A year has passed since the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the need for relief is still strong.

Some of the hardest hit regions have deteriorated because of a cholera epidemic, stretching medical relief workers to the limit. Students at Frank Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth stepped up to help.

The school donated $1,590 to Waves for Water, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing clean water to communities around the world. The money will be used to buy 53 water filtration systems for the orphanage La Maison du Sourire in Leogane, about 18 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capitol. The orphanage houses about 50 children with no access to clean water. The filtration systems are expected to provide clean water to the kids for at least a year.

Paula Vicenzi, a French and Spanish teacher at the middle school, who helped with the project, said it was a fund-raiser that many students could personally connect to.

“It was really powerful to see kids coming in with their allowances and bags of money,” she said. “This is what service learning is all about. The students learned that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a big difference in someone’s life.”

In December, some members of Waves for Water traveled to the orphanage to install the water filtration systems. The school received a letter and pictures late last month of the kids from the orphanage using the systems.

Christian Troy, a project manager for Waves for Water, said in a letter to the school that the children at La Maison du Sourire had no access to clean, drinking water. He said the water they had came from a shallow, contaminated water table barely fit for human consumption.

“Through the generosity of the students at Harrison Middle School, we were able bring this very simple solution into the jungly outskirts of Leogane and with it clean water and hopes for a healthier tomorrow,” Troy said in his letter.

The service learning project was held in November in conjunction with Geography Awareness Week. This year’s focus was fresh water. Students heard from guest speakers, participated in a poster contest and decorated the hallways at school. Over the course of five days, students collected $1,590 then donated the funds to Waves for Water.

About 120 seventh graders also participated in a 3.7-mile walk in Yarmouth to raise awareness for fresh water, said Marsha Newick, a seventh grade social studies teacher, who organized the activities for Geography Awareness Week. Newick said Tuesday that the school has been following the disaster in Haiti since the earthquake and subsequent outbreak of cholera. She said the activities were designed to raise awareness for the lack of access many people in developing countries have to clean water.

Newick said the purpose of the walk was to show students what it is like for women to walk long distances for clean water. Students took turns carrying a backpack weighing 40 pounds — about the same weight as the water women carry on their heads back to their families. She said the activities helped students to “think globally.”

“We looked at this major disaster and thought here is where we could make a difference,” Newick said. “We hooked one person with another and out of that came meaning. It helped students understand the difference that clean water makes in everyone’s life.”


Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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