Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 20, 2009

Quenching a need

Amador students linking community with UNICEF

by Emily West

Even during a time of drought, there is little thought given to accessing clean water. It freely flows from Pleasanton faucets, sometimes through a fancy filtration system, to make it to a drinking glass. Even thirsting lawns are easily hydrated by sprinklers.

This is something that Avahi Jariwala, a junior at Amador Valley High School, says she takes for granted. After learning about the needs of many young people in developing countries, such as clean water, Jariwala and three other students founded a UNICEF club at Amador. The United Nations Children's Fund was established in 1946 as a way to help children and mothers in developing countries.

Next week, the club will partner with the organization's Tap Project, which raises money to improve access to safe water and sanitation facilities in schools and communities, as well as promote safe hygiene.

The project started in New York in 2007 and this marks the second year it has been a nationwide effort. The club members have recruited area restaurants to participate by asking patrons to consider donating $1 for the glass of tap water that is usually free. All tap water donations would be used to bring clean water to millions of children around the world. Last year's donations funded water and sanitation programs in Nicaragua, Iraq, Cote d'Ivoire and Belize. According to, $1 will provide a child with clean water for 40 days.

"We were looking for ways to get the community connected with UNICEF," Jariwala said. "The best step was to help our peers, then we would reach Pleasanton and then the Bay Area."

The idea to form a club came after Jariwala, three other Amador students and world history teacher Chris Murphy represented the United States at the Junior 8 Summit in Japan in July. They were selected to attend based on an essay contest. The J8 Summit allows teens ages 13-17 to be involved in topics concerning G8 countries and the global community. There they met with leaders of eight countries and presented solutions to issues such as global warming, child poverty and infectious diseases.

Students are encouraged to bring the J8 Summit experience back to the community. While there are other high school clubs across the country, UNICEF only formally recognizes the college groups, called Campus Initiative. It's the work of high school students, however, that has UNICEF hoping to eventually expand to include high school programs.

"[The Amador students] are a talented group of exceptional young people," said Rachael Swanson, program manager for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "Their commitment to service and UNICEF is remarkable. They've gone above and beyond. It's a nice example of how a group of high school students can educate, advocate and fundraise for UNICEF programs."

Already, the group's first efforts have raised over $400 for the organization by showing a screening of "Invisible Children." The documentary depicting child soldiers in Uganda has even moved students to take action through the club.

Lauren Morton, also a junior at Amador, said she is grateful for the club because it helps her see what she can do, instead of merely conjuring up ideas.

It was these statistics that urged junior Lena Lane to become involved. Many of the young people benefiting from UNICEF programs are her peers, which helped the numbers go beyond figures and form a connection. Later this year, the group will present what they've learned to eighth-grade classes, in hopes that they will get involved as freshmen.

Another water-related program the club has created involved mimicking how the children in developing countries must walk to get water each day. Students at Amador carried around 1 liter of water all day.

"They are forced to do things they shouldn't have to," Jariwala said, adding that some of the repercussions for these young people is missing out on school.

"They've done their best to educate their members and their community about the 25,000 children who die every day from preventable causes," Swanson said. "Every day we're working to get that number to zero."

Tap Project

The Tap Project is taking place during World Water Week, March 22-28. For details and to find local participating restaurants, visit The program will be collecting funds through April. To learn more about how to donate, email or

Interested in J8?

UNICEF is now accepting essay applications to send a team to the J8 Summit. Teams of four must be affiliated with a school or another community organization. To learn more information, visit


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