Hampshire Pupils Speak Out Against Water Poverty!

Pupils from four Catholic primary schools in Aldershot, Farnborough and Basingstoke gathered together in the beautiful chapel at Farnborough Hill last Thursday night for the first ever CAFOD Primary Public Speaking Final in this area.

Twelve finalists from St Joseph’s , St Bernadette’s, St Patrick’s and St Bede’s spoke out passionately about water poverty and the ripple effects a lack of clean water and basic sanitation can have on people’s livelihoods, education and health.

Just take a look at the enthusiasm of some of our finalists here:

They may be taking to the streets with their megaphones now as I write!  FANTASTIC!!

Throughout the evening, it was evident that many pupils had thought long and hard about the fact that water was something we often take for granted but globally far too many people have to spend every day travelling miles and queuing for this basic life-giving necessity.

Students had also thought about the effects on children’s education, asking the audience to imagine how different their lives would be if they couldn’t go to school because they had to fetch water.   One pupil had worked out that the average weight of water and distance carried was the equivalent of walking from Aldershot to Farnborough and back with a six year old child on your back.

One pupil talked about the particular impact this had on women and girls, revealing that they spend an estimated 40 billion hours every year collecting water.

We were also reminded that the water collected may be dirty, leading to many different illnesses and again affecting children’s education. As one students said, ‘443 million school days are lost each year as a result of water and sanitation related diseases.”

Pupils asked the audience to consider ‘dirty water to drink, dirty water to wash in, dirty water to cook with’ and how that would impact on our dignity as well as our health.

With the burden of collecting water and dangers of drinking dirty water to face, pupils asked us to consider how this would impact on a person ‘trying to earn their living and better their life chances’.

As one pupil said in response, ‘Where is the justice?’

Water is ‘a gift from God’ one pupil argued, something to be shared.  Others also referred to the fact that water is a precious resource and something we should also treat with respect asking us all to ‘think’ before we use it.

‘A better world can be achieved…’ one pupil said ‘we all need to support one another.. to build a world of justice and happiness..’ because, as another commented, ‘‘There isn’t a Third World, there is just one world!’

Let’s hear from our finalists just before they were about to speak…

At the end of the interval, Sharon Westby, CAFOD Education Volunteer thanked all the finalists and their fellow classmates who had helped write their talks.

Sharon reminded everyone that although we choose a winning talk, the competition is all about developing all pupils’ confidence and enabling them to speak out in their local communities about global justice.  We hope that all the children involved will now speak at their local parish and share their incredible message of hope with everyone.

Once again, our judging panel (our Education Volunteers Roger Lillie, Berna Parnell and Carol McAdam) had the unenviable task of trying to choose a winner. This was incredibly hard as all the pupils were all very good indeed. However at the end of the evening, they announced that they had chosen a pupil from St Bernadette’s primary in Farnborough. Well done!

Our thanks go to all the teachers and pupils who spent so much time in writing and preparing their talks – especially Mr Baldwin, Ms Best, Mrs Marshall and Mrs Ryan.

Thank you too to the parents and guardians who supported the finalists on the night and our Education Volunteers for helping us with judging.  Our particular thanks go to Sharon Westby and Mr Baldwin for organising the event itself.

And last but by no means least – we would really like to say a big thank you to Mrs Buckle, Headteacher at Farnborough Hill for allowing us to speak in the chapel.  We couldn’t have asked for a better venue. It was excellent preparation for speaking at Mass in future – which we hope these children will now go on to do. Thank you for all the teas and coffees and excellent hospitality.

Happy Easter everyone!

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