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Seattle Girl Raises Funds for Uganda Wells

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Seattle resident Isabella Todaro on a recent visit to Uganda, where The Drop Foundation she started has built two wells

Seattle resident Isabella Todaro was just eight years old when she made it her mission to bring clean water to other children across the globe. As a first grader at the Meridian School, Isabella was horrified to learn that many people lack access to this basic necessity. By the third grade, she decided to do something about it, and Drop Foundation was born.

Isabella is now a fifth grader, and her foundation has grown from a daydream into a project that has vastly improved the lives of rural villagers in Uganda. Drop Foundation has raised the funds to build desperately needed wells in two villages, Kamira and Mityomere.

Isabella launched her fundraising effort by recruiting her third grade class to make and sell homemade dog biscuits. Learning of the Ugandan children's passion for soccer and lack of school essentials, she enlisted friends' help in collecting soccer balls and pencils. Inspired by his sister's dedication, Isabella's brother Max, now 8 years old, began gathering donated books to build libraries in both villages. The siblings have become a fixture at Seattle's annual Seafair, where they sell dog treats and water to festival-goers. Drop Foundation is now working toward its third $7,000 well.

The funds for each well are channeled through Concern for the Girl Child, a Ugandan-based non-profit organization cofounded by Ann Hayes, a friend of the Todaro family. The organization allocates the funds by locating communities with water shortages, conducting geological surveys to find optimal drilling sites, and hiring contractors to build the wells.

This summer, Isabella traveled with her family to Uganda to visit the people with whom she has developed a lasting connection. "They were the nicest people I've ever met," she says. "No matter how little they had, they were so caring and generous."

In Kamira, she met some of the 600 children whose crowded primary school is the site of Drop Foundation's first well. Kamira Primary School students have little in the way of supplies, sharing pencils and close quarters, with approximately 70 children to a classroom. Compounding their educational challenges are the long hours they spend helping their families survive. Fetching water was one arduous task often shouldered by the children. Before the well was built in 2010, villagers had to trek a mile and a half to reach the borehole that they relied upon for all of their water needs, including drinking, bathing, cooking and washing.

Leaving the first village, Isabella and her family traveled to Mityomere to watch the completion of the second well. "We drove for five hours on a road that wasn't really a road," recalls Isabella. "Kids were popping out from the bushes."

The students at Mityomere Primary School face even harsher conditions than those of Kamira, packed into a one-room schoolhouse constructed of cow dung, where cattle roam freely. Other classes are held outside under a tree. Isabella accompanied villagers to the green, brackish marsh that had previously served as their sole water source. Beginning at age five, the children made daily treks to and from the marsh, carrying jugs of water on their heads. Worse than this ongoing hardship was the health hazard posed by the contaminated water source, which villagers shared with their cattle. To keep their new wells safe, members of both villages have formed water committees and built fences to safeguard this vital resource.

Isabella's goal is to build one well per year. She says that this experience has taught her "to consider myself extremely lucky. I'll never take water for granted again."

To find out how you can help, visit www.dropfoundation.org.

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