold and rainy conditions in their quest to complete the 7th annual Walk for Water on the afternoon of May 8. Their collective efforts helped raise CHF 200 for clean water initiatives carried out by Gram Vikas, a TASIS Global Service Program (GSP) partner that has been working with the people of Odisha, India, for 40 years with the aim of building an equitable and sustainable society where people live in peace with dignity.
Aside from serving as a fundraiser, the Walk for Water aims to raise awareness by simulating what many people in the developing world must go through on a daily basis in order to secure clean water, as participants must carry a 10–20 kilogram bucket of water around a one-kilometer course situated on the TASIS campus. (All water used for the event is recycled into the School's underground holding tank afterward.)
The Walk for Water is organized by the TASIS Service Learning Board, with Cecilia Long ’19, Lilian Angelone ’19, and Aru Sarsenova ’19 taking the lead this year. Originally inspired by Sarah Wyler ’13 in 2013, the annual event has now rallied nearly 700 participants and raised more than CHF 8500 for clean water initiatives in Nepal, Kenya, and India—countries where the GSP continues to send students. Most of the money raised has come from anonymous donors who have pledged a certain amount for each participant who completes the walk.
“Water scarcity is an issue impacting not just the developing world, but countries across the globe,” said GSP Director Danny Schiff, who spoke about water scarcity at a High School assembly the week before the walk and also organized a related activity for all advisor groups to tackle the following day. “Cape Town, for example, is going through a massive water shortage at the moment. Through the TASIS GSP, we try to develop as much empathy and support for our partners around the world as possible. How easy is it to take for granted all that we have access to living in Montagnola? The community members who participated by carrying up to 15 kilograms of water through the rain around campus received a reminder of what many have to deal with, all while raising funds for clean water projects at Gram Vikas India.”
The Service Learning Board never considered postponing this year’s Walk for Water, as millions of people around the world don’t have the benefit of waiting for ideal conditions to gather their drinking water. Although the turnout was a bit lower than it has been in recent years, Mr. Schiff still considered the event an unqualified success.
“Despite rainy and cold conditions, which I believe was a first for the Walk for Water at TASIS, we had a strong showing from Elementary, Middle, and High School students alike as well as faculty members,” he said. “The Middle School track & field athletes definitely were the MVPs of the day, completing up to seven laps each. Events that not only build community, but do so to benefit a good cause, are what I think we strive for here at TASIS. This year’s Walk for Water was definitely a memorable one for those who participated!”
TASIS Opsahl Global Service Program
The Opsahl Global Service Program was envisioned by Jan Opsahl ’68, who became the first international student at TASIS when he came from Norway in 1965. The pioneering program was launched in 2013 with major support from a most generous donation from Mr. Opsahl and his family to set up the Global Service Trust. This Trust, along with support from the TASIS Foundation, make this incredible, life-changing experience for our students possible.
The Opsahl Global Service Program, which was directed by Zach Mulert through the spring of 2018 and is now led by Danny Schiff, transforms lives by providing every High School student a unique opportunity to connect across borders through comprehensive experiences that build empathy and encourage personal responsibility. Participation in the program—which is designed to awaken students to humanitarian needs, inspire them to build enduring, mutually beneficial relationships, and lead them toward a life of active citizenship and committed service—is a graduation requirement.