Students Help to Provide Ugandan Villages with Clean Water

By Alyssa Pawluk

Members of the Ugandan Water Project campaign stand with Ugandan nationals in front of one of the installed water tanks. Photo courtesy of Tyler Fond.

Youngstown State University students Tyler Fond, Tyler Miller-Gordon and Daniel Belinky are promoting the second year of the local chapter of the Ugandan Water Project with a 5-kilometer race on April 25.

Though the group is a chapter of the Ugandan Water Project, it is not currently an YSU student organization.

“The Ugandan Water Project is a nonprofit based out of New York and a few of my friends and I talked to one of their representatives last year at the Canfield Fair. We started kind of like a chapter at YSU. We are currently in the process of becoming a student organization,” Fond, one of the leaders of the chapter, said.

The focus of the Ugandan Water Project is to help villages in the East African country of Uganda, provide safe, accessible drinking water.

Last year, the group held a 5K Race to raise money for a water tank to give to the villagers, and Fond said the group raised enough money to cover the cost of a tank along with a water purification system.

“Every year we have been having a 5K … The goal of it is to raise enough money to sponsor a water tank in Uganda for a village that currently doesn’t have clean water,” Fond said. “A tank is $3,500 and we raised $4,300. We were able to build a tank and we spent the rest on water purifiers. So this year, our goal is $7,000 and we want to be able to build two tanks.”

Belinky, another executive member of the local chapter, said members of the nonprofit in New York install the tanks, but invites members of the various chapters to come witness their installation.

“As for the tanks themselves, a third-party manufacturer builds the components of the tank and members of the nonprofit in New York travel to Uganda to not only install it, but also teach members of the community how to maintain and repair it,” he said. “However, the organization welcomes any members of its chapters to come see their tank installed, so long as the members purchase their own plane ticket.”

On Feb. 22 through the 24, these students will have a table in Kilcawley Center so that students and anyone interested can sign up for the race.

“We will be selling jewelry made by local Ugandan artisans and we will have all the information about the race. You get a T-shirt and we will have a food sponsor. Last year, the sponsor was Chipotle. We are currently still talking to them. It’s $25 if you sign up online and $30 if you sign up the day of the race,” Fond said.

The 5K Race will be held on April 25. The average time to run the race is around 30 minutes. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. and the race will start at 10 a.m. It will be held in Austintown Parks. Fond said that there is also a 2-mile walk for those who do not wish to run. It ends around 11:00 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.

Fond said that the villagers benefit from having these tanks because it saves them time and provides them with clean water.

“In these villages, people have to walk about two hours each way to get fresh water, so this tank provides them with water for about 20 years,” Fond said. “Normally in Uganda, it would be the children’s job to go get all of the water and it would free up a lot more time for them to go to school, and that’s just the added benefit of the village in Uganda having clean water readily available so that they can wash themselves and drink.”

There are about 20 students in the group. Fond, Miller-Gordon and Belinky are the three executive students who run the group.

Belinky said that the group formed from an important need to benefit the people in Uganda.

“I think we gravitated towards this cause because the need is so great and there is real potential to make a difference for the communities and people of Uganda,” Belinky said.