It was early October 2017 when, threatened by heavy scattered raindrops, I hurriedly ducked through the front doors of Crossroads Academy in downtown KC hugging a pitcher of sand and bottle of dirt in one arm and clinging to a presentation bi-fold stuffed into a trash bag. My disheveled entrance seemed not to faze event organizers, who without ado showed me to a pre-assigned table, simultaneously directing kids who ran directionless underfoot waiting for the main event. That was, Career Night.
I was representing EWB-KC, under the pretense of exposing kids to engineering at a
formative age. My career night neighbor made “EWB” Engineering – with its work with wastewater, dirty drinking water, and concrete block buildings – a bit harder sell. She spoke of her work as the teacher of a young blind student, shared examples of text in Braille and displayed a puffer paint art project concept that allowed her student to “see” artwork.
“Cool!” I thought, and we chatted when there was a lull, only to find her Girl Scout chapter was interesting in raising funds for the installation of a well. (“Very cool!”) The group of 5th graders learned about water pollution and scarcity in school and wanted to do something about it. I couldn’t have been more excited to hear this and troop leader and I agreed to keep in touch.
With Director of Projects Priya Iyengar, we organized presentations about water resources and our Cuchilla project for the troop. They asked very thoughtful questions throughout and expressed interest in not only helping with our project in the Dominican Republic, but also doing something closer to home. So we collaborated with KCMO Water Services and the Blue River Rescue organization to hold two stream cleanups.
At the first cleanup – the Blue River Rescue – the troop enthusiastically cleaned the floodplain of a Blue River tributary, despite sub-freezing temperatures at the start of the morning.
Volunteers were exposed to all varieties of litter, from tires and golf balls to everyday items like soda bottles and plastic shopping bags.
EWB-KC members worked alongside the troop and other volunteers that morning to remove over 90 tires and hundreds of pounds of trash.
Weeks later, on a much warmer sunny morning we met for a second cleanup, this time at Brush Creek. Armed with grabbers, we teetered precariously on the banks of the creek, plucking half-buried Cheeto bags and slippery Mountain Dew bottles from the at-times foul-smelling water.
With just a few hours of work, there was noticeably less trash and the stream looked like a much more suitable habitat for the ducks that had watched us clean.
The troop still intended to contribute to the construction of a well, and devised a plan to raise money. They sold cookies and asked for pledges for months until they had exceeded their $500 goal, bringing in $750! Their donation alone will be enough to cover most the cost of new solar panels, which power the new well pump.
We are grateful for the troop for their support and lesson in perseverance. I can’t wait to tell the residents of Cuchilla that seven 11-year-olds made it possible for them to have clean running water.