Two Semiahmoo Secondary students are hoping to ease the burden in developing countries through their newly formed organization.
Jill Xu and Ginny Liu, both 16, created Caring About Communities Together to Eliminate Struggles (CACTES), after discussing the poverty and hardships many individuals in developing countries experience.
For Ginny, it was childhood memories of China, where she was born, of those living in poor and rural areas who had difficulty accessing clean water, that had her focus on water issues in other countries for CACTES’ first project.
“When I was really young, I went to a lot of poor villages in China, and their lives were really, really bad. They had to go walking up really steep mountains – not even roads, they were in the forest – and they had to walk up and get water from ditches – not even wells,” Ginny said.
“There is soil in the water, so it’s yellow-ish and they have to carry the water down to their houses, then they have to filter it. When I saw that, I just thought, it takes so much effort to get water, and it’s not even good water.”
With those images engrained in the back of her mind, Ginny said that she always wanted to do something to benefit the people she saw as a child.
For Jill, it was a trip to the Dominican Republic this past summer that was the catalyst to finally bring their idea to fruition.
“From the beginning, we’ve always been involved with our community and we wanted to start an organization like this for a long time. For me, going to the Dominican Republic on a service trip was really eye-opening. I experienced many things, including poverty firsthand, including the water,” she said.
One thing that stuck out for her was something as simple as brushing her teeth. By the end of her trip, her toothbrush was unusable due to the contaminates in the water.
“When I got back, I was even more motivated to start CACTES,” she said.
After incorporating their organization last month, the longtime friends have put together their first project targeting water issues.
The duo are planning an art contest for students aged 10-18 in the Greater Vancouver area to raise awareness for the importance of water.
The contest will be split into a junior (ages 10-14) division and a senior (15-18) division. Submissions can include sketches, paintings and watercolours. Photographs and videos will not be accepted. The submission must answer the question “what does water mean to you?”
Entries for the contest can be submitted until Dec. 14. Afterwards, the artwork will be featured in an album on the organization’s Facebook page, where visitors to the page can vote on their favourite. The top five pieces will then be examined by a three-judge panel who will select the winner.
The first-place winner from each division will receive a prize valued at $50 or more.
The contest is just one part of the Grade 11 girls’ efforts to raise $1,000 to bring water and sanitation to a community “without this basic necessity.”
“It’s a way (that youth) can realize that they have all this water that they can use, but there are people in other parts of the world who can’t use it,” Ginny said. “We want them to use their creativity to understand that and explore.”