Posted by H2O for Life Intern Talia Milavetz
Mark Bowles and his family show how service learning can go from a classroom or faith based activity to a whole family experience. For their family, it all started with Katie Spotz, an ambassador to H2O for Life and the youngest person to ever row across the ocean. Bowles followed her row, and saw last year that she posted on Facebook looking for someone to help her write a book about her experience. As a History Professor and author of a previous 14 books, Bowles sent Spotz a message saying that they should get together and talk about the project. They agreed to write “Just Keep Rowing” together, which is now coming out in August. Bowles said that working with Katie Spotz “was really my first introduction to the water crisis, and really understanding the impact of it on the world, and the severity of it.”
As this was all happening, Bowles was in the midst of “Just Faith”, a 9 month program focusing on social justice issues. The goal of “Just Faith” was not just learning about social justice issues throughout world, but doing things to help out as well. They were to come up with a project to engage with, and Bowles pushed the group to do something with clean water. “I think the water crisis is the most significant humanitarian crisis facing our planet today. 50% of all people in hospitals are there for a waterborne disease. There is nothing else that people are being treated more for than waterborne illnesses. There is no other issue that impacts children throughout the world like this one. A child is dying every 21 seconds from a waterborne illness. That’s a crazy statistic and more attention needs to be directed towards that”.
Bowles inspired his group to get involved with H2O for Life through his passion for making a difference in the water crisis. He took it one step further, and got his whole family on board and taught his three daughters about service learning. They all participated in the Walk for Water and the Talk for Water. “My daughters were all there and helped to sell H2O for Life wristbands and merchandise. I could sit at the dinner table and tell them how difficult it is for people who live hours away from clean water sources, and yet, they don’t really get it. They don’t get it until they scoop water out of the lake, and go on a 1.8 mile walk and get very tired and cranky. This role of physical experience did far more than what I could ever do at the dinner table.”
Rising high school freshmen Isabelle said that being involved in H2O for Life made her learn more about the water crisis, and how a lot of people don’t have the water they need. She said that participating in the Walk for Water was really eye opening. “Carrying the water was a lot heavier than I thought it was going to be”, she said of the event. At the talk for water, Isabelle engaged with people, telling them about the water crisis, setting up, and selling merchandise. Her younger sisters helped out too. At only six years old, twins Emma and Sarah helped to sell wristbands.
Mark’s wife, Nancy Bowles, said, “It’s been really great, the whole family is really on board with helping out. It’s a cause that is understandable for all ages, kids really young even understand the basic need for water”. She went on to say that, “When you are fortunate and have the basic necessities, you just have to help and teach your kids to help”. That’s why she helped her daughters set up a lemonade stand. She saw it as a fun activity for the family that would also send help to those who need it.
The girls wanted to raise 1 million dollars for H2O for Life, and while they didn’t quite reach this goal, they still successfully raised over 100 dollars! They attracted customers by decorating their stand with H2O for Life pictures and facts. They explained to people what the organization was and how they could help. They sold lemonade, cookies, brownies and rice crispy treats. Both girls agreed that it felt good to help others by donating the money. The best advice from their mother Nancy was to not put prices on items because a lot of people were willing to donate more since they knew it would be going to a good cause. The girls’ advice to others, “Do it on a hot day”, Sarah said. Emma’s advice was to “Make sure your lemonade is cold!”
Together, the Bowles family, and “Just Faith” raised over $4,000 for a water source in South Africa, surpassing their $2500 goal. Thanks for all of the hard work!