Putting others before themselves from a young age, SAS students from kindergarten to grade twelve take part in service learning opportunities in school, in their community, and in regional and global communities. They find meaning in benefiting others when they brainstorm, research, interview, plan activities, build connections, and contribute to communities’ areas of need.
Service learning is integrated into our kindergarten to eighth grade curriculum, and our students themselves have initiated over 40 high school service clubs. Six passionate elected students guide all high school service clubs by serving on our Executive Service Council. Students who join these clubs develop skills such as taking initiative, collaborating, organizing, and implementing. Encouraged to initiate their own service learning projects, they work on valuable life skills and towards becoming responsible, enlightened, and reflective global citizens.
Walking Across One Country to Change Another
By: Bryanna E., Sophie W., and Sabrina S., Grade 8 Students
Amongst laughter, cheers, and shouts of joy, over eighty Singapore American School students walked, ran, and dragged themselves across the finish line of Walk For Water 2015. The sun was shining, music pumping, and everyone, despite having walked more than 28 kilometers from SAS to VivoCity over the course of eight hours, was hit with a shot of adrenaline as they realized what had just been achieved.
In 2012-13, we were in sixth grade. As many know and have experienced, the water project is a huge part of the gamma experience. Throughout March and April, we learned about the very real water crisis: the world's water supply is slowly dripping away and thousands do not have access to potable water. Dutifully, we began to work together to plan a bake sale to raise money for wells in Africa. We raised around $170, and were content with our efforts…for a time.
In late April, weeks after our science classes had moved on to study crime scenes, we found ourselves still bothered by the issue of water. Why? We didn’t exactly know, but we did know that we wanted to do something more. Our little bake sale may have made a tiny dent in this worldwide crisis and garnered us a respectable grade, but now we wanted to do something bigger and better, something that would truly make a difference in the lives of many. So we got together and began to brainstorm. At one point, the idea of walking across the country came up, and we decided that we liked it. It certainly wasn’t a popular fundraiser idea, and our 11 and 12-year-old selves agreed that walking 28 kilometers couldn’t be that hard.
Well, we were wrong. In mid-May, our legs learned that walking 28km is no small feat! However, as three sixth graders, we had successfully put together an event by ourselves, gotten sponsors, and raised SGD $3,000. After tallying our final amount - with lots of hugs and screams included - came the pressing issue of where our funds were to go. After much research, we decided that Tabitha Cambodia was our best option. We really liked how they operated as an organization, we were not anonymous donors, and wells were relatively low cost for the field - at approximately US$180 per well. With a large envelope in hand - filled to the brim with cheques, cash, and coins - we went to the Tabitha offices to give our donation. Our efforts in the 2013 Walk For Water built 17 wells. We were exceptionally proud of our accomplishment.
In the 2013-14 school year, we got together and decided that we definitely wanted to do Walk For Water again. But this time, we agreed, we wanted to get more people involved. In April we presented to our fellow seventh graders, planned, raised funds, and found 25 other girls who were excited about doing the walk with us. That year, we raised over SGD $11,000 and built 54 wells in seven different Cambodian provinces. We were also featured in the Sunday Straits Times, which was an amazing experience.
When this year’s winter break came to a close, we realized the time for Walk For Water planning had rolled in once again. We wondered, how could we make the event even better than the previous year? How could we get other students involved and excited? How could we raise enough money to change hundreds of lives? Once again, we got together and put up a game plan. Over the next few chaotic weeks we presented, planned, sent emails, put up posters, and worked out logistics. It was a lot of work, but the enthusiasm our project was greeted with made it worth the effort.
Before we knew it, the big date had arrived. As the sun rose over the Singaporean jungle on March 14, over 100 Walk For Water participants and volunteers met at SAS. As people signed in, we handed out t-shirts - generously sponsored by Expat Dental - and energy bars. The adrenaline throughout the group was contagious. At 7:45 a.m. we shouted, “Let’s Walk,” and with that our parade of good-doers marched through the campus gates.
Everyone started off in good humor, joking, laughing, and singing as we made our way down the Green Corridor - the old railway that runs straight down the middle of Singapore. At around 9:30 a.m. we reached our first rest station and were greeted with muffins, fruit, and (thankfully) a porta-potty. We departed soon thereafter and continued our march down the middle of the island. By that time the sun overhead had begun to really beat down. During one specific part of that late morning stretch, we found the sun taking a direct hit to the left sides of our faces. By the time the next rest stop came around at 11:30 a.m., we were more than happy to plop down and rehydrate.
After a long, much-needed break in the shade, we headed off again. The sugar from the watermelon and oranges we ate had worked its magic, so we found ourselves with just enough energy to keep pushing. The group worked hard, there was no doubt about it. Every member neared the end of their comfort zone, yet there was a sort of thrill that accompanied this. By walking across the country we were not just changing the lives of those in Cambodia, but were challenging our own physical boundaries.
Rest stop three came along around eight kilometers later. Needless to say, we greeted it as if it were a long lost friend. We stuffed our mouths with sweet, chocolaty brownies, and sat down content in the shade. As the last few walkers trickled in, we realized it was time to hit the trail again. It was 1:00 p.m., and the sun was overhead, yet we managed to keep on trekking. Continuing down the familiar lengths of the corridor, many walkers chose to hike with their friends, while others chose to walk alone. No matter who they were surrounded by, every participant found themself reflecting on what they were truly walking for.
The smell of pizza wafted through the air, announcing the fourth and final rest stop just as the clock hit three. Summoning the last reserves from our previous brownie stop, our group broke into a run toward the tables. As we chowed down to the sound of music pumping in the background, we could see the tiny path that led up towards the sidewalk and the final stretch of the walk. We were almost there - only two kilometers lay between us and the finish line. We began to walk again, and with perfect timing, the pizza kicked in. We all found ourselves with a second wind.
And with that second wind came the race to finish first. Those at the front of the pack found themselves power walking - trying to block out the others and maintain the lead. As we came into view of the Singapore harbor, this became a full out contest to see who could finish first. An unofficial one, of course, but one all the same. As we sped towards VivoCity, our grins got wider and wider. We were almost there.
The boardwalk clunked underneath our feet as we rounded the last corner. We could finally see the blue balloons, hear the music, and feel the overjoyed energy vibrating through the finish line air. Forgetting about the countless blisters that now plagued our aching feet, we sprinted to the finish line. Our arms were widespread, our hair flew out behind us, and our sweat trickled down our sunburned faces. We were a mess, but we had done it.
People say that you have to graduate college first in order to truly make a change. They say you have to have some fancy title, work at a big office, or earn a signed degree. But after these years of leading Walk For Water, all three of us know this is not at all true. We were just sixth graders who saw a problem in the world and wanted to change it. With this in mind we came up with a plan and acted upon it. It was so simple, yet the impact it has and will continue to have is incredible. Every year we’ve led the Walk For Water, hundreds of lives have been changed for the better. The great thing is that every year we continue to lead the Walk For Water, hundreds more will improve as well. It’s an ongoing effect, and hopefully, even once we leave SAS, it will be continued. Hopefully, maybe even thirty years from now, SAS students will walk across that finish line on the brink of Sentosa and be able to say, “I walked for water. I changed the world.”
With the help of over eighty amazing participants, Walk For Water 2015 raised over SGD $28,000 - enough to purchase over 155 wells.
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