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Walkers learn to appreciate water

Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 10:58 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 11:03 a.m. CDT

DEKALB – In America, cold, clean water is only a faucet away. In Nyegina, Tanzania, the closest water supply is three miles away, and is often dirty and full of bacteria. The half hour-long walk is sometimes made barefoot, carrying up to five gallons of water.

On April 24, people tested their water-carrying skills at Tanzania Development Support’s annual Walk with Water fundraising event. Walkers raised money from sponsors, who donated based on the number of laps the walker could make while carrying jugs of water around the MLK Commons at Northern Illinois University.

“Girls are usually the ones sent for the water,” said Sandra Dawson, a TDS board member and an instructor of history and women and gender studies at NIU. “The daughter is usually sent, and then she misses school. Since there is usually only one book per class, if she misses school, there is no way for her to study and catch up. Girls much more frequently drop out of school than boys.”

Kurt Thurmaier, director of the Division of Public Administration at NIU, and his wife co-founded Tanzania Development Support in October 2008 after visiting the country for their 25th wedding anniversary. The nonprofit organization’s current project is to raise money for a new library and research center in Nyegina.

“(The center will) give women who are starting small businesses a place to meet and start,” said Thurmaier. “There will also be English lessons for the community and access to books and the internet in the teacher resource center.”

Nelisa Gray, a senior at NIU, visited Tanzania on a work-study with TDS during the summer of 2013 and participated in the Walk with Water event this year.

“I used to complain about how hard classes were,” said Gray. “But in Tanzania, the girls would only have the light of the sun to work and study. ...Seeing it firsthand, it humbles you.”

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