Posted by H2O for Life Intern Talia Milavetz
Leah Sedler always tells her students, “find something in life that you will do for free, that you are really passionate about, that you really care about. That changes your perspective on life”. Sedler models this philosophy for her students by pursuing her passions of volunteering, playing guitar or piano with friends, and running. She coaches her school’s cross-country team, and makes it a point to show her students that you don’t have to stop running when you graduate from high school. In fact, this year Sedler combined two of her passions by running the Boston Marathon while wearing an H2O for Life T-Shirt to raise money for the organization.
Sedler is a teacher and longtime collaborator with H2O for Life. In addition to teaching for 13 years, and partnering with H2O for Life for eight, Sedler spent time teaching overseas in rural Kenya. During her time in Kenya, she saw how the water crisis impacted schools. “Water is such a huge issue around the world. From my experience teaching overseas, I saw that and how much it impacts education, specifically for a lot of girls who aren’t able to go to school because of it.” Women and children spend up to 60% of their day walking to find clean water, and without access to a latrine, many girls stop going to school once they reach puberty. Sedler’s experience overseas inspired her to connect her students in the United States to the water crisis on the other side of the world. She decided to bring H2O for Life into her classroom.
“I loved combining a school to school project. The students could pick a project they wanted to work on. [I liked] that service learning piece, where they’re learning about a country and take ownership of that. So it seemed different from other nonprofits because it had a global and local mindset. I could get my students involved in something beyond themselves.”
Sedler witnessed a growing excitement about the program in her classroom. “Students want to do things sometimes but they don’t know how. They just need help getting organized and figuring out how to do things to give back,” Sedler said. One student at her school became very interested in H2O for Life’s mission. Shewas a senior from Peru with a passion for jewelry. She made bracelets that said H2O on them, and got her friends involved, hosting bracelet making days and selling the products during lunch. Having a student take over and become so involved motivated her peers. Students at Sedler’s school have been eager to plan fundraising events like water trivia, guess how many items are in the jar, and dodgeball tournaments for a charity week in March. During this week, students participate in dress up days, one of which was Water Wednesday. Some science teachers even showed their classes videos about water on this day. “This is a community builder for them-they can all get around something that they believe in.”
H2O for Life made it easy for students to relate to the water crisis, because they use water every day. Water is something concrete they can understand and visualize, instead of an abstract idea. The students can see a picture of who they are helping and know, “This is a school. This is where it is directly going. This is what we’re working towards.” This specific type of knowledge makes the students feel more connected. “It makes the global connection more tangible and more real if they know a name, a place, and a location. Otherwise it’s just ‘that country’. I’ve heard students say, ‘why do I care, this doesn’t impact my life’. I think [H2O for Life] makes it more real.”
Having a real understanding of faraway places and problems expands students’ world views. Sedler believes engaging in service learning and developing a global mindset at a young age will help them not just as students but as people. “The more they know, the broader their world-view about those things. The deeper connection they can make to someone else’s life expands them as a person, their empathy and their global mindsets.” Sedler has always admired those with a global mindset who do things outside of themselves. “My parents have been a really good example of taking action on things they believe in. They’re super involved in their community. After I came back from Kenya, they adopted a child from Kenya, so I have a ten year old brother. They started over as parents after being empty nesters. They had a heart for something and kept it open. My parents were willing to do things to open up their lives and take steps to make it happen.” Now Sedler is encouraging her students to follow a similar path. To expand their global mindsets, broaden their views, and bring passion into their daily lives.