2014-11-28 / Front Page

Taking a community to help a village

LHS student club raises money to build well in Uganda
By David Dore


Members of the Invisible Children Club at Leominster High School stand with club advisors Michele Oshman and Janelle Brunetti, back center. The club, with help from fellow students and a local church, raised $1,000 toward a new well for a village in Uganda. 
David Dore photo Members of the Invisible Children Club at Leominster High School stand with club advisors Michele Oshman and Janelle Brunetti, back center. The club, with help from fellow students and a local church, raised $1,000 toward a new well for a village in Uganda. David Dore photo On a recent afternoon, a group of students gathered in a classroom at Leominster High School to view something they hadn’t seen before.

The students were members of the school’s Invisible Children Club. And they were seeing pictures of a well in Akayanja Village, Uganda that was built in part through their efforts.

“It’s cool that we helped make an impact by such a small, little thing of raising money,” said club member Vivian Rodriguez.

The Invisible Children Club raised money for the project by putting gallon water jugs in high school history classes, in a drive dubbed “Change for Change.”


Counterclockwise from top left, The well in Akayanja Village, Uganda is dedicated. The new well is used. The well for the villagers is built. 
Courtesy photos Counterclockwise from top left, The well in Akayanja Village, Uganda is dedicated. The new well is used. The well for the villagers is built. Courtesy photos “It allowed every student at LHS to contribute,” said Leominster High School history teacher Michele Oshman, who along with fellow history teacher Janelle Brunetti are club advisors. “Between all the classrooms, we managed to raise enough to send $1,000 to The Water Project. ...That’s, like, a fifth of the well.”

According to Oshman, Our Lady of the Lake Church in Leominster also provided money for the well, which was completed in October.

The Invisible Children Club was founded several years ago “in an attempt to raise awareness about child soldiers in Africa — central Africa, specifically,” Oshman said. Last year, she said, the club decided to “branch out to do other community service for children in Africa.”

“One of their issues is the lack of clean water,” Brunetti said.

That’s how they found out about The Water Project, a nonprofit organization based in Concord, New Hampshire. According to a mission statement found on its website (thewaterproject.org), the group is “bringing relief to communities around the world who suffer needlessly from a lack of access to clean water. We’re currently funding water wells, rain catchment systems, latrines, community mobilization, and sanitation and hygiene training in Africa and India. Our work is a cooperative, grass-roots effort between our supporters, donors, partners in the field, and the communities we serve.”

The first well that was funded in part through the Invisible Children Club’s efforts serves 150 people in Akayanja Village. It replaced an unprotected dug well the villagers had been using.

Oshman said the club is continuing to raise money to build another well. While members would like to raise the entire $5,000 needed to build a well, she said, “however much we raise is hopeful.”

“There’s lots of communities that need clean water,” Oshman said.

In the club this year are Kyrah Altman, Patrick Ford, Gina Bangrazi, Estraya Boyce, Florencia Decuadro, Rosangely Agosto, Rodriguez, Jessica Silvera, Gabriella Chartrand, Lucy Dinh, Shannon Ring, Megghan Duffy, Illy Centeno, Kaylin Basso and Haylee Hebert.

According to Brunetti, the Invisible Children Club raises money for three causes throughout the year: Heifer International in the fall, Invisible Children in the winter and the well in the spring. Among the ways they’ve raised money are doing gift wrapping, telling their story on Mayor Dean Mazzarella’s public access television show, making ornaments and selling them at the annual Holiday Stroll and doing raffles at the Johnny Appleseed Festival.

Through last year’s fundraising for Heifer International, Oshman said, the group paid for honeybees, a water buffalo “and a flock of chicks” to be sent to Africa.

This year’s winter fundraising effort will include selling reindeer ornaments and wreaths made out of Hershey Kisses at the Dec. 6 Winter Stroll.

“Because we can now show people the difference that they made,” Oshman said, “we’re more likely to be able to get people to contribute this coming year.”

“Without the help of our advisors, we wouldn’t have gotten this far,” Rodriguez noted.

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