Two Oakland Tech environmental clubs are joining forces this spring to tackle an issue that affects billions of people each year — the global water crisis. Founded at the start of this school year, the Clean and Green club and the Bay Area Restorative Ecology (BARE) club have established inventive ways of benefiting the environment while during distanced learning. The Clean & Green club, led by Amara Bhatia, an eleventh-grade student, hosts weekly meetings to explore ways that individuals can help become more eco-friendly in day-to-day life. The BARE club, founded by Alexandra Fiske, a tenth grader, participates in several Bay Area volunteer restoration projects and meets weekly to discuss local ecological issues. Together, the two clubs have formed the Oakland Tech Environmental Coalition, which consists of thirty students who are interested in helping a sister school in Nepal obtain access to clean and safe drinking water.
In order to realize change, the OT Environmental Coalition is partnering with Gravity Water, a US non-profit organization that combines rainwater harvesting, elevated storage, and gravity-fed filtration to provide schools in developing countries with a localized source of safe drinking water. All construction is done by locals with locally sourced materials to support the community’s economy and make for easier repairs.
Gravity Water has connected the Oakland Tech Environmental Coalition to the Langhathali Youth Club, a school with about 450 K-12 students from the Waling Village of the Syangja District in western Nepal. The school does not have easy access to clean water, so young students rely on intermittent springwater as their primary water source, which is contaminated by unfiltered runoff and poses significant risks to children under five years old. During Nepal’s two-month dry season, the complete lack of rainfall causes the spring to dry up, forcing them to either order trucks to deliver river water or simply go without it. Water scarcity disproportionately affects the women and children of the community, who have to spend several hours of their day hauling water for the students.
On Sunday, May 2, the OT Environmental Coalition hosted a Walk4Water event around Lake Merritt to raise money to help the Langhathali Youth Club. The five kilometer walk led many students to reflect on their privilege as people with easy access to water. “Even though we walked the distance that these people walk to get water, it occurred to me that we will never truly understand what it will feel like to be them and their struggles,” says Phoebe Rhea-Sharpe, a member of the Clean & Green Club, who pointed out that our walk was a planned event and not as a basic daily necessity. “It made me want to appreciate what I have more.”
The Oakland Tech Environmental Coalition has raised over $5,000 to bring the Langhathali Youth Club an on-site, permanent, and energy-free source of safe drinking and hand washing water. “Gravity water is important to me because it gives me a chance to make some real change in someone else’s life. With Clean & Green, we are always working on bettering the individual, but here we have a real chance to work with other people who need our help,” says Amara Bhatia, the founder of Oakland Tech’s Clean & Green club.
To learn more about how you can assist the Walk4Water campaign, visit www.gravitywater.org/oakland-technical-high-school. Clean & Green meets during Monday Tutorials. Bay Area Restorative Ecology club meets on Fridays from 3:30-4:30pm.