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KITES Students Talk Real-World Water Problems with Kenya Residents

“Why did you want to build a well?”

“Are there poisonous animals that prevent children from going to school?”

“What do the houses look like?”

“What do you do for entertainment?”

These are just a few of the questions Ozark elementary KITES students asked their special guests — Mathias George and Barbara Burgwin from Kenya, and Riley Snyder, a Branson resident who started the nonprofit organization Generation Next.

“People were having to walk far to get water, and we felt it should be something that our school should have,” Snyder said when asked about drilling a well at the school Generation Next opened in Kibwezi, Kenya. “It might be fun if you tally marked how many times you use water a day, whether that’s going to wash your hands, use the restroom, drink or clean. Now imagine if you were limited to only a little bit of water and you had to go and walk miles everyday to get it, or wait for rain. You realize what a necessity water is and how hard it is for those communities.”

Through a recent FaceTime from Africa with the KITES students, Snyder shared her experiences while the well was being drilled. Upon returning home to Branson, Snyder stopped by the West Elementary classroom Nov. 1 to answer more of the students’ questions, bringing along two friends from Kenya.

Ozark teacher Stefanie McKoy said it’s all part of a global awareness unit.

“When the students were watching all the progress with the well, they wanted to know what they could do. They knew from reading the book ‘A Long Walk to Water’ that transporting water is not an easy task,” McKoy said. “Access to water is something we take for granted.”

Students wanted to help and began collecting aluminum cans — more than 1,000 to date — to raise money to purchase water jugs for Generation Next to take to Kenya.

“We learned how truly scarce water can be in some places and how fortunate we are to be able to go to school and drink water,” East Elementary fifth-grader Alexandra Fletcher said.

Students also talked about the “joy and glee” they saw on the faces of the Kenya residents when the water started coming out of the well.

“It’s funny to see what we get excited about here in America, but to see somebody get excited about water — that’s crazy,” Snyder said.

Ozark elementary KITES students and teachers take a photo Nov. 1 with their special guests.

Riley Snyder, with Generation Next, and Kenya residents Mathias George and Barbara Burgwin talk to students.