Africare News In Brief
Walk for Water for Africa 2011
|Runners at the 5k starting line at the May 15 Walk for Water for Africa Event sprint to help bring clean water to Africa.|
WASHINGTON, DC, Tuesday, May 17th, 2011 – The 2nd annual Walk for Water for Africa event, which took place on May 15th 2011, was a great success - nearly 250 runners and walkers crossed the finish line for both the 1k and 5k races. Stephen Axelson, the 16-year-old event coordinator and founder, recently made a trip to Ghana with Africare’s President Dr. Darius Mans to see the progress made on two clean water wells built in Ghana with the money raised from last year’s event (read more). Shortly after the 5k started, Stephen commented that the turnout was great and that he could not wait to make the trip back to Ghana and see more of the development made possible by the money raised from the event.
Chris Jewell, a junior at Oakton High School and classmate of Stephen Axelson’s, won the 5k race. A cross-country runner at Oakton High School, Chris said after the race that he had a “lot of fun” and was glad he could come out and support his classmate for such a worthwhile cause as clean water for rural communities in Ghana. Yumi Lawless – the overall winner of the women’s division – explained that she decided to enter the race and support clean water for Africa after she saw flyers that were posted in several of the area high schools in which she frequently works. Lawless also said that “access to clean water was important for all communities,” highlighting that since seeing the “devastating effects the latest earthquake there has had on peoples’ ability to have access to clean water" in her home country of Japan, she appreciated these types of events much more. Overall, the field of several hundred participants reflected a cross section of the Greater Washington Area communities with gender balance in all activities and representation from various, cultures, and ethnicities – all key important Africare messages.
The event was a tremendous success for Stephen and his committee of fellow Oakton High School students, volunteers, Africare, and most importantly those in rural communities in Africa who will benefit from having clean water… Life’s Lifeline.
from Nicole Trifone's article in the Oakton Patch:
Oakton Junior Organizes Run to Give African Community Better Access to Water
May 17th, 2011-While friends and family remembered Mary Ann Kerins, 13-year-old Stephen Axelson got inspired.
Stephen attended the funeral of Kerins, who was a friend of his mother, after she died of cancer in 2008. He heard accounts of her charity work in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Sudan and the concept stuck with him.
"I remember hearing that stuff and it was just so inspiring to me, so I decided I wanted to do something about it," said Stephen, who is now 16 and a junior at Oakton High School. "That's how I got the idea."
Last year, he organized the Walk for Water 5K Run/Walk for his Eagle Scout project, and the money raised through registration fees and donations went to Africare, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., dedicated to the broad mission to improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
About 400 participants joined the run/walk, and Stephen raised $15,000. The second annual Walk for Water 5K Run/Walk was held Sunday and raised $10,130. Donations are still being accepted.
"It doesn't have the title of an Eagle Scout project anymore. Now it's just a group of kids getting together to organize this walk," Stephen said.
Though it was a little more difficult rallying support this year, he enlisted friends to help him. Daniel Nugent and Nathan Ong, juniors at Oakton High, and Taylor Smith, who attends James Madison High School, helped him organize this year's race.
"They're just my friends and wanted to help. No big deal, really," Stephen said.
But Darius Mans, president of Africare, would say it is a really big deal.
"I don't know about you, but this is not where my head was at the age of 15," Mans said.
Mans helped Stephen channel the money raised through Africare and to the Wasa Amenfi West District of Ghana, which went to building a pump that purified the water while giving the people easier access.
Once the water project was completed, Mans called Stephen to ask if he wanted to go to Africa with him to see the money he raised at work. Stephen agreed and spent his spring break in Ghana.
"I think it was an opportunity for Stephen to connect in a very first-hand way to his donation, to see the real need people have and the impact of his donation in helping to improve lives of people in those communities," Mans said.
Mans said the people treated Stephen like a rock star, holding banners, dancing and cheering wherever he visited. He was made an honorary warrior chief and named Nana Asaphohene by the village.
Stephen said he thought he had prepared himself to see the conditions the people in this Ghanaian community lived in, but he realized he couldn't have prepared.
"I'm already big into volunteer work. I do a [fast] every year to raise awareness of world hunger and I know how bad the poverty problem is. But when you see it first hand you kind of get blown away for a second," Stephen said. "I was expecting it, but at the same time, when you do see it for the first time with your own eyes, it really shocks you."
He said seeing the community also made him aware of how much more work needs to be done, hence this year's walk.
"Water is vital to life in Africa, not just because of hydration purposes and stuff like that. What people don't realize is that if a girl who usually walks five or eight miles a day to get water that's not even clean, if she doesn't have to do that she could stay home and go to school. That affects education. Water also affects agriculture. You know, you can't grow crops if you don't have water. It branches out to everything. Water is such a vital, essential part of life," he said.
Mans made sure Stephen experienced more than community, introducing him to politicians and other people who work behind the scenes to help with the cause before and during the trip — the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, the minister of water, donors and more. But Mans' main motivation for introducing Stephen around was because he was proud of and inspired by Stephen.
"Stephen just reconfirmed for me that there is so much goodwill and that things can be done to make a difference," Mans said.
Read more from the Oakton Patch Newspaper.