Teas aid water

Two-hundred and fifty morning teas later, and the Smithton High School Student Executive Council has helped raise more than $1700 for Ugandan schoolchildren in need of clean drinking water. (Below) Smithton High School volunteer mentor Bob Sayer and wife Annette with Ugandan locals in 2013 as part of one of the many water projects the Smithton couple has been involved in since 2008.

Charity. Smithton High School students have raised more than $1700 to assist a Ugandan school in implementing fresh water.

The local Student Executive Council spent several lessons during the week organising the mid-morning treats. Together with staff, they were at school by 6am on Friday September 16, busily preparing more than 250 morning teas for delivery to local businesses and organisations.

A mix of savoury muffins, sandwiches and sweet treats, the fundraiser was a success.

School volunteer mentor, Bob Sayer, is set to deliver the funds to the Ugandan community.

Originally a communications technician, Mr Sayer moved into the water industry in 1989 where he spent 21 years with what was originally the North West Water Authority and finally Cradle Mountain Water before it merged with other state water operators to become TasWater.

A mentor to students for the past six years, the Smithton man’s connection to Uganda dates back to his first trip to the East African country in 2007.

“My main thrust was how do you provide water for them, and we sat with the [villagers] for a couple of days and the agriculture officer of the area would come and get me and he’d take me out and I’d look at different water sources,” Mr Sayer said.

“I found some really good, nice things that had been put in by western people that had actually blocked the springs.

“That was one reason we sat down with the village for the whole two days, when you’re going into another culture, you listen to the people.

“From that I was asked to come back in 2010 and look at providing water tanks for a mission over there, which we did.”

Whilst there, he noticed a discovery centre much like Riverbend Youth Centre in Scotchtown.

“I thought this would be a really good place to run a water school.”

And so a water school was developed, with help from a connection at Bali Appropriate Technology Institute, which helps implement sustainable projects in impoverished countries.

“In 2012 we ran a water school out at the discovery centre and we trained 29 Ugandan nationals in the building of ferro cement water tanks below and above ground, and simple hand pumps.”

Soon after, the mayor of the subdistrict Najembe told Mr Sayer that 30 primary schools were without water.

“My head said no but my heart said yes, and I followed my heart,” Mr Sayer said of agreeing to the project.

“Later that year I went back and went to all the schools and talked to the staff and principals and we established a project team.”

A total of $90,000 USD was needed to provide the infrastructure for clean drinking water. And with about 9000 students, Mr Sayer equated that to $10 per student or a few cups of coffee in the western world.

Hoping to receive $30,000 from the Ugandan government, and the same from foreign aid, Mr Sayer has been trying to raise the remaining third through help from faith communities, businesses and friends back home.

Smithton High School assistant principal Tim Dunham thanked the hardworking students and staff including Jean Moore, who oversaw the morning tea project.

“I am really pleased with how well the students did with the fundraiser and they put in a huge effort to make sure it all went smoothly,” Mr Dunham said.

As well as the fundraising figure, the year eight textiles class has made beanies for Ugandan schoolchildren who attend Joy School in the urban area of Lugazi, to be delivered by Mr Sayer as well.

“When it gets down to about 18 degrees, they start to get cold,” Mr Sayer said of the Ugandan locals.

“And it does get quite [cool], especially in their rainy seasons it can get down to 15 degrees, they need beanies.”

Mr Sayer and wife Annette return to Uganda next month for the wedding of their “granddaughter”, a woman whose education they have sponsored for the past six years to see her complete a bachelor degree in social work and social administration.

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